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American Idol Season 5 (2006)

May 2 - Woo hoo!  (The Year You Were Born + Current Billboard Hits) 

Here is the conversation the producers had with the judges prior to the show: "We have to get through ten songs.  No rambling, and no meltdowns, Paula.  Five second sound bites, and that's it.  We don't want the audience to know what hit them."

Really.  I feel like I've just gone through a whirlwind.  Boom!  Sing something jazzy!  Boom!  Sing some R&B!  Boom!  Rock out!  Boom!  Mainstream pop!  Boom!  Spaz out and fall down twitching!  I'm exhausted, I tell ya.  But I'll do my best with this review, because my loyal fans are counting on me.

The first five songs are from the year that the contestants were born:

Elliott Yamin (sings George Benson's "On Broadway"): It's the perfect song choice for him, and he sings it as well as I expect him to, albeit with a tentative start.  But you know what?  Scott Savol sang this last year, on the same week that he was eliminated.  To top it off, Elliott is sitting in the dreaded number one position - and he's not having the wardrobe malfunction Katharine supposedly had last week to make people more interested in him.  Not a good sign.  Randy thinks it was very nice.  Paula says it shows his "rich voice."  Simon tells Elliott it wasn't his best performance, and he's lucky he has two songs tonight.

Paris Bennett (sings Prince's "Kiss" [covered by Tom Jones & the Art of Noise in her birth year of 1988, so she can get away with it]): At first I think, "Well, she has guts to do this."  I'm hoping that she'll stay away from making it very sexy, given her age, and do it tongue-in-cheek, the way Tom Jones did.  But then she just sings it straight.  And it's really boring sung like that.  Just...no.  Camp it up, girl!  But of course she doesn't listen to me.  Randy likes it.  Paula prefers it when Paris sings older songs (yikes!).  Simon thinks it was screechy and annoying.  Paris keeps thanking everyone.  Shut up - we have eight more songs to go.

Chris Daughtry (sings Styx's "Renegade"): Vocally, this is great for him.  Performance-wise, I nearly fall asleep.  Is he tired?  Sick?  Because he's just walking around like he's going through the motions.  He's not interacting with anyone, and even his scary stare is sort of drowsy.  Wake up, man!  Nevertheless, Randy proclaims, "we have a hawt one!"  Paula thinks he's outstanding.  Simon declares that he's a million times better than the previous two contestants and that it was the perfect song.  And I'm like, "Yeah, I might buy the CD.  But I wouldn't pay to see him sing."

Katharine McPhee (sings Phil Collins' "Against All Odds"): Yet another song that seriously needs to be retired from this show.  I know she wants to stay away from Whitney after last week, but was this really all that Kat could find from 1984?  She starts off okay, with some nice phrasing and emotion.  For a few seconds, I think she might be able to make it a little interesting.  But then she messes up the words - or almost messes them up, depending on what they were trying to do with the arrangement - and she gets flustered, and the whole thing becomes a weird, nervous mish-mash.  She looks pretty, though, and there are no wardrobe malfunctions.  Randy says she was okay by the end.  Paula says it wasn't her favorite performance.  Simon says that in parts it was a mess, then accidentally says it was one of her best performances, then backtracks and says that he really meant it wasn't one of her best performances, and we have a whole big awkward moment where I'm throwing popcorn at the screen and yelling, "Get ON with it!"

Taylor Hicks (sings Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music"): Spaz boy is back!  Thank you, Taylor, for making the competition enjoyable again.  Who cares if the vocals aren't perfect?  He's having fun, he's dancing around the audience with that weird Taylor happy dance of his, and when he collapses on the floor like a quivering mass of jello at the end, Mike and I are all giggles.  Yeah, you play that funky music, white boy.  Randy feels like he was in a bar and had a couple of beers.  Paula digs Taylor's retro-70s paisley shirt and the fact that he had fun.  Simon, whose head is about to explode, says it was like watching a horrible wedding performance.  He goes to some weird weddings, you know?

My rankings for round 1:

1) Taylor - for bringing some much needed entertainment to the evening
2) Chris - for bringing the right vocals to the right song, even if his performance was lackluster
3) Elliott - for a good song choice, even if the vocals started off weak
4) Katharine - for letting nerves get in the way of what might have been a decent performance
5) Paris - for making a Prince song boring

The second five songs are the Billboard Top 10 free-for-all - any song from any current Billboard top 10 chart (and yes, I know Taylor's choice was a stretch, but hey, the Idol folks let him do it, so complain to them, not him).

Elliott Yamin (sings Michael Buble's "Home"): Singing a song about wanting to go home is not a good thing to do on this show.  Singing it poorly is even worse. Welcome to the bottom two.  Randy thinks it was a nice choice of song.  Paula keeps harping on the "richness" of Elliott's voice.  Simon is a bit concerned that there's not enough of a hook with this performance to convince the audience to vote for Elliott.  I tend to agree.

Paris Bennett (sings Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You"): This is more like it.  No, she's not Blige, but Paris gives the song her all, and it's ten times better than "Kiss."  She's redeemed herself here - this is the kind of music I could hear her doing in today's market.  Randy says she rocked.  Paula loves her voice, but wishes she'd made the song more her own.  Simon believes she did "rather well."  Ah, faint praise.  Welcome to the bottom two for you, too.

Chris Daughtry (sings Shinedown's "I Dare You"): Okay, now I know he's tired, because he's just screaming this piece and his voice sounds shot.  I mean, he always screams, but this is worse than usual.  And, really, I don't need the flames of hell on the screen in the background to let me know that he's singing about walking through fire, okay?  Sheesh.  Randy thinks it was just aiigghht.  Paula says it wasn't her favorite, but she loves Chris, anyway.  Simon points out that his voice is going.  Chris then whines about how exhausted he is, how he's performed the song five times today, blah, blah, blah.  Gee, what are you going to do when you go on tour for months at a time, huh?  Pppphhht.

Katharine McPhee (sings KT Tunstall's "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree"): Hey, she has fun!  Hey, she adds a unique flair to the piece!  Hey, I still don't know what the hell this song is about!  But that's the fault of the lyrics, not Kat.  I would have preferred her standing and bouncing around, rather than kneeling and looking like she's chained to the floor, but as far as vocals go, I really enjoyed it.  And I didn't think I would, because I'm thoroughly sick of hearing this song on the radio, so kudos to her.  Randy says that's more like what they've come to expect from her.  Paula loves the weird choreography.  Simon likes that it was different, younger, and showed more personality.

Taylor Hicks (sings "Something," which is from a Beatles album that apparently is at number 6 on an album chart right now): I am shocked.  Taylor brings some genuine emotion and sounds good on a slow song?  On a song I've never really liked, no less?  He can actually do this?  Yeah, the ending was kind of weird - he should have just let the instruments end it instead of humming along - but dude!  You're awesome tonight!  Who'd have thunk it?  Randy likes the whole Beatles vibe.  Paula thinks Taylor performed the song tenderly.  And for probably the first time ever, Simon acknowledges that Taylor is a very, very good singer.  I think my head will explode now.

My rankings for round 2:

1) Taylor - for proving that yes, he can sing as well as any of them
2) Katharine - for managing to make me like an annoying song
3) Paris - for showing that she can be current
4) Chris - for a poor performance of a good song choice
5) Elliott - for a poor performance of a poor song choice

My overall ranking is:

1) Taylor - Duh.
2) Katharine & Chris - She had one bad song choice/erratic performance & one good song choice/performance.  He had two good song choices, one mediocre performance, and one shouty performance.  I can't separate the two.
4) Paris - Even though her first song was boring, her vocals were spot-on for both pieces.
5) Elliott - He's a really nice guy, but he had the most inconsistent vocals tonight, and he had one bad song choice.

I suspect that the bottom two will be Elliott and Paris.  Either one could go home, depending on which one the audience remembers the most.

Oh, and the star of the evening?  The bass player for the house band.  That boy kicks!  To quote Taylor, "Woo!"

Bottom 2 on May 3 Results Show (in the order announced):  Paris and Elliott

Eliminated:  Paris

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

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