Rod Stewart is here tonight to lead the kids into "the great American songbook." "I've always loved these songs. I was brought up on them." Okay. I'm willing to believe that. Now, just get the kids to sing these songs well.
Chris Daughtry. "What a Wonderful World." Lovely! Simon: "Great!"
Paris Bennett. "These Foolish Things." Rod is impressed by Paris. She's only 17! "I was still digging graves when I was 17." A little phonily over-mature and over-enunciated. The judges are entirely complimentary, which is nice of them.
Taylor Hicks. He's doing "You Send Me," which doesn't seem to be from the right era, but it's a cool song. Rod, approving of Taylor: "You've got to grab the audience by the balls... Will that be allowed?" (It's not.) The band is way too loud tonight, and it makes him seem subdued, until the end where he kind of rocks out ... or something. The judges love that make-it-your-own ending.
A huge commercial break follows and makes me think the potential losers are about to follow. Losers and Kellie.
Elliott Yamin. "It Had to Be You." This song always makes me think of "Annie Hall." Wow! I finally get Elliott. He's the only one so far who really seems natural inside this music. Simon is a bit mean, but this is helpful to him. People need to know to vote. (Not that I vote. I only voted in Season 2, I think.)
Kellie Pickler. "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered." Cute interaction with Rob. Super red dress! Pretty... devolving into thin and whiny. I was ready to love her. Really! Randy: "What am I going to say?" Kellie: "Ah butchered it!" Okay, that's my favorite thing she's ever done. What nerve to concede badness before anyone's even rubbed your face in it! Cool! Simon: "It wasn't great." Kellie: "Ah agree." Nice!
One bad performance can destroy you on this show. (Remember "New Attitude"?) And Kellie astutely got ahead of the problem, using a new technique. She is so not dumb!
Ace Young. "That's All." Rod thinks he's "absolutely brilliant." His curls are all slicked back into a -- what's that? -- a bun? The band is overpowering and he seems desperate. I don't know. Without the hair... For some reason, as Randy is talking to him, the camera pans down to his shoes. Yeah? He has huge feet. We're impressed. The judges aren't mean, and that may be just the kiss of death needed to lull his fans.
Katharine McPhee. "Someone to Watch Over Me." Rod is totally in love with her. We get some beautiful extreme closeups. I love this song, especially as Frank Sinatra sings it. So her singing seems too harsh to me. Simon: "So much better than the others."
My ranking: Elliott, Chris, Katharine, Taylor, Paris, Ace, Kellie.