American Idol's Top 4 seventh-season finalists took the stage during last night's live performance episode, with each singing two songs from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The "one to beat" crushed the competition; the only remaining female finalist continued to improve and had a very emotional moment; the resident rocker was a bit out of sorts; and one finalist was told by Simon Cowell to pack his bags in preparation of his ouster tonight.

"Remember, this is the week where we lost Tamyra Gray [during Season 1] and Chris Daughtry [in Season 5] because perhaps some people thought they were safe," said host Ryan Seacrest at the broadcast's conclusion.  "Again, your vote is crucial tonight."

The following is Reality TV World's recap of the performance broadcast in the order which the Top 4 sang.  Also included are comments from each of the three judges -- Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon -- as well as additional information about each performance.

On Wednesday night beginning at 9PM ET/PT, one finalist will be eliminated based on home viewer votes cast immediately following last night's broadcast, revealing the seventh-season's Top 3 finalists.

David Cook, a 25-year-old from Blue Spings, MO who currently resides in Tulsa, OK

First Song: "Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran
Randy said: "One of the things I'm interested to see tonight is what songs you guys choose because it's such a huge variety of songs to choose from -- such a great body of work and almost can be anything.  It was an okay choice and a solid performance, I'm just looking at who's trying to bring the mad-hot vocals tonight, and that was just okay for you. (boos)  That wasn't amazing.  Just okay."
Paula said:  "I think your 'Hungry Like the Wolf' has left me with a big appetite Jason. (cheers)  To watch you grow and flourish over the past several months has been truly remarkable.  It also makes me realize why I tolerate being the only girl in the boys club -- boys club being questionable."
Simon said:  "David I thought it was good.  I know where Randy's coming from because it was a little bit copycat.  You didn't do what you've done in previous weeks where you've chosen a song and made it your own.  Is it good enough at the moment to probably get you through to next week?  Yes."
Additional Info:  David said "Hungry Like the Wolf" "wasn't a song that immediately jumped out at" him, but the more he listened to it, he "could feel some changes" that would make it work for him.

Syesha Mercado, a 21-year-old from Sarasota, FL who currently resides in Miami, FL

First Song: "Proud Mary" by Tina Turner
Randy said:  "I'm laughing because what a difference a couple of weeks makes.  This is the third week in a row that Syesha has showed up and she's in the zone.  Nice going! (cheers)  You've got pretty good timing because you're showing the heat late in the competition when you need it.  So very nice, very nice."
Paula said:  "Not only have you shown up, but you look like a star.  You started this competition as a pretty girl with a big voice, and you turned into this beautiful woman with a magnetic voice and presence.  In your [video] package you said, 'I'm just going to do it.'  When you feel the fear and you do it anyway, magic happens."
Simon said:  "Syesha I'm sorry to put a slight damper on things... (boos) For me, I thought it was just a bad, shrieky version. (boos)  Let me finish!  A bad impersonation of Tina Turner."
Additional Info:  Prior to her performance, Idol host Ryan Seacrest asked Syesha about the show's upcoming annual summer tour.  "Oh my gosh, I am so excited about the tour," answered Syesha.  "Just being able to meet all of my fans and everybody who supports me. Just performing too... You're not being judged."... Syesha said since "Proud Mary" has been covered more than 100 times, she was "a little scared at first" to even attempt the song.  But she told herself to "just do it" and "just have fun with it"... Syesha's family was holding a sign that read, "Don't be Shy, Vote for Syesha"... After Simon's comments, Syesha apologized and Ryan asked her what she's done to change.  "I've just tried to have more fun and just be comfortable with being on stage and just tried to be myself more and show people who I am," she answered.  "I just like to have fun."

Jason Castro, a 20-year-old from Rockwall, TX

First Song: "I Shot the Sheriff" by Bob Marley
Randy said:  "Oh man. Listen dude... Okay look.  For me, that was a really karaoke Bob Marley. I don't even... (boos) Dude it was just okay.  There was nothing special about it, and at this point, you guys have to really show that you deserve to be in the finals now.  It's not about  just doing a song that's good enough to have some fun.  This wasn't good for me.  I didn't get it."
Paula said:  "Well I will say on a positive note I've never seen you perform more to the audience than you did. (cheers)  But Jason here's the deal.  I wasn't crazy about the performance or the song actually.  But you're so real, you're so genuine -- your artistry always shines through -- and that's who you are.  You've won me over just for that."
Simon said:  "Well Jason, stand back.  That was utterly atrocious. (boos)  Sorry!  That is a song you do not touch.  The arrangement was atrocious ['Weird,' added Randy.] and the singing was as bad as I've ever heard it.  This was honestly like a first-round audition massacre.  Honestly.  I don't know what you're thinking." ["I was thinking Bob Marley! Yeah!," replied Jason, which brought cheers from the audience.]
Additional Info:  Prior to Jason's performance, Ryan approached previously ousted Idol seventh-season finalist Carly Smithson, who was seated in the studio audience.  "Did anybody ever tell you you look just like one of our former contestants?" he asked... Jason said he had never performed "I Shot the Sheriff" before but assured viewers it "should be a good one"... Jason played (held?) a guitar during his performance... Simon added that the only similarity between Jason and Bob Marley was "the hair."  "That was it," he said.  "You can't do that."  Randy added, "Especially at this point in the show.  Come on."  Simon then offered some advice for Jason's second performance.  "Don't do Bob Marley," he said. "I'm serious." 

David Archuleta, a 17-year-old from Murray, UT

First Song: "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King
Randy said:  "What I'm so happy about sitting here right now is there's four of you left, at least there's one guy that hits the stage -- every time he hits the stage -- trying to win the whole thing! (cheers) This is a competition, putting all the best vocals on the line, he brought the hot vocals Paula!  I loved that!  Dude that was hot!"
Paula said:  "We all forget that you are way beyond your years.  Being 17 in this competition is hard.  It's really hard what you guys are doing.  I really admire one thing -- well I admire lots of things -- what I do really admire though is a couple weeks ago Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber said communicate with your eyes because the audience wants to feel the same joy that you're feeling on that stage.  You delivered.  You really delivered on this.  You're taking in everything that we're saying -- good and bad -- and throwing out everything that you don't need.  You're seasoned already."
Simon said:  "The truth is David you could have whistled the song and it would've sounded better than the last song. (boos)  You were very well placed.  Very good choice of song.  I thought you struggled a bit at the end of it... (boos)  A little bit.  But look, in the grand scheme of things, I'm going to call that as the best performance so far."
Additional Info:  David said "Stand By Me" has always been "a fun song" for him to sing.  "I always sing it in my room to myself... To I don't know, my dog or something.  But it's never been a song that I sing in public.  So this will be fun because I always wanted to sing this song."... Randy's comments were delayed because the studio audience was cheering so loudly... After the judges comments, Ryan said he always feels like David is "about to lose [his] breath and pass out" and asked what's going through his mind.  "I don't know.  There faces scare me," answered David.  "I have no idea what they're going to say."
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David Cook

Second Song: "Baba O'Riley" by The Who
Randy said:  "I don't know, there's something a little different going on with you tonight.  But that's more like the David Cook that I've grown to love right there. (cheers)  I mean you've got your trusty Les Paul there, you're the resident-rocker dude.  Man just go on and live that out.  Have fun with it.  Shake whatever off and just be you because you're a great."
Paula said:  "I just want more!  I want more!  I want more!  I want more David Cook.  I'm really humbled to sit here and watch your soul.  Thanks for sharing it with."
Simon said:  "Welcome back David Cook."
Additional Info:  Prior to his performance, Ryan commented how this week's theme should be in David's wheelhouse.  "Yeah," he said.  "Honestly I was really excited about this week, but once we got closer to it, I just kind of realized the bar that I set for myself on this week is higher than any other week.  The last song, the judges were right on.  I could have done way more with that song.  I tried to erase the last song from memory."... David said he chose "Baba O'Riley" because it's an "iconic rock song"... David played the guitar during his performance.

Syesha Mercado

Second Song: "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke
Randy said:  "Alright so for me, the first song I loved, this one I did not love as much.  Here's why... (boos)  First of all, I didn't love the arrangement with the music.  I didn't even like the arrangement with the vocals and I felt like you pushed out things and you tried for things that weren't there.  Sam Cooke is one of the greatest singers ever in life.  It's the greatest melody.  You don't need to do anything extra-special different -- any different chords or any different notes.  It felt all disconnected to me, trying to be something it wasn't."
Paula said: [Paula stood and applauded Syesha, which brought cheers from the audience and tears from the finalist.]  "I want you to know that how you orchestrated the vocals was beautiful.  You utilized everything I was hoping you would use.  You turned this into a superstar performance for me.  I've got to tell you, singing the song 'A Change is Gonna Come' -- you have changed.  You are magnificent.  Welcome to your dream Syesha.  This is it for you." (cheers)
Simon said:  "Syesha, I have to be fair.  I'm going to agree with Paula. (cheers)  I think Randy -- with all due respect -- got that completely and utterly wrong.  I thought you sang really, really well."
Additional Info: Country group Rascal Flatts was seen in Idol's studio audience prior to Syesha's performance.  The band subsequently performed live on Dancing with the Stars sixth-season broadcast later in the night, as both Idol and Dancing tape at CBS Television City... Syesha explained "A Change is Gonna Come" was released in 1965 during the Civil Rights movement, which was a "pivotal time in history."  "Now I'm singing it at a pivotal time in my life," she added.  "I'm so thankful to be here and this song just took on a totally different meaning for me."... Syesha continued to cry after the judges comments.  "It meant a lot to me," she said through tears, explaining she researched the song before she sang it.  "It took on a totally different meaning when I started listening to it.  I just couldn't stop crying because I feel like I've changed a lot."  As Ryan asked someone to get Syesha a tissue, she commented, "I probably look like crap right now."... Simon jokingly accused Randy of making Syesha cry, and Ryan called Randy's comments a "buzz kill."  "I was only judging the vocals Ryan!" he responded.  "I love the song and I love Syesha.  I loved her first song."  Ryan responded, "Randy!  We're running out of time!  Hell's Kitchen is going to start!"

Jason Castro

Second Song: "Mr. Tambourine Man" by Bob Dylan
Randy said:  "So tell me man.  What do you think?  How do you think that was? ['Well, I lost some lines in there,' responded Jason.]  Jason's not in the zone tonight.  I don't know what's going on."
Paula said:  "Jason, it is what it is.  At this point of the competition though, you guys have solidified your niche.  Obviously it didn't blow us away, but you blow me away."
Simon said:  "Jason... I'd pack your suitcase." (boos)
Additional Info:  Jason said "Mr. Tambourine Man" is "just a cool song" and praised Bob Dylan for starting the folk movement... Jason played the guitar during his performance, and also forgot some of the lyrics.

David Archuleta

Second Song: "Love Me Tender" by Elvis Presley
Randy said:  "Another great performance for you.  I like how you were so tender and you caressed each word.  Dude you've got it going on right now.  The hot vocals of the night right there!"
Paula said:  "That was one of my favorite performances from you.  I felt your heart.  It was fantastic and very beautiful."
Simon said:  "David you didn't beat the competition tonight, you crushed the competition."
Additional Info:  David said he looked up different versions of "Love Me Tender" before rehearsing it.  "I thought this would be a fun song to sing -- a cool song to sing because I haven't sung a really romantic love song on the big stage before," he explained... After the judges comments, Ryan called David "Crusher."

(Photo credit Frank Micelotta/FOX)