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American Idol Season 5 (2006)

May 9 - All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me (Elvis Presley songs)

Let me preface this review by stating up front that I am not an Elvis fan.  Not because his music is bad -- unlike Rod Stewart, apparently, I realize how influential those songs were to rock & roll -- but because it's all become so horribly clichéd over the years.  The last time I truly enjoyed listening to an Elvis song was when I watched the DVD for Lilo & Stitch.  If it takes a little blue alien dancing to the King to make me like his music, then we obviously have a problem.

And this show did nothing to change my mind.

We start off watching the Idol contestants arrive at Graceland to a horde of two dozen screaming fans.  They are then treated to a tour of the home by Priscilla Presley (although we find out later that Lisa Marie took them on a mad golf cart tour of the grounds).  Following this, they participate in individual critiquing sessions with Tommy Mottola, who gives them helpful hints like, "Change the key."  I remind myself that this is the man who was once married to a very young, very naive Mariah Carey and pushed her to the top of the charts.  In my sick daydreams during his boring segments, though, I imagine what would have happened if Kellie Picker were still around to talk about getting a load off her chest.

Once again, the contestants sing two songs each.

Taylor Hicks (sings "Jailhouse Rock"): Taylor does what everyone expects him to do, which is give a semi-spastic Elvis Presley impersonation.  It's fun, and I applaud the fact that he's giving his fans exactly what they want, but...enough already.  After last week, I know you can do better.  Randy says Taylor is in his element.  Paula thinks he looks fantastic, he's original, he's phenomenal, and probably every over-bloated superlative in the dictionary.  Simon, predictably, thinks he did a terrible impersonation of Elvis, complete with hideous dancing and karaoke with a capital K. Well!

Chris Daughtry (sings "Suspicious Minds"): We find out that Chris's fans send him sunscreen for his bald head and that he wears boxer briefs.  Ryan backs away, trembling with excitement.  Or fear.  In any case, it's Too.  Much.  Information.  I guess it's to make up for the somewhat mediocre version of the song.  I'm reminded that J.D. Fortune performed this on Rock Star: INXS without the goat-vibrato, although I can't remember if he tried the "take sunglasses off at obviously dramatic point" move.  Eh.  I could take this or leave it.  Randy doesn't think the song was necessarily Chris's best, but it was "kind of nice."  Paula says we'll see Chris in the finals.  Simon says that, sunglasses aside, the song worked.

Elliott Yamin (sings "If I Could Dream"): I don't know the song.  I don't like the warbly vibrato and the aging-Elvis-at-Vegas feel.  And at this point, the person mixing the music must have decided, "To hell with the singing, I think I want to listen to the band," so Elliott has to sing above all the schmaltz in the background.  But Randy thinks Elliott was "hawt," Paula thinks it was his best vocal performance of the season, and Simon says it was the best performance so far that night.  Apparently, I am a musical idiot.

Katharine McPhee (sings "Hound Dog/All Shook Up"): She gets points for doing the medley, because she's right -- either song by itself would have been boring.  She gets more points for having fun, which is about all you can do with these songs anymore.  But she forgets some of the words (nice cover with the dance move, though), and her dancing is only marginally better than Carrie "I Have No Rhythm" Underwood's last year.  Leave the weird movements to Taylor, huh?  And the singing?  Meh.  She's not a rocker.  At least she's willing to admit it.  Randy observes that she had a good time but dropped some lyrics.  Paula had fun watching her dance.  Simon, however, thinks it was like a desperate, manic audition and "shrieky."  Right now, my mind is calculating whether this will make her fans vote like crazy for her or not.

I can't even begin to give a ranking for round 1.  Everyone had problems, and no one stood out any more than the others.  Next round, please.

Taylor Hicks (sings "In the Ghetto"): The song was severely chopped, but for the first time, I could close my eyes and hear Taylor singing something like this on a CD.  That's more like it.  And then I opened my eyes again... Well, it's the CD that matters at this point, right?  Randy declares that it was the right key (finally) and the right song (finally), and (finally) Taylor is "hawt."  Paula likes how it shows a whole different side to him.  Simon proclaims that Taylor has just sung his way into the semi-finals.  Whereupon Taylor calls out to the Soul Patrol for the hundredth time tonight.  Woo!

Chris Daughtry (sings "A Little Less Conversation"): I was impressed that he got all the words out without tripping over them, but the song itself stayed low for so long, and except for about five seconds, he didn't bring much sex appeal to it.  And, of course, he manages to throw a few needless screams into the final notes.  This wasn't one of J.D.'s songs on Rock Star, but once again I'm thinking he would have done this so much better.  Randy seems to think it was the right key and likes the "rocker edge" Chris gave to the song at the end.  Paula somehow believes this performance shows more of Chris's personality.  I guess she's enamored of soulless stares.  Simon thinks the first song was better, and this was simply okay.  Right now, I'm thinking that Chris is in real trouble.

Elliott Yamin (sings "Trouble"): Carrie did this last year, and I remember thinking at the time, "Oh, right. As if anyone could think she'd be trouble."  At first I fear that I'm going to think the same thing about Elliott, but then he pulls out all the stops.  The vibrato still bugs, but not as much as the first song.  He's singing his heart out, the band gets into it, he gets the full Chris light show, and Mike and I think, "Wow. That was a surprise."  Randy and Paula stumble over each other to say it was Elliott's best performance ever, even though Paula has already made that statement once tonight.  Simon, in a shocking twist, finally admits that Elliott deserves to go to the next round.  I have to scramble around the floor finding my jaw after that statement.

Katharine McPhee (sings "Can't Help Falling In Love"): Since she's closing the show, I'm fully expecting her to hit this song out of the ball park.  And it starts okay, softly, with a bit of vulnerability.  But boy, someone is trying to sabotage her here, because that overblown arrangement sucked big time.  It's like Mariah Carey walking into a 1970s Elvis show.  Ick.  By the time Katharine gets to the end, she's almost screeching into the microphone to be heard.  Make it stop.  Please.  Randy thinks it's better than her first song.  Paula just says Katharine has a lovely voice.  Simon says that tonight wasn't one of Katharine's best nights, she picked the wrong songs, and that arrangement was just too over the top.  Katharine looks defeated here, and remains that way for the rest of the show, which may just give her enough sympathy votes to jump over Chris when all is said and done.

My ranking for round 2 (and my overall ranking):

1. Elliott - surprisingly strong performance
2. Taylor - like the vocals, but watching him twitch wasn't so fun
3. Chris and Katharine - poor song choices and mediocre performances aren't helping their cause

Frankly, I'm with Simon: based on tonight's performances, Elliott should move ahead.  Whether he will or not remains to be seen.  Taylor will move ahead because of "In the Ghetto" and because he has a huge fan base.  Chris and Katharine are the most vulnerable, and I wouldn't be surprised to see either of them go.  At this point, it depends on how loyal their fans are and what the increasingly numerous casual watchers (AKA "the swing voters") find appealing.

So Elvis is over, and there are only two more weeks to go.  Woo!...I mean, whew!

Bottom 2 on May 10 Results Show (in order announced):  Chris and Katharine

Eliminated:  Chris

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

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