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American Idol Season 5 (2006)

March 14 - I don't want to bore you with it (Stevie Wonder songs)

So...tonight was Stevie Wonder night, which meant suffering through two hours' worth of Stevie's music.  The biggest "wonder" for me was that I managed to get through this show without killing myself.

Prior to each performance, we see a short video of the contestant meeting and being coached by Stevie himself, along with his/her reaction to singing Stevie's music.  This was mostly variations on the theme of "I-never-thought-I'd-ever-meet-my-idol-Stevie-Wonder-I've-listened-to-him-since-I-was-two-gosh-I-was-so-nervous-I-could-pee," and Stevie responding with, "So-and-so is good/interesting/needs help," so I won't go into any more details here.  On with the performances.

Ace Young (sings "Do I Do"): As Ace struts all over the stage and all around the judges, doing a white boy's poor imitation of Stevie, he proves that he can't walk and sing at the same time.  But he can pretend to stare into the camera at the end just like Constantine (although with a third less smarm).  Girls squeal.  Randy says it was "aighht."  Paula loves Ace's spirit.  Simon thinks that the studio audience is easily pleased, because it was only okay.

Kellie Pickler (sings "Blame It on the Sun"): Her hair and makeup have been styled to make her look just like Carrie Underwood.  Shudder.  Unlike Carrie, though, Kellie has weak vocals and a personality that fills the room with so many bubbles, the audience could take a bath.  Unfortunately, that personality is only apparent when she talks tonight, because when she sings, she nearly puts me to sleep.  To make up for the lackluster performance, she proceeds to gab through the judges' comments.  Randy says the performance was a non-event, but he loves her shoes ("I got 'em on sale!").  Paula thought she played it too safe, but she looks gorgeous ("Thank yewww!").  Simon says that everything went wrong, she looks like Dolly Parton, and this was her worst performance to date (a stricken "I'm sorry!").  Then she proceeds to compare her false eyelashes to tarantulas for the next ten minutes until Ryan mercifully cuts her off with an ad.

Elliott Yamin (sings "Knocks Me Off My Feet"): He's got a pleasant enough voice, and it was the right song for him, but he looked uncomfortable up there.  The only exciting moment was the last few notes, and when he sang the lyric, "I don't want to bore you with it," I was thinking, "Then stop singing."  Randy thinks it was good but not his best performance.  Paula loves his passion and thinks we'll be seeing more of him.  Simon claims that Elliott doesn't have the "wow" factor and has to start showing some originality with his singing.

Mandisa (sings "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing"): Okay, what is up with Ryan taking off her shoes?  Does he have a foot fetish or something?  This song starts a little low, and she seems almost to shout in parts, but because it's Mandisa, the performance is about twenty times better than any of the ones that came before hers.  Randy says it's not as great as last week, but the best of the evening so far.  Paula claims Mandisa can sing anything.  Simon declares that we now have a competition.  Whereupon Ryan throws him one of Mandisa's shoes.  Eeeuw.

Bucky Covington (sings "Superstition"): A lot of girls are going to rush to their stylists and ask to duplicate those wavy blonde locks.  What the heck was the Idol stylist thinking?  Anyway, the country boy surprises me by showing a lot of energy and growling out the song in what is almost a decent performance.  I say "almost" because I couldn't understand 90% of the words, as the growls turned them all into mush.  Randy says that although it wasn't the greatest vocal, it was the right song choice and he enjoyed it.  Paula just parrots Randy.  Simon thinks it's one of Bucky's best performances so far, but he needs to lose the Jessica Simpson hairstyle.  I agree.

Melissa McGhee (sings "Lately"): We are supposed to feel sorry for her because she's been battling a sore throat, has never worn dresses before, and messed up the lyrics when she first performed the song for Stevie - with the sheet music in front of her, no less.  So...is this supposed to excuse her messing up the lyrics in front of the audience tonight?  I don't even know the song, and I could tell she flubbed it.  Although she shows a little more emotion than in her previous songs, I'm wondering if the line, "This time could mean goodbye" will be prophetic.  Randy thinks the song started weak but ended up okay.  Paula says Melissa has a soothing voice and should wear dresses more often.  Simon says it was her best performance so far.  Whatever.

Lisa Tucker (sings "Signed, Sealed, Delivered"): This is fine, although the song is set in a low key and doesn't show much range.  What bugs me about her is that her moves look very rehearsed and deliberate, like she's auditioning for a play.  And that outfit?  Selena Kyle called and wants her Catwoman costume back.  Randy thinks the song was a little boring until the end, when it was "hawt."  Paula says Lisa shines when she sings outside the melody.  Simon thinks she took control of the stage, and he loved it.  Um...okay.

Kevin Covais (sings "Part Time Lover"): Sixteen-year-old Chicken Little believes he's the "sex symbol" of the show and sings about having part-time sex with a woman who is also cheating on him.  That's just wrong on so many levels that I can't begin to count them.  He then proceeds to butcher the song in that nasal voice of his, all while sticking his crotch out and creeping around on the stage.  My mind goes numb with the horror of it all.  And people are holding up signs proclaiming, "Kevin is my heaven."  God help us, because the judges don't.  Randy praises Kevin for being in tune and wearing makeup, Paula praises him for dancing strangely and being in time, and Simon says it was appalling.  Which means the sympathy vote will be enough to bring him back next week.  [*bashes head repeatedly against coffee table*]

Katharine McPhee (sings "Until You Come Back to Me"): While she's singing, I think: this is decent, but she sounds just like Kelly Clarkson.  And I wish she'd sing something besides songs that Aretha Franklin has done.  Randy once again pulls out the "hawt" word and says she is "da bomb."  Paula thinks it was Katharine's best performance ever.  And Simon channels me and says she sounds like Kelly Clarkson.  I guess Katharine is hoping that Ryan will take off her shoes, too, because she now starts talking about the fact that she broke her heels.  Honey, you aren't as interesting as Mandisa or as good at being ditzy as Ms. Pickler.  Go away.

Taylor Hicks (sings "Living for the City"): Oo - he looks sharp in that suit tonight.  And he manages to work the stage and bring all his energy without resorting to manic twitches.  In fact, this is the first performance tonight that woke me up.  Thank you.  And thank you, too, for not letting the stylist change your gray hair.  Randy says it was a "hawt" performance and that Taylor was fearless.  Paula notes that all the band musicians were smiling during the song and that he's a fun performer.  Simon says that Taylor is like every Dad who got drunk at a wedding, but the difference is that Taylor can sing.  Best backhanded compliment of the night.

Paris Bennett (sings "All I Do"): Girl, you've got a powerful voice, and I really enjoyed the emotional performance, but you look like a poodle.  Do something with that hair!  Randy says we have another "hawt" one (okay, I am now going to buy this guy a thesaurus).  Paula says Paris is like a seasoned veteran.  Simon says she's like a performing doll - "wind her up and watch her go."  Paris now proceeds to sing through Ryan's post-performance interview, thus losing about ten percent of the respect she earned with her song.  Go join Katharine off stage, please.

Chris Daughtry (sings "Higher Ground"): Fortunately for Chris, the Red Hot Chili Peppers did a rock treatment of this song, so this is what he opts for.  And the Idol producers go all out for him, with enough smoke, blinking lights, and psychedelic images in the background to give someone an epileptic seizure.  The song is delivered with all of Chris's now trademarked intensity.  It's a little too intense for my tastes - the man needs to learn how to smile when he's singing - but it certainly ended the show with a bang.  Randy admires how Chris made the song his own.  Paula thinks he was fantastic.  Simon says, "Thank God for Chris," because his was the only "real world performance" tonight.  Chris is declared the winner...uh, best performer tonight.

My rankings, though, are a probably a little different from Simon's:

1) Taylor: energetic and fun
2) Chris: energetic but just a tad too intense
3) Paris: great voice, but that hair just bugs
4) Katharine: technically good
5) Mandisa: strong vocals, though shaky/shouty in spots
6) Lisa: good performance, but a little too rehearsed for my tastes
7) Bucky: I was pleasantly surprised
8) Elliott: right song, although pretty boring
9) Kellie: not a great performance, but she at least gave it a shot
10) Melissa: she would have beat Kellie if she'd remembered the words
11) Ace: at this stage in the competition, Constantine was improving - you're getting worse
12) Kevin: ick

Kevin has the mentally incapacitated vote. Ace still has his girly fans, so I doubt he'll be going anywhere. Kellie has a remarkably strong fan base right now (Simon has stated that either she or Chris will win this thing), so she'll be good for a few more weeks of hick humor. So that leaves Melissa, Elliott, and Bucky in danger, although I wouldn't be surprised to see Lisa in the bottom three.

On Wednesday's results show, Stevie Wonder performs live. And then we might just be able to put his music behind us for the rest of the season. Whew!

Bottom 3 on March 15 Results Show (in the order from most votes to least): Ace, Lisa, and Melissa

Eliminated:  Melissa

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

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