March 14 Review | Season 5 Index | March 28 Review

American Idol Season 5 (2006)

March 21 - Oh, boy! (1950s songs)

Tonight is 50s night.  So you would think Ryan would introduce the theme by talking about the music of the period.  Instead, we get Barry Manilow's biography.  Why?  Because he's just released a CD of 50s music, and this week, the contestants were sent out to Vegas to be coached by him on their song choices.  Prior to each performance, we see clips of the contestants working with him, praising him (even though most of them don't really know his music - God, I feel old), and having most of their songs rearranged into Manilow/Vegas tunes.  Sometimes, this actually works.

Mandisa (sings Dinah Washington's "I Don't Hurt Anymore"): I'm all prepared to be bored by tonight, but Mandisa comes out strong.  Despite her weight issues, this woman exudes self-confidence.  And the vocals are sexy and spot on.  You go, girl.  Randy says the others have to bring it tonight, thanks to her.  Paula calls her a horse...um, a thoroughbred.  Simon calls the song a great stripper song and says he absolutely loves her performance.  Meaning, I suppose, that he spends a lot of time in stripper joints. This is Ryan's cue to change Mandisa's name to "Mandiva."  That doesn't look too good when you write it out, but hey, I didn't come up with it.

Bucky Covington (sings Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy"): This ought to have been a great choice for him.  Too bad the arrangement is so over the top for his gravelly, country vocals.  I mean, really, that orchestration only works for Barry Manilow.  It makes poor Bucky sound like crap.  But crap that's having fun, anyway.  Now if he would just stop switching his microphone between his hands every measure, I would be happy.  Randy reiterates that this is the perfect song for Bucky.  Paula claims it's a solid performance.  Simon douses water on the whole thing by calling it a pointless karaoke performance.  Indeed.

Paris Bennett (sings Peggy Lee's "Fever"): You know, she's an amazing singer, and she performs this quite well.  But, jeesh, this song is about making out and getting hot and I'm thinking, "This girl is still 17. I hope she hasn't experienced this yet."  Still, it's a very good...oh, wait, that's Constantine in the audience!  SQUEEEEEEEE!  Oh.  Um...yes. I t's a very good performance.  Randy tells Paris she "blew it out the box."  Paula says she looks phenomenal and her vocals are impeccable.  Simon gives the mildly backhanded compliment of saying that this is what she does best (meaning she's no good on more modern material, I suppose).  Paris squeaks through an interview before we head to the break.

Chris Daughtry (sings Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line"): Heh.  I knew Chris would modernize and rock up any song he was given tonight, and I wasn't disappointed.  I'm not crazy about the vocals - he's not as good when he has to hold softer notes for a long time - but I'm intrigued by the arrangement, which Barry Manilow thankfully did not touch at all.  Randy tells Chris, "You know who you are."  Paula claims he should be touring.  Simon calls him the anti-Bucky and says he's the first artist in the history of the show who's refused to compromise.  And then Ryan points out Constantine again.  SQUEEEEEEEEE!

Katharine McPhee (sings Ella Fitzgerald's "Come Rain or Come Shine"): This is a vamped up arrangement that's a little over the top for me (thank you, Mr. Manilow), but of course Katharine's vocals are great.  Now if only she would stop trying to channel Kellie's ditziness whenever she speaks.  Randy says she "worked it out" (watch for this phrase again).  Paula says Katharine is one of her favorites.  Simon claims that she just turned into a star.  And then Katharine has to ruin it all by telling us she's taped into that ill-fitting dress.  Ugh.

Taylor Hicks (sings Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away"): Taylor is so much fun.  He dances around the stage, he shares the spotlight with the sax player, he brings a zest to this competition that you can't help but get swept up in.  Randy says it wasn't the most vocally challenging song, but Taylor "worked it out."  Paula says Taylor is one of a kind and they should make an exercise video out of his performance.  Simon thought it was a complete mess and hideous.  What does he know?  At this point, the judges start throwing punches at one another until Ryan mercifully takes us to another break.

Lisa Taylor (sings Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers' "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?"): After being in the bottom 3 last week, Lisa really needed to bring it this week.  Unfortunately, nothing about this performance makes her stand out from any of the others.  All the other women are, frankly, much better than her tonight, and the men are more exciting.  And can this song have any more key changes?  Good grief.  Randy claims it's a good song choice, although not the "dopist" for him, whatever the heck that means.  Paula predicts that Lisa has a big career ahead of her.  Simon thinks it was okay and a bit cutesy.

Kevin Covais (sings Nat King Cole's "When I Fall In Love"): Boy, they're really doing their best to de-pimp him tonight.  There are no Kevin signs to be seen in the audience.  There is lukewarm applause.  Ryan has even got a little girl to shout out that Ace (who made it to the bottom 3 in lieu of Kevin last week) is her favorite contestant.  So Kevin may actually be in trouble.  Which is kind of a shame, because this is one of his better performances to date.  It's too bad it still sounds like something I'd hear at a 9th grade choir concert.  In that context, it would be great.  Here?  Not so much.  To add insult to injury, we now get to see that Jasmine Treas is in the audience.  She was one of the really inferior singers from the third season who managed to knock out a much, much better singer to get to the top 3 that year.  Fox might as well have a message scrolling across the bottom of the screen: "Don't let this happen again."  The best Randy can say is that he likes Kevin.  Paula says the boy has moxy and that people adore him.  Simon says he likes Kevin, too, and that Kevin's audience will love that version.  Faint praise.  He may be in trouble.  We can always hope.

Elliott Yamin (sings the De Castro Sisters'/Frank Sinatra's "Teach Me Tonight," as later performed by Al Jarreau): He gets points for being bold enough to say he'd never cared for Barry Manilow's music.  He loses those points for having an untucked dress shirt and a loose tie.  Somebody please dress this man.  That said, this is one of his better performances to date - far better than last week's - and he seems more confident on stage.  But, again, he's not doing a lot to stand out to me, and if other people weren't worse than him, I'd say he'd be in danger this week.  Randy says this was the song with the most difficulty tonight, and Elliott "worked it out" (I guess I need to buy him a phrase thesaurus, too).  Paula is so moved she has goose bumps.  Simon says his singing was fantastic.  And then we see Constantine again.  SQUEEEEEEEE!

Kellie Pickler (sings Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight"): I haven't been saying anything about Barry's comments to this point, because they've all pretty much followed the same "Good song choice/great singer/just needs a little work" theme.  But with Kellie, he has to remind her that this song is not a "happy doo-doo song."  Snort.  Anyway, the mink...er, minx is back.  This song really suits her, and she's putting some real emotion into it.  If Carrie had shown this much personality in her singing last year, I wouldn't have minded her winning.  Seriously. I never thought I'd say this, but Kellie has one of the better performances of the night.  And what's even better?  Her microphone cuts off after the performance, so you can't really hear her talk.  Tell me they didn't plan that.  Randy says it's a great song choice.  Paula calls Kellie a tigress.  Simon tells her "Welcome back," and claims the song was ballsy.  Like he'd know.

Ace Young (sings the Five Satins' "In the Still of the Night"): Boy, the producers want him back so badly, they've put him in the pimp slot tonight.  Frankly, I think Kellie should have gone there.  This performance is better than what Ace has been giving us lately, but not as exciting as most of the others except for a couple of notes, including his trademark falsetto note at the end.  And what the heck is with those mouth contortions?  I thought at first that his pants might be too tight.  The arrangement is nice, though, and, yes, I think he ought to stay before some other singers (*cough* Kevin *cough*), so what the heck.  Randy says that Ace is back tonight.  Paula thinks that this was his sexiest performance this season.  Simon correctly says that this wasn't the best vocal of the night, but it was a lot better for Ace than last week.

It was really tough for me to rank these singers, and, really, I'm sure that some of them could be switched around, but this is the best I could come up with:

1) Taylor - I don't care if it is a "singing competition," Simon.  That was too fun not to put him at the top.
2) Mandisa/Paris/Katharine - They all gave equally great vocal performances
5) Kellie - Yes, I said Kellie. Shoot me now.
6) Chris - I wasn't thrilled with the vocals, but I really liked the arrangement
7) Elliott - He needs to stand out a bit more.
8) Ace - Not the best vocals, but he redeemed himself
9) Lisa - She was pretty forgettable tonight
10) Bucky - Bad arrangement, just sort of a mess of a performance, but still more enjoyable to watch than...
11) Kevin - Because we're not in high school anymore, and does anyone really want to see him on tour with the top 10?

Frankly, anyone could be in the bottom 3 at this point.  Even someone from my #2 position, because after a while those three just sort of meld together into one.  So Wednesday's results show should be interesting.  Or sickening.  It depends how much you like Barry Manilow, because he's going to be the guest singer.  (And yes, I like Barry Manilow - when he's not being a caricature of himself.)

Bottom 3 on March 22 Results Show (in order from most votes to least):  Lisa, Bucky, and Kevin

Eliminated: Kevin

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

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