Thursday, May 25, 2006

Soul Patrolling to the American Idol title

Wow, who cares who won? Prince performed on American Idol!

With so many “spoilers” swirling around the Internet, it’s not that often you get totally surprised by something on TV. I had seen rumors about many of the performers that showed up tonight on the Internet in the last couple days. But when Prince walked out, I actually said out loud, “Oh my God.”
But I’ll get back to that later. It really was Taylor’s night.

It was certainly no surprise that he won to anyone that watched the show last night, and the correct one. As I said last night, Taylor was more consistent all year, could be really special when he sang the right, soul-inflected song, and did better with his cheesy “coronation”song than Katharine did with hers.I was disappointed that once again this year, they didn’t announce the vote totals–as they did in the first three years of the show. I presume that’s because it wasn’t all that close. (Dial Idol had Taylor up 45-37, which isn’t percentages but some kind of score the guy calculates. I’m not sure what it means, but considering that same score has often had the bottom two in other weeks separated by one or two points, that’s not close.) By the way, the guy that handed Ryan the results–did you buy that guy actually worked at an accounting firm, or was it some guy they hired from an acting agency a couple hours before the show who normally dresses up as George Washington at parties?

Tonight’s show also partially answered one of the questions that everyone, and I mean everyone, was asking this morning (I hope the producers are reading the blogs or visiting office watercoolers):Why did they sing two songs they had already sung? (The other question, of course, was why were those original songs so bad?) The reason they probably were told to pick two songs they had already sung might have been because they were so busy this week learning all the songs they ended up singing for tonight’s show. They sang a song with Carrie, the song from Dirty Dancing, songs with celebrity guests and songs with the 10 other finalists. They didn’t have time to learn another new song, I guess. Personally, and I think most viewers would agree with me, I could do with one less duet from the finalists or whatever on the results show if I got one more new song on Tuesday night.

Having said that, this was without a doubt the most entertaining, swiftest-moving finale they’ve had, even if it is too long at two hours. And they didn’t even have any lame original comedy bits like that bizarre Corey Clark parody from last year. My one big complaint was the virtual absence of Simon, Randy and Paula from the proceedings. They’re a huge part of the show and why people watch–particularly Simon–so why can’t they critique parts of the results show or something? Or at least go to them and say, “So what did you think of Prince?” or “What was going on with Toni Braxton?”

Since this wasn’t a conventional show, I can’t recap it like I usually do, so I’ll just do a stream-of consciousness review, if James Joyce wrote about Idol: Portrait of the TV-Watching Blogger as a Not Young Man Anymore.

I started my evening by watching the red-carpet show which I assume aired in many markets on Fox stations. It was hosted by Jillian Barberie and those two other people from that “Good Day Live” show, and it was horrible. The guy, Steve Edwards, introduced a clip of them interviewing Carrie Underwood, which they played. Then they went to a commercial, came back and Edwards said, “We’re right now going to see a interview we did with Carrie Underwood.” And it was an interview with Bo Derek, who had nothing to do with American Idol but has a new television show coming out in the fall. They did have one interesting interview, with Katharine McPhee’s parents. For those wondering if Katharine’s mom is a pushy stage mother, as some have speculated, it sure seemed like it. She was asked what happens if Katharine loses and started to talk about all the offers out there from Hollywood, etc, and there was just something about it that I can’t explain that seemed kind of creepy, like this was what she had always dreamed about for her daughter.

Anyway, so the actual show started out with everyone in white, and then we saw Heather Locklear and Ben Stiller in the audience. Ben Stiller was there two nights in a row! And he’s not dating Heather Locklear, is he? (I believe he’s married, but this is Hollywood.)

The O’Donoghue twins have returned at Taylor’s party! But why did we never see them again? Same with Tamyra. And what happened to Tamyra? One could make an argument she was the second most talented female vocalist ever on this show, and yet no one bought her album and she seems to have disappeared.

Paris sings with Al Jarreau and the two even do something resembling scat singing. Not bad, although an interesting choice of duet partners since Jarreau is kind of a laid-back vocalist and Paris is so big voiced. Apparently, Al borrowed Ace’s skull cap for the performance.

Just in case anyone is wondering, I won’t be blogging about “So You Think You Can Dance.” I will, though, be blogging about lots of other things hopefully starting this weekend after a couple days of recovery following Idol, including TV, the media, sports, politics, etc. So keep coming back.

Ryan has a podium like he’s hosting the Oscars or something. I wrote that in my notes, and what do you know, a few minutes later, he actually started handing out awards. I guess if they have to review the bad auditions (I don’t really think it’s necessary to embarrass those people again, but I did laugh again at a few of them, I’ll admit) so I guess the awards gimmick was at least a different way to do it rather than just showing clips for ten minutes.

Chris Daughtry and Live performed together, and I think Chris was better than the lead singer of Live. Hey, they haven’t exactly been burning up the sales charts in recent years, maybe they should do a duet with Chris. To Live’s credit, they didn’t take the arrogant attitude as some bands do and say American Idol is lame and all about manufacturing a pop star–they were willing to go on the show and perform because they had a big fan of the show. And of course, it’s a smart move–more than 30 million people watched the show tonight, and as I said, they aren’t exactly burning up the charts in the last decade.

I really don’t know what to say about “Puck and Pickler.” It didn’t seem that scripted, so I’ll take it at face value and say I was amused but kind of concerned. Kellie seemed to have a heck of a lot of trouble reading–yeah, some of them were foreign words, but she is 20 years old. And her screaming about the lobster was kind of crazy–its claws were rubber-banded together. But I did actually want to see another segment of that bit–maybe they’d give Kellie stuffed kishka or something and tell her what it was.

Is Meatloaf OK? I figured all that shaking and trembling when he got out there was part of his overly dramatic act, but he really was doing a lot of trembling and shaking. This was pretty good, though, and I though Katharine, who has been criticized, did a pretty good job with her acting in the performance of the song. What was the deal with the red scarf though? What was this, a Jewish wedding where they couldn’t touch each other?

Kat and Taylor each got brand new cars. What is this, “The Price Is Right”? Then again, with all that advertising they filmed for Ford, they actually earned them.

Elliott brings out Mary J. Blige to sing U2's “One.” Pretty cool, although I would have liked to have heard them duet a little more. Couldn’t they have traded lines in a verse or something? They only really sang together at the very end.

Carrie Underwood looked great, but that song was kind of boring, and didn’t it sound a lot like “Jesus Takes The Wheel”? I think they both talked about driving.

Why are they giving Rhonetta Johnson more screen time? She wasn’t all that funny to begin with. Her rant was just an obvious attempt to get on television–which worked. The only funny thing she did was her horrible non-singing. Instead Ryan makes a joke implying she’s a prostitute and we got to see her swear and get bleeped out again. Real classy for everyone involved.

Taylor brings out Toni Braxton to sing with her and she sings so low that I could barely hear her, swallowing her words on almost every line she sung./ And she seems to be trying to molest Taylor too. Is she in some kind of feud with Paula Abdul and trying to one-up her? Taylor looked like he was enjoying it, though. But it was very bizarre.

So they bring out the guy imitating Clay to win an award and ask him to sing–which I suspected probably meant Clay would appear. And he did, in a terrible haircut that made him unrecognizable and caused the Clay imitator, Michael Sandecki, to almost have a stroke on the stage. The funniest part of it, and probably the funniest thing all season other than Simon laughing at Paula’s crying, was that Sandecki–is he really that self-absorbed?--actually thought he was supposed to duet with Clay. He kept singing until Ryan walked up to him two-thirds of the way through the song and urged him to sit down. Great stuff.

The Bachrach medley wasn’t bad, and Dionne Warwick was a pleasant surprise. She sounded pretty good too, although she did seem kind of old. Highlights: Mandisa was really good singing “Say A Little Prayer” and Elliott rocked “A House Is Not A Home.” Lowlights: I hope Dionne told Kellie Pickler never to sing one of her songs again after her massacre of “Never Fall In Love Again” and there are no words to describe Kevin Covais singing “What’s New, Pussycat?” At least anyone attending the Idols tour knows when to get up and go to the bathroom.

Broke Note Cowboys? Nice to see them again, but I don’t really have much else to say.

And then Ryan faked us out by saying all the celebrites were finished and Prince strutted out. It didn’t even matter what he was singing (I presume those songs are from his newest album), just seeing him appear on Idol was quite amazing. And he was great. And by the way, if you’ve never seen Prince in concert, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I wasn’t even a Prince fan before attending a concert of his nine years ago, and it was unbelievable. After watching him very early in the concert do “Purple Rain” and “Little Red Corvette” in succession, I turned to my friend John–after four songs--and said something like “We could go home now and we would have gotten our money’s worth. That was incredible.”

Then Taylor and Kat did the song from “Dirty Dancing,” and unfortunately Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey didn’t come out to perform. Nor did anyone utter two of the funniest lines in movie history: “Baby, I’ll do your hair,” which comes a few minutes before this song in the movie, and, of course, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner,” uttered as the song is beginning.

I think at this point in the show, though, it was obvious that Taylor had won. Would Katharine really have picked a dress with a tail that needed to be held up by her if she had won? She was really going to sing her victory song with her dress wrapped around her pinky? That made no sense at all, did it? (If it did, please explain to me in the comments section.) I’m kind of puzzled why she wore it to performing “Time of My Life.”

Ryan said that there were 63 million votes cast, which is more than any presidential candidate has ever received. That’s correct, but meaningless, since this was the total amount of votes for both singers (and I’m assuming they split the votes relatively evenly, no more than 60-40.) The two major presidential candidates combined received more than 100 million votes in 2004, so this was, although technically true, an incredibly dumb and misleading statistic (not to mention meaningless, since you’re only allowed to vote once in the presidential election and you have to be 18.)

As for Taylor’s victory song, I really liked how he thanked the band, the other singers, etc. during the song, even if he did have to sneak a last “Soul Patrol” shout in there as well.

And so we’ve come to that sad time that occurs after the crowning of an Idol champion–the realization that there’s no more American Idol for more than seven months. We’ve done it before, so I know we can all survive. And at least I can go to bed before 1 a.m. on Tuesday nights for a while.

Fingerhut out!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I hate reruns on American Idol

The final Tuesday night of American Idol for the year–it’s kind of like a national holiday. And yet tonight’s show was sort of unsatisfying. It was kind of like when you have a day off of work and you’re looking forward to sleeping late, but you get awakened way too early and can’t fall back asleep. Then later on, you take a nap, fall asleep for about 10 minutes, and the phone rings and wakes you up.

OK, enough rambling metaphors–I’ll get right to my rant, and it’s pretty much the same rant I made last year on this exact night. Why would you make two-thirds of the American Idol finale a rerun? Part of the excitement of American Idol is sitting down each week, seeing what song the singers select, wondering what they’ll do with it, and then watching to see if they do something memorable, if they surprise you. But for the first four songs tonight, none of that excitement was present for me, and I would imagine most viewers, because we had already seen them sing these exact songs earlier in the competition (and in Katharine’s case, just last week!) Once again, it makes me wonder: Do the producers actually watch the show? Why don’t they know this? Does anyone disagree with me about this topic? And why does it happen every finale? Say what you will about the quality of the original songs they sung during the last third of the show, but at least neither of them had sung the songs on the show before.

Actually, this was by far the worst finale when it came to reruns–although I’m sure the Idol producers would rather call them “encores.” In year one, Kelly and Justin both sang one repeat song from the year. In year two, all three songs that Clay and Ruben sang were new for them on the show (their “coronation” singles, as well as “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and a Beatles song I can’t remember the name of for Clay and “A House is Not A Home” and “Imagine” for Ruben.) In year three, I believe Diana sang two repeat songs, but Fantasia chose to sing a new song as well as a repeat and the coronation song. And last year, Bo and Carrie each picked their favorite from the season and sang two songs new to the show. This year, for the first time, we had both singers performing two repeats and just one new song. And in every year except Clay-Ruben, the Idols would sing the same original song at least once, which was always interesting–one could compare how each of them interpreted the song and what kind of spin they put on a song no one had heard before. (For example, last year, although I wasn’t a huge Bo fan, comparing his rendition of “Inside Your Heaven” with Carrie’s was no contest in my mind–he was a lot better in interpreting the song. Of course, he still lost and that “The Real Thing” song he put out is pretty bad, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.) This year, we didn’t even get the comparison. Just a disappointment on all counts. Come on, it’s the finals. It should be special. OK, I think I’ve made my point, and writing about it is just making me angrier, so I’ll stop and get to the songs.

Although with Ryan clean shaven and Simon wearing a blazer, they were sure dressed for something special, not reruns.

Katharine McPhee (“Black Horse and Cherry Tree”)–I don’t have that much to say about these first four performances because they weren’t that different from the times they originally performed. Well, actually, to be fair, Katharine got off the floor this time and did some dancing. And I enjoyed it, of course. It might have been a little better than the first time–Katharine sounded more confident, likely because she had already sung the song and received good reviews. And it made sense to choose an up-tempo song so that all three of her songs wouldn’t be slow songs. But Simon was probably correct, that the night was bigger than that song.

Taylor Hicks (“Living in the City”)–I was kind of confused when Randy said that when he heard Taylor was doing this song, he was worried because Stevie Wonder songs are so hard to sing. Did Randy not remember that Taylor had already sung this song–rather well–on Stevie Wonder week? The mysteries of this show never cease. Anyway, Taylor, like Katharine, also changed up the presentation on his song from his previous performance. I seem to recall that during Stevie Wonder week, he stayed at the microphone stand and did somewhat restrained dancing there. Tonight, he was off into the audience, dancing around, and I was kind of winded by the end of the song and kind of prefer the first way. But it worked for Taylor–with a crowd tonight of 3,000 instead of the normal 300 or so, he really fed off the energy of the audience and turned in a pretty exciting performance. But what was up with that velour jacket? Is he going to the Playboy mansion later?

Kat (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”)–Katharine didn’t really change this one up at all from its first performance, which meant that while it was sung very well, I just heard it last week so it didn’t really excite me like it did last week. Couldn’t she have sung the beginning of the song in black and white and finished up in color or something? So I don’t really have much to say. Simon said that this song was her best performance, but I’m not sure what exactly separated it from last week. So instead of Katharine, I’ll talk about Paula, who was more insane tonight than she’s been since her crying breakdown after Elliott’s “A Song for You” a few weeks back. The dancing and clapping during Taylor’s performances was completely out of control, she was outright cackling at one point during the show, and she had this look on her face of pride after Taylor would finish that was akin to how a mother might look proudly at her son or a girlfriend might....oh, I better stop there.

Taylor (“Levon”)—This was the opposite of Taylor’s first song, in that instead of getting bigger with the help of the crowd, it got smaller and swallowed up in the big auditorium. Taylor sung this in the semifinal round in the small studio, and it worked a lot better in that intimate setting.. Tonight, there just didn’t seem to be much electricity with this song and I thought it was kind of boring.

Kat (“My Destiny”)–Finally, fresh songs! Unfortunately, it was a terrible song (and to be fair to Katharine, I really don’t know if she picked it or the producers picked it–or if she had to pick from a bunch of even worse songs that the producers picked for her, which might actually be closest to the truth). How you could pick out a pop song for an American Idol singer to sing as their first single that barely has a memorable hook? It didn’t really matter how Katharine sang this song, I’m not sure she could ever make it good. Having said that, she probably could have made more of an effort. Yes, I know, Katharine isn’t good when she tries to do too many vocal gymnastics, but it seems like she could have wrenched a little more emotion out of it. Two other things: Is Tori Spelling really one of “Katharine’s family and friends” or was that a mistake? Oh, and Katharine is still beautiful.

Taylor (“Do I Make You Proud?”)–This was a better song than Katharine’s–it actually had a good hook. But more importantly, Taylor made me believe it was a better song–I thought he sung this really well, and Paula was right (yeah, I’m stunned, too), Taylor made the song his own. I really enjoyed it–it had emotion, soul and was fun too.

Before I get to my prediction, was that Kellie Pickler’s dad, fresh out of prison, in the audience with her? I was wondering if anyone else saw that.

And please, please, please, leave me comments. I want to know what people thought of the final and who you want to win.

So who should be the next American Idol? Yes, I moon over Katharine every week, but this isn’t America’s Next Top Model. And Katharine does have a stronger voice with more range, but it’s a singing competition, not a scales competition.

And when it comes down to it, Taylor is a better singer than Katharine. He does have flaws–as I’ve said before, when he doesn’t sing a song with some soul, he doesn’t do much for me. But he was certainly better on his original song tonight, and has been more consistent throughout.

And who will win? Your next American Idol will be Taylor Hicks.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Farewell, Elliott

No one could really be that surprised that Elliott was voted out tonight--he didn't have a great night Tuesday and was considered the underdog even before the performances. What was surprising was how close the vote was. Although it doesn't seem quite as close when you translate the percentages into raw votes (the .2 percent margin between Elliott and the second place finisher when applied to a total of 50 million votes is 100,000 votes), the fact that Katharine and Taylor are separated by less than a percentage point means, despite Taylor being coronated the strong favorite, this competition isn't wrapped up yet (then again, they were separated by 400,000 votes, which does seem like a lot to make up, so maybe I'm being too dramatic.) And of course, because Idol has, as far as I can remember, never told us the percentage breakdown among the top three before, maybe every year has been this close, so I shouldn't get too excited. (It's kind of amazing--the more information American Idol provides, the more questions it raises.)

Considering that the show was an hour tonight, it was relatively painless--except for the ridiculous promo for X-Men 3 with Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romaijn giving the singers a copy of the movie to watch on their trips home. Will this promotional blitz ever end? Will next week's finale feature Halle Berry singing or something? I wish one of the Idols had said, "I'm not sure I'll really appreciate this--I missed the first two." And that Clive Davis commercial for the records of American Idol winners or whatever was just odd and uncomfortable and seemed like it took three hours. And maybe just a little too self-congratulatory--so Clive Davis was being thanked by American Idol for producing the records of the Idols, and he was thanking American Idol for creating these new recording artists and sort of thanking Americans for buying the records and... my head hurts.

But the rest of the show wasn't bad. We got to see the three singers perform not songs we heard them do last night, but songs they did (and did well) three months ago, which was different. And we got to see those trips back home, which was a great note on which Elliott could go out. The head-shaking, in true Jewish mother fashion, of Elliott's mother when she realized how big the crowd lining the streets was for Elliott was priceless. And all the home visits (OK, Katharine's was kind of lame, but Taylor and Elliott's) illustrate one of the things that, throughout all the controversies and frustrations of this show, make American Idol special. It's kind of moving to watch thousands of people line the streets of Richmond for Elliott, or see all those people pack into a mall in Alabama to see Taylor, considering that four months ago, hardly any of those people knew who Taylor and Elliott were. And yet this week, Taylor, Elliott and Katharine are three of the most famous people in the United States. There's something about watching this show, knowing that everyone else in the country is watching it and becoming obsessed with it, discussing it on Wednesday and Thursday morning at work, etc. that is just exciting and special. I think I could probably express that idea better, but I can't quite come up with the correct words right now--the hardships of trying to blog.

To illustrate my point, a quick story from when I talked to Elliott's cousin a couple weeks ago. He happens to be friends with Steven Spielberg's sister, who lives in the Washington area. So when he was in L.A., he went into her mother's restaurant and introduced himself and told him why he was out in Los Angeles. And he said she responded, "Wow, you're Elliott Yamin's cousin!" Yes, Steven Spielberg's mother was really excited to meet Elliott Yamin's cousin.

Who made the best choices on Idol?

So we’re down to the final three, always a bittersweet time–because in eight days, there will be no more American Idol until next January. But we’ve coped in the past with the absence, and we’ll deal with it again this summer and fall.

So the less said about the whole Chris Daughtry situation the better–I already commented some on it in my post below this one, and I think the United States will survive. I do hope that those who were extremely upset by last Wednesday night’s developments are feeling OK and have recovered enough to watch and enjoy tonight’s show. I do want to say, though, that Chris probably should stay away from that job offer from the band Fuel. First of all, I saw somewhere that Fuel–in their “offer” to consider Chris on the TV show “Extra”–had to “retain” their alleged credibility by saying that, you know, they’re not really into American Idol and everything, but they’d heard him sing and thought he was good, etc. Hey guys, get over yourselves. Chris Daughtry is a lot bigger than you are right now. In fact, I’m really confused. In an interview Chris did on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show Thursday morning (a friend sent me the link to a mp3 of the show, and I listened, and yeah, I’m a little bit ashamed, but it was a slow day at work ...), Ryan told Chris that a band that was a “household name” was going to offer him their lead singer job. On what planet is Fuel a household name? To steal a line from the sportscaster Warner Wolf, Fuel is only a household name in its own household. Did Ryan mean that every household knows what fuel is and that it goes in cars and stuff?

Let’s get to the show, where Roseanne is in attendance and even has better seats than Clive Davis. Not sure what that means, although considering Clive’s song choices were, for me, just OK tonight, maybe it’s punishment. Oh, and Randy continues that ridiculous booing of Simon–maybe he’s made that Simon said Randy was offered “one dollar” to pose for Playgirl last night on the Jay Leno show. Actually, even more interesting than Simon’s appearance on Leno was Teri Hatcher’s visit to the Letterman show last week. She was asked about the now famous (and fairly innocuous) photo of her and Ryan Seacrest kissing and made a reference to something from earlier in the show that I think was meant as implying that Seacrest is gay. Then she said Seacrest called a few days after their date with the kiss and offered her $50,000 to be his date to some party or convention or something in Las Vegas (and offered her assistant $5,000 to convince Teri to do it). There are so many things that fascinate me about this story, I need a couple more days to think about it.

Elliott Yamin (“Open Arms”)–So Clive Davis picks a song for Elliott that Clay Aiken sang in the semifinals four years ago (I actually remember this only because I was recently perusing a list of the “Top50 American Idol Performances” of the first four seasons on a Website called and that performance was on it. Apparently, that list was put together by a bunch of drunks, because two performances by R.J. Helton–the singer who led Simon to immortalize the phrase “Boy band yes, American Idol no”–made the list. Anyway, Clive’s choice and his reasoning made sense–Elliott hasn’t sung a lot of straight-ahead pop/rock songs, but seemed to have the right kind of voice for this song. And he did OK, but it wasn’t great–more like, as I said of Chris on “Suspicious Minds,” a solid single or double when everyone kind of wanted to see a home run. Unlike last week, when he came out swinging, he seemed very slow and tentative on the first portion of the song, and while he picked it up by the chorus, he really needed to, as Simon said, “loosen up.”

Katharine McPhee (“I Believe I Can Fly”)–Katharine, your superpower of beauty is not working on me tonight. That was not good at all. So Clive said he wanted to hear what the “Katharine McPhee sound” was, and gave her a big, bombastic ballad of the kind that the judges–even Paula–had been recommending she not do in recent weeks. And it was a mess. First of all, Katharine, please sing the whole chorus. When they got to the lyric “I believe I can fly,” it sounded like she stopped to take a drink of water or something–she just stood there while the backup singers sang the main part of the song. That’s one of my Idol pet peeves. And all those runs, or whatever Randy calls them, at the end of the song were just annoying. Speaking of Randy, one of the best moments of the season was hearing Randy complaining about song choice and Katharine saying, “I didn’t pick it.”Yeah, song choice is important, but it’s all Randy ever talks about these days. It was so satisfying to hear that retort. On the other hand, I did think that Randy was correct when he said sometimes it’s better just to “sing the melody” in reference to Kat’s performance. Oh, and what happened with Paula? She said she had something to say that was going to be very hard, then someone yelled something about Katharine being great, and she never really said much of anything. Paula did have an “I’m going to break down” vibe going on at the time, so maybe it was all for the best.

Taylor Hicks (“Dancing in the Dark”)–So Taylor sang an old favorite of mine, and did a better job than I expected he would. Having said that, I didn’t think it was anything special. From his explanation, I think I understand why Clive picked the song–he was hoping to marry Taylor’s two specialties–the fun, crazy dancing and the soulful singing. But the soulful singing part of this song isn’t that souful, and the dancing part isn’t that crazy, so it just came off as a entertaining but average mishmash of his two styles. And I was amused by Taylor’s dance with Paula–I don’t know if it was rehearsed, but it was enjoyable. As for Bruce Springsteen allowing a song to be used on Idol for the first time (all because of a call from Clive!), I can’t imagine that the fact he released an album a couple weeks ago might have any impact on that, would it? And actually, even though it’s a six or seven-minute song, Clive should have had Taylor sing Bruce’s “I’d Drive All Night (Just to Buy You Some Shoes).” That might have been a really great choice for Taylor.

Elliott (“What You Won’t Do for Love”)–Wow, I forgot that Doug Wilder is now the mayor of Richmond. So Paula said she picked this song for Elliott because “Elliott is full of love” and I became very frightened for Elliott until she also said it was the right key for his voice. And it did fit his voice well and is the kind of jazzy, funky song he likes to sing. He sang it pretty well, but I just found it (and it may have been the song’s fault) kind of boring.

Katharine (“Somewhere Over The Rainbow”)–So the song started and she was singing a capella and I got very frightened that we were going to have a repeat of Bo Bice’s a capella song in the final three last year. (Yeah, a lot of people loved it, but I can’t stand a capella singing unless it’s done by a big group–those groups that perform a capella in college are OK.) But then the music started up and I felt much better. And as bad as her first song was, this was good. You know Simon is always going to know a good song to pick because he is the smartest judge, and he didn’t disappoint tonight. That was the perfect song for Katharine because it allowed her to be “intimate,” as Paula has recommended, and yet still show a range without oversinging. It was pretty great. Was it the indelible “moment” of the season that many Idol fans say we haven’t had yet (like Clay singing “Solitaire” or Fantasia singing “Summertime” or Carrie singing “Alone” or Kelly Clarkson singing just about anything)? I don’t really know, but my sister said she cried while watching it, so that’s one vote for yes. But Katharine, can you please get off the floor? Twice in three weeks? Oh, and why did Katharine’s performance of this song seem so much longer than every other performance tonight? Yes, I could go back on the VCR and time every performance to check this out, but I’m too lazy. I’d rather spend my time reading about the new network television shows (which I promise to blog about later this week or over the weekend) and studying DialIdol.

Taylor (“You Are So Beautiful”)–The judges went crazy over this one (Simon, was this really Taylor’s best performance of the competition?), but I didn’t think it warranted quite that much acclaim. I did like his performance, but, because Randy picked it, I will criticize the song selection for not being a song with a lot of range. Actually, maybe I’m being a bit picky. Taylor did a solid job with what he was given, but I preferred his final performance.

Elliott (“I Believe to My Soul”)–After two not particularly memorable performances, I really liked this performance–it was fun, he showed personality and he sounded really great. He should have done more Ray Charles songs. It seemed Simon, though, thinks this song signaled Elliott’s departure–that “you’re a great guy, you’re a great singer, you’ve made your mom very proud” certainly sounded like a farewell. Oh, and did you catch him putting his name in the song? Who does he think he is, Big Country? Wang Chung?

Katharine (“I Ain’t Got Nothing But the Blues”)–I didn’t realize Katharine was from Sherman Oaks, Calif. That’s only significant so I can tell this quick story about the congressman who represents Sherman Oaks. His name is Brad Sherman, and whenever he appears somewhere, he introduces himself by saying, “My name is Brad Sherman and I’m from the best named town in America, Sherman Oaks.” It’s really goofy, and I wonder if Katharine has ever heard him do that bit. I’ve seen it about five times, and my reaction has gone from “hey, that’s kind of cute” to “that’s hilarious that he does this every time he goes anywhere” to “he’s still doing that bit? Come on.”
So the judges didn’t seem to like this performance that much, but I thought Katharine was pretty good, other than a little shouting at the end. Then again, by this time of the show, my shield and other defenses against Katharine’s superpowers were starting to weaken. Maybe I was mesmerized by the fact that somebody finally figured out how to dress Katharinee reasonbly well after what, two months? I’m far from knowledgeable on fashion, but was it really that hard to say, “Hey guys, in addition to being beautiful, she’s got big breasts and nice legs. You think we could show those both off at the same time? Maybe throw some knee-high boots on her too?” Yeah, I’m sorry, I’m way off topic here–but then again, Robin Givhan in the Washington Post wrote a whole column lamenting Chris Daughtry’s dismissal because he really knew how to wear faded t-shirts and macho silver jewelry well. Then again, I probably don’t know what I’m talking about.

Taylor (“Try a Little Tenderness”)–Taylor picks the kind of song that he should be singing and nails it–this was really good and the second best performance of the night. Simon was right–the ending was bad. I could do without the Cartman-like big finish I alluded to a few weeks ago. (And in the dress rehearsal, footage of which is used in the recap at the end of the show, the finish was even more over the top.) But I shouldn’t be spending so much time on the last 10 seconds of the song–the rest of it rocked.

So who’s going? The way tonight’s performances played out, I’d be surprised if it was anyone but Elliott. But I’m going to check Dial Idol before I go to bed to see if I’m right. Fingerhut to the Web!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Maybe I'm gullible

So I see some commenters and other people across the Web are saying that Rebecca Romaijn's "request" last night was just a set-up, that it was planned all along. The more I think about it, the more I think it could be possible, which actually makes me angrier. Why did they pick Taylor to do an extra song---unless, as I slip into AI conspiracy mode, they were already trying to ensure he's the winner? Why would they have someone that wasn't even in the bottom two sing again? "Jailhouse Rock" wasn't even his best performance Tuesday night. I don't think this is getting enough coverage today, in the aftermath of all the people upset about Chris leaving.

A couple words on that: First of all, the people on message boards that are now trying to get American Idol to have a revote, trying to convince them that all the lines were busy, and that means that there was some kind of conspiracy and the lines were actually blocked from calls, or proves that Chris did get the most votes, because how could the lines be busy all night if he didn't, etc...Please, just stop. This same thing happens every year, and the show doesn't care. I think they should care--this whole voting system has problems, and the fact that AI doesn't release the vote totals just makes it worse. (In fact, I'm starting to think that the reason they may not release the vote totals is because it might make people angrier--what would happen if we learned that we had a Florida in 2000 situation and Chris only had 40 votes fewer than Katharine? People would go crazy, saying I got 40 busy signals and if the phones had been working properly Chris would have stayed in and the whole controversy would be even bigger.) AI is the biggest show in the country, and as long as that's the case, they'll never change.

Second, yes, Chris was the favorite, but please don't tell say this was the most shocking elimination ever, as Chris alluded to in an Entertainment Weekly interview today. Tamyra being voted off in the second season with Nicki McKibbin standing on the stage was far more shocking and egregious than Chris being eliminated. Yes, Katharine had a bad night, but she has had some good performances over the last couple months. Nicki McKibbin didn't.

I think I have more to say on all this, but, as Ryan would say, after a break.

Elliott Yamin's cousin

Here's that article I was talking about--on the cousin of the first Jewish American Idol contestant to advance to the final three.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

That's just wrong

No, my title is not referring to Chris Daughtry’s elimination, although he really didn’t deserve to go this week. I’ll get to that in a minute. I’m infuriated about something else.

What’s wrong is allowing Rebecca Romaijn to produce the show. If being subjected to another X-Men 3 promo wasn’t annoying enough, they now allow supermodels to make requests from the audience? It’s a live show and they have to go off the air at 9:32. I’d imagine every minute is planned before they go on the air. They wasted time with coma-inducing clips of the Idols’ trip to Graceland (hey, Elvis had a lot of gold records!) and a (not bad, although Katharine continued to oversing) medley of three dozen Elvis hits. So it’s 9:20 and there’s Rebecca Romaijn and since she wants Taylor to sing, they have him do it?

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not angry that Taylor sang “Jailhouse Rock,” even though his other song was better. What I’m angry about is that letting Taylor sing meant we only got to hear 30 seconds of Chris’ singout (and he didn’t even have time to say a few words other than in the “Bad Day” montage). He sounded better than he did last night on “Suspicious Minds,” started walking over to the other Idols for what looked like an emotional moment and–cut. It’s time for Unan1mous (and I know the ratings say people are watching it, but I have a hard time believing any functioning human being is.) Chris has been a huge part of this show for three months, and we can’t see his full singout because they want to fulfill Rebecca Romajin’s request? Ryan couldn’t say, “Um, we’re running short on time tonight and we don’t want to cut the singout short like we have the last two weeks, even though we have only one job in 32 minutes and that’s to tell you who’s leaving and have them exit the show by singing?”What a joke. This show just infuriates me sometimes. As I’ve said before, the producers don’t seem to know why we watch the show. I can’t believe even Taylor’s biggest fans wouldn’t have rather seen Chris get a full singout than see Taylor (who the producers knew was coming back next week) sing again.

OK, I’m off my soapbox. As for Chris getting eliminated, I wouldn’t have been surprised by anyone getting eliminated tonight (although I will note that I did predict Chris, and that’s without looking at, which once again had this one correct). But Elliott really did turn it on last night, Taylor has a huge fan base and had one of the best performances of the night, and Katharine is the only woman (meaning people might vote for her because they want some variety in the final three) and she’s, um, hot. But I will admit, despite my swooning every week, she really was the one that deserved to go tonight. Having said that, I think Chris just seemed too nonchalant Tuesday night. Maybe he was trying to conserve his voice after last week’s problems, but for me as Randy would say, he didn’t seem all that great. Other reasons Chris lost: People didn’t want to hear his screaming, modern rock-inflected songs for two more weeks (he couldn’t do it this week, but he demonstrated last week that if he has any choice in the matter, he will sing the same type of song he’s already sung 14 times on the show. You can get by if they’re good songs, but most of the songs Chris sung are not going to be classics, and with good reason.) And of course, you can’t underestimate people being so disturbed by Chris’ way-too-much-information moment revealing his underwear choice (Ryan’s reaction was so creepy I don’t even want to discuss it) that they felt they had enough. But I’ll give Chris some credit–he brought a real rocker presence to this show for the first time, and he did show some versatility a few weeks ago, just not enough of it. Will he be as successful as Paula thinks he will be? (And I hope someone’s on suicide watch at her house tonight.) Hard to say. (Way to take a position, Fingerhut.)

Finally, I had two people tell me that they were surprised that I did not comment on Tommy Mottola’s comment about not wanting Elliott to sing his first song like it was “a bar mitzvah song.” Well, I don’t want to disappoint any of my readers, and if I take a request, it doesn’t prevent Chris Daughtry from singing–so I’ll take the challenge.

But actually, just like last night, I ‘m not quite sure what to say. And the more I thought about it, the more confused I became. Was Tommy Mottola referring to a song that the band plays when the bar mitzvah boy walks in to the room at the reception? Just any old slow song that a band plays at a bar mitzvah (nothing particularly original, since Simon often throws around the epithet wedding singer). Was he saying that he didn’t want Elliott to sound like he was singing his Haftorah portion? Wouldn’t it have been great if Elliott broke into the blessings before the Torah at that point? Yeah, I know, my attempt to riff on this was kind of lame, but at least I tried.

Who will check into Heartbreak Hotel on Idol?

Before we get to “Elvis Night” on “American Idol,” I do have one announcement. I interviewed Elliott Yamin’s cousin, who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland for my day job. I will post a link to the article on this site on Thursday when the article comes out–or you can just go to www.washingtonjewishweek–but to summarize, yes, Elliott is Jewish, his cousin did not know if he had attended a Passover seder--and Elliott even put on tefillin one morning earlier in the competition.(And if anyone can teach me how to create a link on a blog, please leave instructions on the comment section. I’m not totally up on this blog thing yet.)

So the Idols got to visit Graceland, and we got to hear one of the funniest lines ever uttered on the show: Priscilla’s comment that if Elvis were still alive, American Idol would be “one of his favorite shows. Last year I heard an interview with singer Paul Anka, who said that Elvis used to sit in his hotel room and shoot his gun at the TV whenever Robert Goulet came on–because he couldn’t stand him. What would Elvis have done to a TV with Kevin Covais on it? Then again, a lot of musicians do watch Idol, so who knows? And Elvis would have really loved Katharine McPhee. Actually, if Elvis were still alive, he probably would have already gotten Kellie Pickler to move in with him by now.

Our guest coach this evening was record producer Tommy Mottola, who I suppose was OK but not particularly remarkable. Tommy Mottola is most associated in my mind with marrying Mariah Carey when she was something like 23 and he was well into his 40s. So I hope Katharine had a chaperone during her time with him. Actually, with his overwhelming positive comments about Katharine, did anyone else get the feeling he was already working his rap with her?

Mottola also said that he thought the Elvis show would be the “greatest show so far.” It didn’t come close to that, but I thought it wasn’t bad.

Taylor Hicks (“Jailhouse Rock”)–Taylor wasn’t the only one to suffer this problem tonight, but was the first to have to deal with it–singing a song first sung by such an iconic singer as Elvis means you’re never going to be better than his version. You can only pale by comparison. Having said that, I was tapping my foot for most of Taylor’s perfomance and thought his dancing was relatively restrained. But as I said last week, despite what Randy and Paula say, Taylor’s niche isn’t singing uptempo songs like this and “Play That Funky Music” last week while doing crazy dancing.
Taylor made his mark in his first audition by singing a soulful Sam Cooke song really well, not dancing around spastically, and that’s what he should be doing. This wasn’t it. While I don’t think it was “hideous” like Simon said, he was closer to being right than the other two. As for Paula saying that Taylor was “as original as ever,” how was this performance in any way original? He did the same crazy dance he’s been doing for weeks and sang the song pretty much the way Elvis did it. Oh, yeah, he did take it up a key because Tommy Mottola suggested it–yeah, that’s real original, Paula. And I was so glad that Simon just told her to shut up. As for Ryan asking Simon whether he had “ever lived in the real world” and Paula giving him a “way to go,” does Paula really think she inhabits “the real world?” Does anyone who actually lives in the real world talk to this woman?

Chris Daughtry (“Suspicious Minds”)–First of all, why was Chris dressed like that bad rapper Snow from the early 90s, the one that sang “Informer”? Anyway, I thought Chris would hit this song out of the park, but I kind of thought it was more like a double. It just seemed kind of slow and didn’t have the intensity that Chris brings to most of his performances. You know it wasn’t great if Randy uses the term “for me” in his critique, and he did say, “It wasn’t your best vocal performance, for me.” Of course, then Paula said, “You forget how great that song it until you hear Chris Daughtry sing it.” (Real world? The closest Paula gets to the real world is a marathon of the show on MTV.) Actually, that is a great song, but maybe you should listen to the Elvis version (or even the Fine Young Cannibals version) before swooning over Chris’ version.

Elliott Yamin (“If I Can Dream”)–As Simon correctly said, Elliott came in tonight as the underdog. I mentioned in my entry last week after the results show that Elliott really needed to kick it up a notch if he wanted to stay in the competition. And he did. This is what I’ve wanted to see the past couple weeks–someone who seems like he’s putting everything he has into his performance. I’ve never heard this song before, but I thought it was great. In the finals of season two, Randy told Clay after a particularly strong performance that he had “sang his face off.” That seems like a good metaphor for Elliott tonight. And I was glad to see even though Paula thought is was his best peformance, she didn’t break down into tears–we really don’t need more of that mess.

Katharine McPhee–(“Hound Dog/All Shook Up”)–You had to figure Katharine might have trouble with this week’s theme because she’s not really a rocker, but instead of picking something like “Love Me Tender” or even a slow-burning rocker like “Heartbreak Hotel,” she picks one of the most famous rock songs ever, “Hound Dog” with a taste of “All Shook Up” mixed in for variety or something (apparently done in the spirit of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels putting “Good Golly, Miss Molly” in the middle of “Devil With A Blue Dress.”) It probably wasn’t her best decision. On the positive side, I liked the dancing. And even though she was doing an iconic song, it came across as a little different because she’s a female. And she at least showed she was willing to mix it up and demonstrated some rock edge to her voice. But oeverall, it really wasn’t that good–it kind of got away from her after the first few lines.

Taylor (“In the Ghetto”)–Now this is what Taylor should be singing, as I’ve been saying for weeks but Randy just got around to admitting. Although I don’t think this performance was as good as his performance of “Something” last week, it was very good–soulful and emotional. Is Simon correct that he sung his way into the semifinals? Probably?

Chris (“A Little Less Conversation”)–I agreed with Simon–I liked the end when he kicked it up a gear, but wasn’t all that excited by the rest of it. Once again, sort of a lack of intensity, it seemed, by a guy whose scary intensity had been his trademark. Unlike a few weeks ago, when Chis went out of his comfort zone and did well, tonight he had to stretch and get out of his comfort zone, and he didn’t do a good job of it.

Elliott (“Trouble”)–I thought Elliott rocked this song, and showed more personality than he’s ever shown before. He needed to be the best tonight, and he clearly was. And Paula was still able to swoon over Elliott and not open the tear ducts–which is good. I am curious about the stripper dance moves Ryan alluded to by Paula–I think like ESPN earlier this year had the Duke-North Carolina game on multiple channels and one could watch the game from multiple angles, Fox needs a Paulacam station, where we can just watch Paula dance during the contestants’songs, etc. Maybe Comcast can make an On Demand station out of it if they can’t simulcast it.

Katharine (“Can’t Help Falling In Love”)–This is more of the kind of song I would have thought Katharine would sing tonight, but she seemed to struggle a little on this one too. Her voice just seemed all over the place (I think that’s what Randy calls “pitchy”), and I agreed with Simon that she was kind of overwhelmed by the arrangement of the song. And why was the music for the song so loud anyway? This is kind of a quiet song, and the band seemed to think they were playing something on the scale of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Kind of a disappointing night for Katharine.

So who will go? It’s a tough one, because I think the two favorites, Chris and Katharine, had the two weakest nights. And the one contestant everyone thought was headed home had the strongest night. I’m going to wildly guess and pick an upset–I think Elliott will end up in the bottom two, but so will Chris, and Chris will go home.

One other thing–please leave me some comments. I want to hear what everyone else thinks about the final four. Now I’m going to watch the season finale of the best show nobody watches, Veronica Mars.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Can't they keep track of time?

So they have 32 minutes to announce one name on American Idol, and yet they still can't do it without cutting off Paris' sing out? Kind of amazing. But since she did get to sing a complete song earlier in the show, I guess it's not that bad.

As for Paris getting voted off, it's not really a surprise. She may have the most talent in the competition (as we were reminded in the "Bad Day" montage--and I'm glad they brought the original recording back this week instead of that acoustic version they used last week--all the star musicians that worked with her marveled over her), but she rarely seemed to be able to pick the right song that showcased her talents. And every week she changed her hairstyle and look, which was kind of disorienting. But both of these problems have a lot to do with her being only 17, and she's got a lot of time to figure that out. As for Paula's comment a couple weeks ago that she should put out an album of standards (and that was one of her best nights), I'm not sure it would sell as well as Paula thinks it would, but I do think it would probably be pretty good.

Anyway, the rest of tonight's show was pretty uneventful. The commercial was strange, and the group song, while they sounded fine singing it, was a pretty lame song. Oh, and I wanted to tell Elliott that as someone well into his 20s, he really should be wearing dress shoes with a suit, not sneakers (what does he think tonight was, Yom Kippur?) But then I noticed he was only wearing a suit jacket with jeans and a t-shirt, so I didn't have as much of a problem with it. Actually, Elliott has bigger things to worry about--if he doesn't kick it up a notch next week, he might be next to go.

No birth of an American Idol tonight

Since last Wednesday night, everyone’s been talking about how we have the best, most wide-open final five ever (well, at least I have.) But if it is the best final five ever, why was tonight’s show so “blah”? No one was terrible, and some people had some good perfromances but no one put together two strong, solid songs (or even just one great performance). On the bright side, that does mean the competition is still wide open. In honor of this weekend’s Kentucky Derby, here are my odds:

Chris has to be the favorite, although not a strong one. Let’s make him 2-1.

Katharine and Taylor are strong contenders right behind him. Let’s say 3-1 for her and 7-2 for him.

Elliott is the underdog who’s getting a lot of late money bet on him as the horses approach post time. He’s about 6-1.

And Paris is the young longshot, with potential but hasn’t put it all together yet. She’s at 10-1.

So Paula seems to have taken her meds tonight, and I’m kind of surprised that her breakdown hasn’t received more attention outside of the Internet and people around the water cooler at work. I thought for sure we’d see speculation in the mainstream media all week about her health, we’d get interviews with psychiatrists giving diagnoses of her behavior, etc. (Then again, I don’t watch Extra and Access Hollywood, so maybe they’ve been doing this.) I guess maybe Paula losing it just isn’t news anymore.

So our themes were sing a song from the year of your birth and sing a song currently on the Billboard chart. The first theme is a good one because it gives the contestants a decent amount of songs that have stood the test of time to choose from–although a number of contestants still managed to make bad selections. The second theme isn’t good because although it does give a wide variety of songs to choose from, many of them are new and haven’t stood the test of time (a problem I discussed a few weeks ago when they did the “Songs of the 21st Century” theme and it was a rough week. (Also, using new songs mean much of the audience doesn’t really know the songs either, and that’s an important part of this show–“American Idol” wouldn’t be nearly as successful if the contestants were singing original songs instead of covers.) Of course, because it’s American Idol, there still seemed to be a little cheating with the themes, which I’ll get into as we move on.

Elliott Yamin (1978-“On Broadway”)–So we saw baby pictures of Elliott, and fortunately no photos of his bris. (Although what was going on with the red outfit he was wearing with the red cap? For a second I thought it was a Santa Claus costume, before rewinding the tape and reassuring myself.) Scott Savol did this song last year, and did a pretty good job of it, but Elliott is certainly better. It wasn’t great, but he looked pretty comfortable and confident. On the other hand, it was a little unexciting.

Paris Bennett (1988–“Kiss”)–Wow, I graduated high school in 1988. Of course, I remember that this song, “Kiss,” was popular in 1986, when I was a sophomore in high school. So why was Paris singing it? I guess that’s when Tom Jones did his version of the song–apparently, as long as the song was recorded by somebody in your birth year, it fit the theme. I guess that makes some kind of sense (and Elliott did the same thing–George Benson released “On Broadway” in 1978, but the Drifters sang it many years before), but how far can you take it? If Idol is still on ten years from now, I presume someone born in 1996 will be able to sing “Killing Me Softly With Your Song” because the Fugees did a hip-hop version of it that year. But how about that Stevie Wonder song “Pastime Paradise” that Coolio sampled and changed the words of around the same time with “Gangster’s Paradise”? It could get a little ridiculous. What about Jay-Z’s sampling of “It’s a Hard-Knocked Life” from “Annie” in the late 1990s? Does that count?

Anyway, Paris did say she was doing “Kiss” by Prince, even though she was only allowed to do it because of Tom Jones, and then said the reason she chose it, as far as I could understand it, was “The song is not really a song that people think can make a song” or something like that. If someone knows what that means, please leave a comment. I’m surmising she meant it’s not a song most people would think someone would sing on American Idol, and she’s probably right about that. There may be a good reason for people having that opinion, though, because I didn’t think Paris was particularly good on it. First of all, she is singing a song that has been recorded by two very stylized, unique singers. (By the way, quick story: Prince was apparently courted by the AI producers to appear on the show this season, but apparently the rumor was Prince declined because “he didn’t want to meet with the kids.”) Second, I don’t think it really showcased Paris’ strengths, which is a great voice. Sure, Simon has been on her about singing older songs, and this was a younger type song and she came out and strutted around the stage like a teenager. But it was just kind of mediocre, and to quote Simon from another one of her performances earlier in the year, a little weird. Just like Simon, I can’t really explain that comment, it just felt strange to me.

Chris Daughtry (1979–“Renegade”)–The judges slobbered over this, and I suppose it was better than the first two singers tonight, but I wasn’t sure what the big deal was. In fact, I thought it was a rerun of a Chris performance from earlier in the spring. Didn’t he wear an all-black outfit with a chain hanging out of the right pocket a few weeks back? And didn’t he do a loud song where he stares intensely into the camera and yells and screeches, um, like almost every week until the last two? I was starting to like Chris actually singing songs that weren’t all hard rock screamers, but apparently it’s what he likes to do. But on American Idol, it gets boring for me in a hurry–and it seemed like the judges got bored by his next song, so it’s not only me. But more on that below.

Katharine McPhee (1984–“Against All Odds”)–When I wrote last week about Katharine and how much I liked the big slit up her dress, I hadn’t even noticed that one of the buttons on the dress had popped until I read about it on the Internet and re-watched the tape. Also all over on the Internet, there was talk (as well as pictures) that Katharine allegedly flashed her underwear when the button popped. I also checked this when re-watching the tape and have no idea what people are talking about–if anyone could see that–especially without slow motion--they either have a TV with much better resolution than mine, or some kind of Superman-like vision. People are crazy. On the other hand, I’m so proud that someone actually searched “Katharine McPhee breasts” on and ended up on my blog. I’ve really made it in the blogosphere now.

So perhaps in order not to even accidentally show anything that anyone could misconstrue as underwear, Katharine wore a dress that literally seemed to have a belt around the ankles. She also sang “Against All Odds,” which has been sung many times on Idol and never particularly well. Katharine didn’t change that trend–there was something just kind of off about her performance. It was lacking a spark. It seemed like she was trying to sing it a little more intimately (like Paula suggested), but it’s a big song and needs to be belted out. And she didn’t do it. And then Simon, apparently still daydreaming about Katharine’s breasts from last week, called it “by far one of you best performances” when he really meant to add a “not” in there. That was awkward, but Katharine claimed to know that he didn’t mean to say she was good, so I guess it wasn’t that bad.

Taylor Hicks (1976–“Play That Funky Music, White Boy”)–I really liked Taylor from the beginning of the show this year because he was great at singing classic soul and R&B songs in an classic style–not because of all his tics and weird Joe Cocker-like movements (in fact, they made me scared and nervous), or because of his dancing. While he danced crazily when he did “Taking It To the Streets” a few weeks ago, he also sang the heck out of the song. But tonight, all we got from this performance was weird tics and dancing. The song didn’t show off his voice at all. It was truly a “karaoke performance,” as Simon said. I don’t want a song and dance from Taylor, I just want a song, sung well and with feeling.

Elliott (“Home”)–I’ve heard this song because someone in my office is the biggest Michael Buble fan in the world (or at least in Montgomery County, Md.), and I like it. And while I think Elliott did a good job with it, I didn’t think it was a good choice for him–Michael Buble is sort of a crooner, and this song didn’t let Elliott show of the richness and versatility of his voice. When Simon said that the song didn’t have enough of a hook, of course Paula misunderstood him and thought he was talking about the lyrics. No, he was talking about the hook of a song, that musical part of the song that draws you in and makes it stick in your heard. And he was correct–it just wasn’t memorable enough.

Paris (“Be Without You”)–I think Paris hit every one of my pet peeves about Idol performers tonight. In her first song, she went into the audience, and during this song she yelled “Come on!” to the crowd (was this really a song that people are supposed to get up and dance and clap to?) She also let the backup singers carry a little too much of the song, and spent about 10 or 15 seconds on one sort of held note that she riffed on. The judges liked it, but it didn’t work for me–it just didn’t all come together as a song. It just felt like some pieces of vocal gymnastics patched together.

Chris (“I Dare You”)–So Chris decided to give us two different sounds this week–rock song and extra-screamy rock song. Way to change it up in the second half o f the show. The judges said Chris’ voice was giving out–although I didn’t notice that much of a problem. But maybe if he picked songs that had less screaming in them, he wouldn’t have as big a problem. It seemed the judges already have tired of Chris’ return to custom (yes, his first performance was better, but not that much better) considering their comments. So Chris, how about a softer song where you just sing as one of your two tunes next week? Would it kill you?

Katharine (“Black Horse and Cherry Tree”)–I’m not really sure why Katharine sang this entire song on her knees, unless it was an attempt to once again appeal to pathetic horndogs like me–not that there’s anything wrong with that. This was fine–it was good to see Katharine sing a different kind of song that didn’t require big belting–but nothing special. If she wants to win this thing, she’s going to have to step it up a notch.

Taylor (“Something”)–So Billboard has enough charts that Taylor could find a song released before he was born on one of them? I should have known when Ryan said that the American Idol finalists have had 90 number one hits in the last four years. For that to be possible, there must be 8,762 different charts. And then when you realize that they could use the album charts too, multiply that by 12. Siilly me, I thought a competition where each person sings a song would mean they would get to pick from the vast array of singles charts. Being able to pick songs from any album on the charts? You might as well not have any theme. Putting that all behind me, though, I really liked Taylor’s performance. He did exactly what I said I wanted him do after his first song–just sing a song well. He was great on the bridge in this song (I think that’s what it’s called, to show my ignorance–it’s the part where he sings “I don’t know, I don’t know” etc.). He wasn’t as good on the verses, but I still enjoyed him actually singing instead of acting like a maniac. Also, Simon referred to Taylor’s “barminess”? Is that what he actually said? And what does that mean–being a member of a band that plays in bars? The characteristic of someone who likes to hang out in bars?

So will we get a bottom three or a bottom two? I don’t know, but I’ll give you a bottom three–Katharine, Elliott and Paris, with Paris going home. She had to come up big tonight, and I don’t think she came anywhere close.

Fingerhut to bed!