[Katharine] McPhee would seem to be a record executive's dream candidate: a classy, pretty girl from Los Angeles who can really sing. But there's only a few record executives out there, and many millions of Idol voters, and I suspect that they, with guidance from Simon, Randy, and Paula, will choose Hicks, the prematurely gray-haired doofus who has spent the past several weeks jerking across the Idol stage like a spaz while belting out classic R&B covers. There's something vaguely unsettling about his shtick: Although he's not black, he calls his fans "The Soul Patrol," and although he's neither black nor blind, he insists on lurching backward when he sings like his idol Ray Charles.Ooh, that's mean to say about Kelly!
Still, I'll be rooting hard for Hicks. I wager he'll win in a walk, as well he should: He's just a more interesting singer. A Hicks victory would be the ultimate answer to critics who've slammed Idol for its plastic pop-music values. (Bar Band Singer Bests Pop Princess!) And it would continue the Idol voters' streak of choosing talent over beauty—think of pretty boy Justin Guarini falling to Kelly Clarkson, who despite the best efforts of a battery of stylists still looks more like a Dutch mastiff than Jessica Simpson.
In the first few minutes of the show, we see clips of Taylor and Katharine from the early stages of the competition. Seeing Katharine's original audition, I'm reminded why I liked her so much then and lost my feeling for her. She seemed fresh and youthful before they slathered her in makeup like the kind Heather Graham had on in "Boogie Nights" in that scene where she kicks that guy in the head with her skate.
Katharine goes first (because she lost a coin toss). She does "Black Horse in a Cherry Tree." She's got the guys with the box drums again, but -- I'm glad to see -- she doesn't sprawl on the floor. She doesn't overdo it, and she's not over-made-up. The judges give her a lukewarm response.
Taylor does "Living for the City." He's got a magenta velvet jacket on. He tippy-toes up and down the stairs. The audience goes wild. He's obviously more loved than Kat. Randy calls him "a hot one." Paula goes wild. Simon: "Round 1 to you."
Now Katharine's on the floor singing. It's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Well, it makes her dad cry. Randy: "It was hot." Apparently, she worked it out. And he thought it was going to be anticlimactic, whatever, whatever. Paula effuses: "It's no mistake that it's God-given talent that you are possessed with." Possessed? Are you sure that's not devil-given talent? "...or possessive of" is Paula's revision. Simon: "Back in the game."
Ah! Taylor's singing "Levon." Leave on the TV. I want to hear this. Here's what I said about that the first time he sang it:
He's singing "Levon." Beautiful! "He calls his child Jesus, because he likes the name." Paula: "Everything just exudes from you." Paula's all passionate, professing her love. Randy chimes in: "There's never been anyone on the show in five years like you." Simon: "I said in the beginning... that I didn't think you should make the finals. I was wrong." Can I go back to the lyrics? "Alvin Tostig has a son today." What's with that name? Tostig? My grandmother's maiden name was Tausig, so I always heard Tausig. But Tausig/Tostig -- it's such a specific name, in a song where Jesus is highlighted as a good name. What's with that? I've been wondering for decades!Oh, yeah. I always get caught up in that name. Not Levon. Not Jesus. Alvin Tostig. Was that the first time I liked Taylor? No. Here's what I wrote about the original audition:
They save Taylor Hicks for last. He's got prematurely gray hair. "A Change Is Gonna Come," one of the best songs ever. He sings with his hands clasped behind his back and his eyes closed. He does a second song, clapping and contorting almost like Joe Cocker. Simon says personality is important, which Paula takes as a cue to praise him for his nice personality, but that's the opposite of what Simon had in mind.Funny, I liked him for the first couple weeks, then turned against him. I was for Chris through most of the competition. But I came back to Taylor after Chris got the boot. I'm for Taylor tonight, but I'll admit it if Katharine deserves it.
Let's see what the judges say about "Levon."
Randy: "A little pitchy for me." Paula: "Maybe a little pitchy for you." Simon: "Katharine has taken the second round." They set up the third round as the tiebreaker. It doesn't work like that, but they've just got to play us.
We see Kat's parents. She's been singing ever since she could open her mouth, Kat-Dad says. I think it's what she was born to do, Kat-Mom says. Kat, on tape, recounts singing endless scales for years. Oh, yeah, I'm sure that part just came naturally.
Kat sings her first single, "My Destiny." Oh, crap. It's some damn song the show had written. "I have always dreamed of this." Blah. Could you just once leave out "dream"? It's dreary and limp. She's wearing a gray dress that even makes her look flat-chested. Oh, no! Are they trying to destroy her? How can they say this is crap when it's the single they're putting out? This is so sadly lackluster. Suddenly, a gospel choir comes out. Kat gets all screetchy in the end, then closes in a phony-sweet soft tone.
Randy? Tell the truth! "You sounded good. I did not love the song." They sandbagged her! And you know her earpiece didn't work on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and, as she said, she begins a cappella and that made it hard to start on key. Conspiracy!! Paula: "You are brilliant." Simon: "I'm sorry. You went from brilliant to quite good within one song. And you are a great, great potential artist."
Taylor's song begins "I've never been the one to raise my hand..." Hey, I know your kind. His sly smile seems to say I know Kat screwed up. I've got it made. "This is what we dream about..." Again, with the dream. Always a damned dream. And the gospel choir is out already. He ends in spasms of joy, knowing he's won.
Randy: "No matter what the song is, you know how to make it into a Taylor Hicks vehicle." (And Randy finally thinks of another way to say "You made it your own.") Paula: "You are better than the song" -- again, disrespecting the show's own song -- "but because you know who you are ... all the nuances of Taylor Hicks exist in that song...." Simon: "Assuming I was right that the show was tied, then you just won 'American Idol.'" Taylor screams "Woo!" Everyone knows the answer.
Randy and Paula exult that they were the ones who voted for Taylor at the audition stage, and Simon would have let him go.
Hey, congratulations to Taylor Hicks. He thoroughly won this, the clearest win ever on "American Idol."