Without a pause to explain the theme and, apparently, no guest star, they just spring Lisa Tucker on us. She sings a big Kelly Clarkson hit song -- "Because of You" -- and it's a ragged, ugly song in Lisa's hands. The judges savage her. Ryan comforts her. Now she can sit out the rest of the show and hope that somebody falls on his/her face.
Kellie Pickler lays it on thick with a country song, "Suds in the Bucket." (I think the theme is "Songs of the 21st Century," in other words, songs of the last few years.) Her voice is irritatingly thin and harsh. The judges hate the song. "You choose some gimmicky, rodeo, lassoing -- whatever -- novelty song," says Simon. He should add that she sang that crappy song crappily.
Ace Young sings a kind of cool Elton Johnish song called "Drops of Jupiter." He keeps his voice up high and sounds pretty good, even though he seems ackward and, actually, scared. We see his hand shaking like mad in a closeup. He pulls his shirt to the side at one point, and I just think he's being a little spastic, but talking to Paula, he reveals a big, horrible scar there! I go back to see what the lyric of the song was at the point when he drew attention to it: "Tell me, did you fall for a shooting star/One without a permanent scar/And did you miss me while you were looking at yourself out there." So! That was a crafty, intriguing song choice. It's not a surgery scar, because it's an inch wide. None of the judges like him, but suddenly I do. Am I a sucker for scars? No, I like the old candy-pop Elton John sound. Ryan asks him about the scar: it's a basketball injury!
Taylor Hicks knows he's got fans, like that kid in the audience who's spray-painted his hair gray. He sings "Trouble." "I've been upSET by a woman." Simon complains about his leather jacket and jeans outfit. He's becoming generic? Simon wants to keep Taylor in his box: slightly square and inexplicably weird. But Taylor sexed up tonight, and I don't think he'll lose any fans this way.
Mandisa, God bless her, is going to sing a straight out gospel song, "Wanna Praise You." She's been singing it in church for years, she tells us, and it's a testimony that there's nothing too hard for God. "God has broken every chain." Frankly, she could have sung that more gloriously. Paula, blasphemously: "There's a new religion, and 40 million people have now joined the church of Mandisa." Simon: "I thought that was a bit indulgent. I just didn't get that. Not for me." The atheist!
Chris Daughtry gets an interview to start, and the point is made that his version of "Walk the Line" last week was Live's. He is required to genuflect to Live: "You worship them, actually, don't you, kinda?" He's doing "What If," by Creed. It's hard to sing-yell like that. It's the heaviest song anyone has ever sung on "American Idol." If they don't pay him respect, they are simply admitting that rock doesn't belong on the show. And Simon admits it! "There is a line you don't cross. Creed would not be seen dead on this show. The show is 'American Idol.'" Dammit, do I actually have to start voting?
Katharine McPhee, "The Voice Within." "Life Is a Journey." Give me a damned break! Horrendous! She has completely alienated me with this song. Hate, hate, hate.
Bucky Covington. "Real Good Man," a country song. He's got a cowboy hat and a western-style shirt. The song is a complete mess, you know, the kind of thing where you feel you can't even find the song in all that.
Paris Bennett interviews that she's going to be young. "Work It Out." And then she beats us over the head with young. It's desperate. "I can't wait for the bedroom." Wait! She's 17! Please, it's not worth it. She does this jerkily sinuous thing with her body. Is this her or what someone told her she needs to be? It's painful. The worst thing about the show is pushed in our face here. Judges? Randy: "The bomb!" Paula: "Awesome." Please, Simon? "Like a little girl pretending to be Beyoncé. Whoopee." Simon is utterly right here, I have to say, even though what he said about Chris irked me. The fact is, Simon has his feet on the ground. America, listen!
Elliott Yamin. They put him last. That means something. "I Don't Want to Be." He bobs up and down. I detest this song. It just seems sloppy and pointless. But he has soul. They told us that. I take it on faith that he can sing.
Who will leave? It's Bucky and Lisa on the line. One goes this week, and one goes the next. But maybe we'll get lucky and Kellie will be excised.
ADDED: I'm thinking that at this point it has become a contest about maintaining a grip on one's humanity. In that light, who is not lost? The women are losing it faster than the men. Perhaps only Mandisa retains her grip, but even that is questionable. The men are slipping. Chris and Taylor might still have a hold on what is left of themselves. But perhap the only person left is Elliott.