David Archuleta’s problems: Neil Diamond song lyrics, his dad, and his “dead, dead eyes”

Last week, Entertainment Weekly went behind the scenes during American Idol 7‘s song selection and rehearsal process. Besides letting us know about Jason Castro’s apathy, it had some revelatory information about David Archuleta.

David’s infamous stage dad Jeff Archuleta wasn’t shy in front of the magazine’s reporter, “pacing around the room” while barking comments to people (“There’s too many ‘Todays,’” “Neil Diamond’s voice is a fifth lower than his,” “The beginning needs to have a U2 vibe”). Jeff only “occasionally compliments his son, who stands silently by the mic nervously pivoting one foot on its heel,” EW’s reporter noted. So sad.

Before that, David had trouble finding a Neil Diamond song because of their content. “I don’t want to be singing about partying all night with a woman, and a lot of his lyrics were talking about that kind of stuff,” he said. He was also the loser in the random draw that happens when two contestants want the same song: He wanted “I’m a Believer,” but Brooke picked its name out of a hat. Incidentally, Brooke White had the same content problem: “Every song is about a woman or alcohol. And I can’t sing about either,” she said.

David’s performances have fallen into a distinct pattern, as several reviewers noticed. While his singing is technically competent, his performances are totally empty.

Zap2it’s Daniel Fienberg said David performed “Sweet Caroline “with the exact same mannerisms he’s brought to the message songs he’s done for the past six weeks. The arm sweep, the closed eyes, the tremendous absence of tangible pleasure, it’s a David Archuleta Special. The kid doesn’t have a clue what he’s singing about when it doesn’t involve homelessness or disease and as meaningless as ‘Sweet Caroline’ is, he makes it even more of a muddle. But he’s in tune.”

And after noting David’s “technically competent but passionless ‘America,’” ALOTT5MA’s Adam Bonin points out what may be David’s most striking feature lately: his “dead, dead eyes.”

‘American Idol’: How the Top 5 Picked Their Songs [Entertainment Weekly]

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.