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American Idol Season 5 (2006)

February 28 (Semi-finals: Women) - Please give me something to talk about

Our host Ryan comes out unshaven, wearing a button-down blue shirt, jeans with fake paint spots, and a fugly black velvet tuxedo jacket.  It must be country week.  Oh, it's not?  You could've fooled me with a lot of these songs.  Please hand me a rope so I can hang myself now.

Before each contestant performs, a videotaped interview reveals their biggest memories about being on the show so far.  Real in-depth journalism, let me tell ya.  But if I didn't have these interviews to recap, I'd have very little to write.

Katharine McPhee (sings Stevie Wonder's "All in Love is Fair"): Her most memorable moment is rooming with Kellie, since they can be "silly and dumb" together.  Let's see...she's the silly one, right?  She tries to give this song a smoky jazz flavor, but all I can think about during her relatively bland performance is, "That blouse makes her look pregnant."  None of the judges think it's her best performance, and even she agrees.  But she's got a fan base now, so they'll probably pull her through.

Kinnik Sky (sings Gretchen Wilson's "Here for the Party"): Her most memorable moment was first stepping on the stage that they're performing on tonight.  She'll probably faint if she makes it to the top 12 and has to perform on a real stage.  This is a fun song, but I swear something is wrong with the sound, because at several points I feel like the band is drowning her out and she's having to shout to compensate.  With her boots and cowboy hat, she's also reminding me a heck of a lot of Vonzell during country week last year, only without Vonzell's fun-loving demeanor.  Randy and Paula agree that the song doesn't showcase her range, but her performance was enjoyable.  Simon compares it to a theme park performance that you'd see after you just stepped off a Disney roller coaster.  Paula would like to see him on a roller coaster.  He'd like to see Paula fall off a roller coaster.  This exchange is much more exciting than the performance.

Lisa Tucker (sings the Jackson 5's "Who's Lovin' You"): She performed in a production of The Lion King when she was 10 (and I'm getting sick of this being brought up - what have you been doing for the last 6 years, honey?), but she was intimidated by the Kodak Theater where they had Hollywood week.  Zzzzzz.  Oh.  On to the performance.  You know, I didn't like Michael Jackson's cute little vocals doing this song when it came out, and I'm not too impressed with Lisa's, either.  This song needs an older singer, someone who has more depth to their voice.  The ending's kind of nice, but so what?  Randy thinks it's "aiiigght," Paula forgets that Lisa is only 16, and Simon predicts she's sail through.  Whatever.

Melissa McGhee (sings Reba McIntyre's "Why Haven't I Heard From You?"): She's from Florida, so she says she always wears flip-flops, and it somehow shocked her that, walking down a red carpet, cameras would pan to her feet.  I'm thinking she probably could have saved the day by telling reporters, "Oh, dahling, these are by Michael Kors."  This is a fun song that I think works very well with her smoky (yep, there's that word again!) vocals, although Mike is distracted by one of the background singers, who is wearing a T-shirt with "G is for Gangster" written on it.  Randy says it's the perfect song for Melissa and that she's "hawt," Paula claims she's coming out of her shell, while Simon pours water on the whole thing by saying it was the wrong song and that the audience isn't connecting with her.  This annoys Paula so much that she switches seats with Randy.  Oh, the drama!

Heather Cox (sings Mariah Carey's "Hero"): It's not a good sign when her favorite memory is walking down Hollywood Boulevard and having someone put a boa constrictor around her neck.  For someone who claims to be an American Idol "stalker" (she tapes all the shows and watches them during the off-season, ugh), you'd think she'd know better than to pick such a well-known ballad by such a well-known, powerhouse singer.  I mean, duh, you're going to be compared to Mariah, okay, so you'd better do it very, very well, or very, very differently.  She does neither - in fact, she does the most of any contestant tonight to remind me that this is just a glorified karaoke show - and all three judges call her on it.  Look for her to be gone soon.

Brenna Gethers (sings Donna Summer's "Last Dance"): Why am I not surprised that her most memorable experience is posing on the red carpet?  All this girl does tonight is pose.  She poses her way through an excruciating rendition of this song.  Where's the pitch?  Where's the attitude she promised last week?  Darling, when you're bad, you're so, so bad.  Paula fails to see the magic, Randy compares her "I'm full of myself" attitude to Simon's, and Simon says it's like listening to someone murder a Donna Summer song by a bar.  Brenna thinks America will vote for her, though.  Dear God, I hope not.  Please let her crash and burn on Thursday's results show.  I would like to give her up for Lent.

Paris Bennett (sings Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings"): Normally, I hate it when contestants point up to the sky and say stuff like, "I have favor," as if God is in their corner, but she's so young and naive and cute that I can forgive it.  This time.  She likes being able to wear all sorts of clothes in Hollywood - "You can tell who I am through my fashion."  Uh, these are all your own clothes.  Can't you wear them back home, too?  Anyway, this song is way too old for her - and in a wrong key, judging from the way she struggles with some of the lower notes - but she's the first singer tonight who really shows any depth to her voice, and we are always impressed by her vocals.  A cute little dynamo.  All the judges like her, but admonish her to sing something more appropriate for her age.  She squeaks, "Thank you!" and you just want to pat her on the head.

Ayla Brown (sings Celine Dion's "I Want You to Need Me"): Ayla is a tomboy at home, but in Hollywood she doesn't sweat and can wear makeup.  Ooo, ahh.  Her version of this song is nominally better than Heather's version of "Hero," with slightly more depth and emotion, but it still all sounds way too karaoke to me.  All Celine and Mariah songs should be banned forever from this show.  The male contestants sitting behind her are bored.  Our cat burps.  That about sums it up.  Paula says Ayla is growing, and she wants Ayla's legs.  Randy liked the song. Simon says she's obviously working very hard, but she needs to be a little more raw.  It's a pity he couldn't have said that about Carrie last year.

Kellie Pickler (sings Bonnie Raitt's "Something to Talk About"): In Hollywood, she's eaten her first spinach salad and her first calamari.  She's seen dogs that have more clothes than she does.  Gag.  Unfortunately, she's improved over last week, even though she still lacks Carrie's power, so she's not going anywhere any time soon.  Paula says Kellie is so cute that she wants to squish her, Randy claims she's organic, and Simon says her calamari remark is worth a lot of votes.  Kellie starts to ramble, and Ryan says she'll talk for an hour, so we cue the music to make her shut up.

Mandisa (sings Faith Hill's "Cry"): She loves practical jokes, and says the highlight so far for her was playing the "dog jaw" joke on Ryan ("I have dog jaw." "What's that?" "Here, feel my jaw here." Ryan puts his finger close to her jaw, and she turns around and barks and snaps at him. This is somewhat more amusing when you see it than when you read about it.)  I don't recognize this song, and I'm not totally enamored of the performance, but she definitely has one of the most powerful voices up there tonight, and if anyone were to sing Mariah or Celine, it should have been her.  Paula says she took a risk and was great, Randy says it was a little rough at first but ended up fine, Simon says she looks a little cabaret tonight, but "when you're on it, I don't think there's a better female singer in this competition."  Which is still a way of saying she wasn't quite "on it," and she'd better get "on it" next week.

This was such a boring show - four country songs, three dull ballads, two R&B pieces that few people recognize, and one trashy disco song. No one really wowed me. I guess I'd place Paris and Mandisa as the top two.  The bottom two would definitely be Brenna and Heather.  Everyone else is in the "meh" zone.  The boys don't have too much work to do to make me forget this episode.

Eliminated on March 2 Results Show:  Brenna Gethers and Heather Cox.

Review 2006 by Patricia Lowhorn.  For comments, e-mail tricia@lowhorn.org.

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