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American Idol Season 5 (2006)

May 16 - I believe you're trying to make a fool out of me (Clive's Choice, The Judge's Choice, Their Choice)

It was a dark and stormy night.... and Clive Davis was brought out of cryogenic hibernation to give the final three contestants his picks for their songs.  He cares so little for this group that he can't even be bothered to judge them this year, and he gives them all hideous selections to sing.  Oh, wait, he does tell Katharine "when we make your album," so I guess he's already got a contract for her [*rolls eyes*].  His choices:

Elliott Yamin (sings Journey's "Open Arms"): Clive generally dismisses Elliott when he talks to him, but he does believe that this song will show the "power" of Elliott's voice.  And actually, from a vocal standpoint, it was a lot better than I thought it would be.  But it's not what Elliott is used to, and he was so uncomfortable with it that he just sort of stood there, occasionally opening his arms at all the wrong points in the song.  I just had to close my eyes after a while.  Not a good start for him.  Randy: "Blah, blah, I played with Journey, blah, blah, you worked it out."  Paula thinks Elliott has an excellent voice and did a good job.  Simon correctly points out that he looked a little stiff and can do better than that.

Katharine McPhee (sings R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly"): A craptastic arrangement of a craptastic song.  Does anyone other than Clive like this song anymore?  Anyone?  Clive thinks it's an opportunity for Kat to come up with a Kat "sound" of her own, to differentiate her from other singers.  Ummm...I don't think so.  This is not the type of song she does well.  She has better stage presence than Elliott, but once again she oversings it and overdoes the melismas.  Randy and Paula both think she looks amazing, and Randy rags on the song choice, then clarifies that statement by saying that Kat just needs to sing the melody.  Kat starts whining about how the judges have been giving her a hard time the past two weeks, and I say, "That's because you've mostly sucked the past two weeks, dear."  Simon points out that she didn't choose the song, and he actually thinks she had a bit of a "moment."

Taylor Hicks (sings Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark"): Clive made a personal call to Bruce to get this song cleared, and then he sits there and creepily recites the lyrics to Taylor.  Go.  Away.  Taylor sings much of the song crouched down as if he's constipated, and then he realizes that exercise can make you regular again, so he pretends that Paula is Courtney Cox and starts dancing with her.  All this to hide mediocre vocals, I might add.  No one will confuse him for the Boss.  Randy chuckles that Taylor knows how to have a good time.  Paula drunkenly talks about needing doublestick tape and I so wish she'd had a wardrobe malfunction because that would have been the most exciting moment of the season.  Simon says the performance was okay and tells Paula that, for her age, she was fantastic.  Careful Simon - your wit is showing. 

My ranking:

1) Taylor & Elliott: Best performance/worst vocal and best vocal/worst performance
3) Katharine: I know it's not her fault, but that song choice was hideous

Next we have the judges' choices:

Elliott (sings Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do For Love," picked by Paula): We see Mayor Doug Wilder of Richmond tell him what the song choice is.  I could have gone my entire life without seeing that man again, since thanks to his budget cuts when he was governor I got laid off of a state job one year.  Oh, but we were talking about Elliott...  He's more relaxed here, but performance-wise he's clearly outclassed by the other two singers, and there are problems with his pitch throughout the song.  Oh, dear.  Randy doesn't think it's his best performance.  Paula rambles about how Elliott has an amazing soul and he pierces through the heart (I'm looking for her chest to burst open and spill blood all over the judges' table).  Simon thinks the style suited Elliott well and he "sang pretty good."  He sang pretty good?  You've been hanging around the ignorant Yanks too long, Simon.  Or dipping into Paula's drugs.  He and she are awfully touchy-feely tonight.  Eeeuw.

Katharine (sings "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," picked by Simon): Aw, how cute - she's wearing red shoes.  This was actually a very good pick for her, and I will agree that it's her best performance of the season and possibly, possibly the best performance of anyone so far this year.  Of course, given the overall blandness of the songs this year, that's not saying much.  However, I am still annoyed that she couldn't manage to get through the entire song without departing from the melody.  Judy Garland did the definitive version of this song (which I happened to see last night), and she never had to depart from the melody to make an emotional impact.  Plus sitting on the floor has already been done by Fantasia, and this was no "Summertime" moment for me.  Pretty?  Yes.  Haunting or making me want to go, "Wow! She absolutely must win!"?  No - although I'm quite willing to concede that she has a good shot now.  The judges, of course, fall over themselves praising her, because they have been desperate for a good performance from someone all season long.  Randy declares it her best vocal of the season.  Paula says bravo.  Simon says it's the best performance of the competition to date.

Taylor (sings Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful," picked by Randy): Boy, the governor of Alabama is a real politician, isn't he?  All those dramatic pauses when he reads out Randy's pick, and Taylor has this expression on his face like, "Just get on with it already, will you?"  And I'm still not sure he likes it, because he looks pained throughout his performance.  Maybe he has a kidney stone?  Sheesh.  The vocals are appropriately understated, though, and somewhat Joe Cocker-ish, so I guess it worked.  Randy believes it was a great tender moment.  Paula declares that he's a star.  Simon says it was his best performance so far.

My ranking:

1. Katharine - her best performance to date
2. Taylor - I can't really look at him, but the vocals were okay
3. Elliott - he's still not quite up to par with the rest of them

And now we move on to the contestants' choices:

Elliott (sings Donny Hathaway's version of Ray Charles's "I Believe to My Soul"): Okay, on the one hand, I want to shake him for choosing something that no one recognizes, because even a good performance of it isn't going to make people vote for him.  On the other hand, I want to shake his hand for singing something that is so obviously a smack in the face of Idol.  Because, yeah, between the judges all but ignoring him up until now, with everyone saying he has no chance to win, and with Clive dismissing him and giving him a song that is completely out of his comfort range at this point, the lyric "I believe you're trying to make a fool out of me" is perfect.  Screw you, Idol.  Heh.  If he can sing out on this song tomorrow, I will stand up and applaud him.  Randy thinks Elliott can definitely sing.  Paula gushes about how no one can sing songs like that, but Elliott nailed it.  Simon thinks that with his songs tonight, Elliott won't go on to the next round, but he's a great guy and a great singer and his Mum can be proud.  Gee, thanks a lot.

Katharine (sings Ella Fitzgerald's/Lena Horne's - well, Duke Ellington's - "I Ain't Got Nothing But the Blues"): What the h-e-double-l is this?  She doesn't want to be compared to anyone current, so she decides to sing a song that was done by the great Ella Fitzgerald, while trying (and failing) to strut around like a stripper.  Good grief, girl.  All that great vibe from your second song, and you pull an Elliott and pick something that no one knows and no one cares about and that you just can't pull off because you're neither Ella nor Lena.  Ugh.  Even the judges are flabbergasted, and every one basically says that she's insane and should be singing more ballads like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."  Which is also an oldies tune, I might add.  So if she wins, and she's very lucky, she will fit in a nice, neat, jazz niche.  Maybe.

Taylor (sings Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness"): Hey, he got it all out of his system!  In fact, he reminds me of our cat when she races out of the litter box after she's been in there for a while.  Twirl around and chase your tail - whee!  The vocals are fine, and the song fits the Taylor his fans know and love, but I had this weird desire to call the Crocodile Hunter and have him blow a tranquilizer dart at the boy.  Taylor, you're fun, but cut back on the caffeine.  Please.  Randy lamely renames him "Have-a-Good-Time-Funky-Taylor."  Paula thinks he did an incredible job.  Simon applauds and says he'll see him at the finale.

My ranking:

1. Taylor - he jerked me awake
2. Elliott - way to stick it to the system, dude
3. Katharine - what was she thinking? (Or what? Was she thinking?)

The overall ranking:

1. Taylor - He had the best (well, most appropriate) song choices and, for the most part, gave the most memorable performances
2. Katharine - Solely because of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."  The other two songs blew.  I really wish she wasn't so blasted inconsistent.
3. Elliott - I love this guy, and I want to be his friend, but his performances and song selections tonight just weren't that inspiring.

It's rather obvious that Taylor will be in the finale.  I'm kind of assuming that Katharine will be there with him, although I know that Elliott's fans are doing their best to back him this week, and Katharine's last song may have sucked some of the air out of her "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" performance.  I'm still going to say that Elliott is out.  But I'll be grinning ear to ear when he sings Wednesday night.

Oh, and anyone notice that the most recent of the songs sung tonight was from 1996 ("I Believe I Can Fly")?  Wow.  I'm so excited by how current these kids are. Not.

Eliminated on May 17 Results Show: 

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

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