David Archuleta Retrospective Series Part Four: Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
By Pamela Pike and Rosanne Simunovic
Pamela Pike’s Recollections
The Shining Star of the AI Finale in May 2008 sang, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” Clive Davis picked the first round of songs and David picked the first single from British musician Elton John’s 1974 album Caribou. It was released that year during the latter half of May in the United Kingdom, and on June 10, in the U.S.
Immersed in a spotlight and seated on the mid-stage steps, David Archuleta took a slow walk to the front of the stage and poured out a worthy ballad.
He delivered amazing vocals; his voice was so clear, so pure, and so similar to his other performances on Idol. He always brings something special to a performance and rarely ever misses a note, if any.
He performed as perfect as a singer can perform with flawless talent, and gave a superior stellar performance.
Randy told David that it doesn’t matter what happens, he has to know one thing – this was one of the best performances this whole season and he picked the right time to peak. David had nailed his performance and the judges said that his singing was beautiful and stunning. Simon told him that the song was the best he’ done so far in the competition.
Paula commented to David after his performance, “the sun is never going to go down on you, because you bring out so much sunshine.”
Her comment reminded me of some cute and funny moments during the American Idol Tour. Weather was an issue for the Idols on tour when they were meeting fans at the buses. Often it was overcast or raining causing a delay or canceling them completely.
In one city a fan was talking with Jason Castro and David hadn’t come out yet, and she was worried it would start raining and prevent his greeting fans. Jason proceeded to re-assure her not to worry that as soon as David comes out so would the sun and it did.
So you see Paula was right “the sun is never going to go down on you”, and it never will.
Rosanne Simunovic’s Recollections
David’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” was one of the most brilliant, emotional performances I have ever seen on the American Idol stage. It was two minutes of musical magic, mesmerizing, almost hypnotic. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the television screen.
I was absolutely overwhelmed with depth of his musicianship. The phrasing, the nuances, the dynamic range, the soulful expressivity, the meaningful articulation of the lyrics, the pacing – it was all there in this singular performance of this Elton John classic.
It’s funny – looking back, before I heard David’s performance, I wasn’t thrilled with David’s selection. Over the years, this song had been performed countless times on American Idol, the first time being when Season 2 Runner-Up Clay Aiken used the song to catapult him into the Top 12.
So, here we were once again, five years later, watching another performance of this song by Top 2 performer, David Archuleta. What more could David do with this song that hadn’t already been done?
Well, as it turns out – plenty! There were so many twists and turns in this two-minute masterpiece performance that I remember staring at the TV screen in absolute awe.
Here is what I had to say about this song via my Top 2 Vocal Masterclass article in May 2008:
“Your first number, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me was a brilliant performance, overflowing with style and substance. I have heard this song performed many times and performed well, I might add! However, your interpretation was, for me, the pinnacle of all past performances of this number. It left me in tears – first time all season!
I loved the opening ambience of this number, a sole spotlight on you seated at center stage on the stairs. It not only created a relaxed mood, but also the measured and unhurried pace allowed you to ease into this song. By doing so, you were conserving your adrenaline for the dynamic vocals that were to follow and, boy, did they ever!
However, before we move there, I should applaud you on your excellent posture while seated on stage. Your elevated rib cage provided consistent support to your resounding baritone vocals.
You even had one foot ahead of the other – one foot on one stair and the other on the stair above it -which all singers should freely adopt, particularly while standing. This allowed you to establish a forward position with your body, thus assisting you to generate a forward momentum within your phrase lines. Additionally, you were primed to move easily off the stairs when you changed positions and walked to the front of the stage.
Additionally, your hands and arms were relaxed and free – no tension there whatsoever. You were primed and ready to hit a home run and so you did as the song moved effortlessly and with astonishing artistry to home plate.
I loved that determined walk to center stage, as your pitch perfect vocals started their crescendo toward the climactic end of this song. You added some exciting new soulful elements to this song, gently but distinctly bending the melodic line with passionate artistry and sensitivity.”
This was indeed a very special night for David. He performed three outstanding numbers and hit a home run with each of them. But, this song was his shining moment – it left me breathless and so thankful that we were blessed with his enormous talent via the American Idol process.