March 21, 2006

"American Idol" -- the final 11.

"She has no range," says Barry Manilow about Mandisa. He means that she can sing well throughout her large range. Apparently, he uses words to mean the opposite of what they mean. Tonight should be amusing, with Barry guiding the kids through the songs of the 1950s. And Mandisa was thrilling! "A very sexy performance... like a great stripper's song," says Simon. "I absolutely loved it."

Bucky Covington sings the great Buddy Holly hit "Oh Boy," and Simon calls it "a pointless karaoke performance," which makes John come out and say "That's true of every 'American Idol' performance," and I'm all, "Did you hear Mandisa? Do you want to hear Mandisa?" Answer: "No."

"You give me fever... fever all through the night." Paris Bennett, she's 17, people. Barry's uneasy with that. But she does it well.

Chris Daughtry -- my favorite -- sings "I Walk the Line." Wow! The judges don't wheel out their stock phrase "You made it your own," but in this case, he really did. He got all alternative, really Ed Kowalczyk, I think. Simon: "You are the first artist we've had on the show who's actually refused to compromise." Ha! Who is most insulted by that line? I'm going to say Bo Bice. [UPDATE: Reading Television Without Pity, I see that Live actually did a version of "I Walk the Line." At least last week, when Chris did the Chili Peppers version of "Higher Ground," the band was mentioned. I tend to think that Live was mentioned in the practice session, but edited out for the show, so I wouldn't accuse Chris of wrongly taking credit.][IN THE COMMENTS: The question is raised whether Chris did the Live version, which I have never listened to myself. Nevertheless, I think it's damned strange that Chris's version made me think of the lead singer of Live if he wasn't doing the Live version! Admittedly, both guys have bald heads and sing in the grunge mode.]

Katharine McPhee, they love her. I thought it was a little screetchy and unsubtle, but she's good, and she's very pretty.

Barry gives some insight into what's so exciting about Taylor Hicks: he sings way high, but it doesn't sound like it's high. Hicks is doing a Buddy Holly song too: "Not Fade Away." "My love is bigger than a Cadillac."

Lisa Tucker is in serious danger, I think. She's too young to make enough of an impression in this group. When she tries really hard -- and she does -- she ends up seeming like a little hypercharged robot. I like the song, "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?," but I hear the original playing in my head, and by comparison, she seems weak.

Oh, but wait, there's still Kevin Covais. He needs to go soon. And yet, he does amuse us so much. Aw, but he sang "When I Fall in Love" so sweetly (after Barry told him to be vulnerable, and he got it). Even Simon accepts this. Poor Lisa!

Elliott Yamin. He sings "Teach Me Tonight." It's very complex and difficult, and he sings it quite well. How far can he go if he is the best singer, but the worst looking?

Barry Manilow doesn't know the song "Walking After Midnight"! Bizarre! It's Kellie Pickler's song tonight. Barry tries to get her to find the deep emotional meaning in the song, and she doesn't really find it. But they all love her.

Ace Young strains desperately through "In the Still of the Night." They're trying to help him. They've put him last, and they've found a 7-year-old girl to introduce him. He does a sweet long falsetto "niiiiiiightttt" at the end that might just save him.

Summary: Lisa's leaving.

ADDED: I just want to say how much I like Barry Manilow. Not his music, which isn't to my taste, but him as a person. Unlike Stevie Wonder and various other guests, he did not do the show to get the kids to sing his songs, and he took his role as a music teacher seriously. He really analyzed each performance and came up with concrete help and never seemed to be at all about self-promotion. I know you could say that this nice-guy thing is just his gimmick, but if it is, it works well, and maybe more people ought to try it.


Jennifer said...

Yaaaay! I was hoping you were going to live blog. I can at least "watch" vicariously for now.

Jim H said...

Yes, so far Lisa seems to be in the most trouble. Bucky and Taylor have also turned in uninspired performances. But Bucky has his demographic and Taylor has a bit of momentum.

John Jenkins said...

I hope you are all enjoying this while we House fans have to suffer for it.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm not all that sure that I do enjoy "American Idol." And yet, I can't turn away.

Tom said...

Elliot looks a bit better tonight, now that he got rid of that hideous, full chinstrap.

Jim H said...

"Look at the pickle!"
More profound words have never been spoken.

Jinnmabe said...

Katharine McPhee. Man! I am sure I would not like her that much if I actually knew her, but for some reason, she just pushes all the buttons with me. As Ann said "she's good, and she's very pretty." Yeah.

And yes, I will be posting more or less the same thing about her every week until she is eliminated.

Hecla Ma said...

Lisa or Bucky have GOT to go. Lisa is sweet but unmemorable.

I was ready to say Kevin should go, too, but he actually did very well tonight. He's saved for one more week.

Once again, dagnabit, I missed Mandisa and Chris. Along with Elliot, they are the only ones I actually want to see. In the recap Chris looked like he was on fire. He's a star.

I am so grateful for Ann Althouse's coverage of this...I miss so much of it.

Hecla Ma said...

Btw, I missed it because I forgot it was on...I tuned in for House.

I LOVE House...but AI does fascinate me.

Jenny D. said...

Bucky should go, or Lisa. Or please Kevin can go.

Chris should win this competition.

Hecla Ma said...

Hmmmm...having just heard an mp3 of Chris tonight, I'd say Elliot slam dunked the evening.

JodyTresidder said...

Sorry, lovely little Paris reminded me of a "Bugsy Malone" character tonight. ('Fever' is surely something you treat with Tylenol at her age!)

Chris left me completely stunned, again, and I'd love Elliot's Amish face not to count against his talent. Bye bye Bucky, I think.

Bee said...

The advice that Manilow gave Elliot was spot on. In the past, Elliot, though sounding good, seems to just want to recite the words. Chris and Mandisa project what they're feeling into what they're singing... They're connected, so it's better watching for the viewer. I thought Kevin did surprisingly well! Bucky has never found the rhythm, and Lisa is in danger. Ace is just not stepping up to the solo challenge. He may fare better in a group situation.

Jennifer said...

I really like your descriptions tonight, Ann. Hypercharged robot indeed!

Enos Pickle (loved that nickname from the TV w/o Pity forum) must have been forgettable.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

What was all that cattiness about dancing? Is dancing prohibited? There was strutting, and a lot of crotch squatting again, to borrow Professor A's phrase.

Just wonderin'...any nibbles on the house?

Rick Lee said...

I agreed with all of Simon's critiques tonight... pretty much. One thing that bothered me was that the orchestra really let down the guys who tried to sing the Buddy Holly songs. Those renditions really stunk to high heaven. Both of them would have sounded so much better with a more rock sounding backing.

Wickedpinto said...

I didn't think kelly did bad, but every time she said "searching" it came out as "seworching" there was a wierd FAKE sound to her excessively country accent. Patsy didn't play up the country in her two biggies "walking after midnight" and "crazy," she was MUCH more jazzy, than country.

Paris doing "fever" was horrible, I'm sorry, Paris does have a lot of talent, but she didn't have any understanding of the song. Peggy lee's version is an aphrodesiac of vocal torture, simple and sultry. Peggy proved that there is one way to sing "fever" that is soft yet dictatorial, just like whitney taught everyone how to sing the National Anthem, Big and Loud and Clean. Paris fought for some sort of technical angle to it.

Best performances? Mandisa, Chris and, as always, elliot.

Worst, lisa (I think she has the best potential for pop-tartdom, but she has no musical depth) bucky and kevin.

disappointments, bucky (copping out by picking the only "rocker" hick in the 50's, Buddy holly) Taylor (he did fine, not good, but he copped out by picking th only soulful hick from the 50's, Buddy Holly) and Ace, who clearly doesn't have much an understanding of what makes that song so damn good. You destroy the harmony, you destroy the song.

Wickedpinto said...

In addition to your update ma'am Ann, I just listened to the version Live recorded of "Walk the Line" and it is NOTHING at ALL Like the performance done by Chris. Chris didn't just prove his love of rock and his uncompromising adoration for the complexity of rock music, but also he created a new song using someone elses words. He completely recreated that song with the necessary assistance. Chris proved himself to be (so far) the most self contained artist in the group.

Wickedpinto said...


We have to put up with. . . What? 7 more weeks of these "theme sings?" The pick "Stevie Wonder" and "the 50's" and crap. _I_ want a song that resonates with me personaly. I WANT an 80's theme week.

I WANT a pop tartlet to sing "Walking on Sunshine" or "Oh Sheila" or "Kids in America" or "Self Control," (a personal favorite) or "Nothing Compares 2 U" or "Safety Dance" Sorry, These guys to ignore the mega-rock or techno, or new wave of the 80's is inexcusable.

There was never a platinum open until the 80's, later it fell off cuz of the CD/LP conflict, but it was the 80's that created high end, easily accessible music on a large scale (the 70's started it, but didn't succeed until the 80's)

Bad Penny said...

How about punk and new wave week? Kevin could sing "needles and Pins", Bucky could sing "we taught the brat with the baseball bat" Mandisa: "Love will tear us apart."Kelly: "I wanna be your dog" Simon would have a stroke.

I'd pay money to hear chris sing a sex pistols song.

Wickedpinto said...

Imagine Kelly turning out a Ramones song?

Ann Althouse said...

Wickedpinto said..."In addition to your update ma'am Ann, I just listened to the version Live recorded of "Walk the Line" and it is NOTHING at ALL Like the performance done by Chris..."

If so, don't you think it's incredibly weird that I observed that he sounded like the lead singer of Live, when I was not even aware that Live had done that song?

Also, Wicked, I'm not sure I can trust the opinion of someone who says Buddy Holly is the only rocker hick of the 50s. There was a whole genre, rockabilly.

Ann Althouse said...

Ruth Anne: I have never used the phrase "crotch squatting" or "crotch squat" -- nor would I. There is something crotch-related about the squat dance that they do, but the crotch per se is not doing the squat.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Professor A: Apologies for the wrong word.


Ruth Anne Adams said...

Did Barry Manilow look exceedingly red and puffy on your screens? He looked like his face had a case of the mumps to me.

knox said...

Yes, Barry's cheeks were very puffy.

One of my friends said recently that he thinks Elliot is the best male singer that Idol has ever had. After last night I think he could be right!

Bye-bye, Bucky.

Mandisa forever!

Dad29 said...

If that damn house band doesn't learn to pipe down and cooperate with the singers, the show could be re-named to Our Band vs. Idol.

Thomas Williams said...

Elliott has a decent enough voice, but it's quite a stretch to say he's the best male vocalist they've ever had. He has a good sense of pitch, but the tone is not exceptionally attractive and he lacks the vocal ease and grace of a really good singer.

As for the business about Live, I think there are two issues that should be kept separate. Some folks out there in cyberspace have been saying that Chris didn't really "make the song his own" because he was just doing the Live version. But in fact (as Wickedpinto rightly points out) his version didn't sound at all like Live's, so that criticism fails. The other point (and this is what I take Prof. Althouse to be saying) is that Chris sounds like the lead singer from Live. I thought the same thing myself last night. (Heck, we know that Live is Chris's favorite band.) That's not a criticism, just an observation.

Ann Althouse said...

Postulant: I didn't know that Live was Chris's favorite band. I was just listening to him and hearing the similarity. (Again, he is my favorite contestant, so I'm not trying to slam him.)

Dustin said...

The wife and I have thought Chris sounds/looks like the lead singer from Live from the very beginning. It's the way he sings, soft/hard and his bald serious look.

Thomas Williams said...

Yeah, Chris is my favorite too. There are more versatile singers in the competition, certainly. But though Chris has a narrower range stylistically than, say, Katharine, within his range he is outstanding. The emphasis on "mixing it up" on this show is weird anyway. No one expects Live to release a big band album or Britney to sing hair-band power ballads of the 80s.

Not that Britney can sing anyway, of course, but you get my point.

Thomas Williams said...

And of course now someone is going to point to Britney's fabulous cover of "When I See You Smile" or some such thing, and I'm going to look like a fool.

Anonymous said...

I think Ann's observation was that they must teach the contestants to sing with the legs spread wide and slightly bent because almost all of them do it. I believe she observed it is unattractive and "crotchy" or something like that.

And it is. I didn't notice till Ann pointed it out now it annoys me (like the blemish in the sheet rock I had lived with for years until someone pointed it out to me that is now driving me crazy.)

Hayduke said...

Wickedpinto and Postulant: Have you guys heard the Live version of "Walk the Line?" After the strum of the first chord (an A minor, I believe) I recognized it as "borrowing" what Live did. Everyone can listen to a sample of Live doing the song on (it's on their greatest hits CD).

Although what Chris sang was not an exact replica of Live's cover, it was pretty darn close. Certainly, it was close enough that some mention of Live was called for; after all, much of the praise he got from the judges was for his "arrangement."

I know it's petty to argue about this, but it's completely dishonest for Chris to take the praise for something he basically stole. Don't get me wrong, he's a pretty good singer, but that's all. Making him out to be some sort of musical genius for selecting a version of a song that 99% of the Idol watchers haven't heard, however, is just silly.

Thomas Williams said...

Hayduke: Your post prompted me to go back and listen again to the Live version, and you're quite right: Chris's arrangement was just Live's arrangement. I remembered it as differing a good deal more, I think because the vocal performance is rather different.

Lonesome Payne said...

Old person tip:

Get this record

and listen to Not Fade Away and what comes after.

I'm fond of Taylor. But I think Not Fade Away primarily offers an opportunity for a band to rip it up. And here, the Dead rip it up like no one. (The performance is kind of the mother lode for all things people love about them.)

Dad said...


I agree. The voices are often swallowed up by the orchestration. Drives me nuts.

But I think the blame lies not with the band but with the sound engineers/technicians/mixers. They have more control over the mix than the band.

PatCA said...

I was dreading the kitsch so tuned in late, but was happily surprised by all the new arrangements! Paris was good, Taylor, Katherine, Chris. This was Ace's best night. I'd love to have Paris and Katherine in a gig at our local jazz club.

But seriously, does Kevin belong there more than Bucky?!

I think Kevin and Bucky need to go, then Lisa.

BTW has anybody here actually voted? Maybe if we could agree on a strategy, we could all vote and cause an Althouse Effect.

Jinnmabe said...

I have noticed the loud band/quiet mics problem for a few weeks now. It's incredibly distracting in a vocal competition. I'd be satisfied if the mics were way too loud, at least we'd hear the singers.

knox said...

I agree about Chris... and I was quite confused last night when the judges were all "oh you're so authentic." He's doing "rock" versions of other genres: Big Deal. Covering Live covering Johnny Cash is no more authentic than someone covering Johnny Cash.

Plus, I like having "rockers" and country singers on Idol, but it's not very interesting if you know every week Chris is going to just do a rock version of whatever the challenge is.

PS I would have loved to hear a rock version of "Mandy"

Perry said...

I'm impressed by the idea that chris would remake walk the line like that - but was a little less than impressed by the actual finished product. It sorta sounded to me not like live but maybe creed or soemthing else rock wanna beish covered the song?

That.. and I think I have a little crush on ms. pickler.. Sure, she's probably playing up the ditzy farm country girl thing, almost a little bit like Jessica Simpson did, but its still cute..

Mark Wickens said...

it's completely dishonest for Chris to take the praise for something he basically stole.

Dishonesty (complete dishonesty, no less!) and theft are not charges that should be made lightly. I haven't seen any evidence that he tried to fool anyone. Even if you think he was obligated to mention that it was a cover of someone else's version (I don't), the fact that he didn't can be accounted for in many ways that don't involve dishonesty. It's a live show with lots of nervousness and pressure, after all. And as Ann pointed out, it's quite plausible that he did mention the fact in a taped bit, and that the producers neglected to include it.

Lars said...

Vote for the Worst American Idol--

knox said...

I should clarify I don't think *Chris* is doing anything wrong, I just don't think the judges should gush over his covers of rock covers.

Goatwhacker said...

(Knoxgirl)I agree about Chris... and I was quite confused last night when the judges were all "oh you're so authentic." He's doing "rock" versions of other genres: Big Deal.

I agree. I thought the point of doing different genres was to "stretch" the performers and force them to sing in ways they do not normally sing. So while in one sense Chris was "remaining true to himself" in another he was avoiding the challenge given him.

Laura Reynolds said...

Although Chris is a favorite, I agree with Knoxgirl (as usual) that the turn anything in a hard rock show, is not enough. Its a good formula and he's going to end up doing quite well doing that for a living but I'd like to see more from him.

Lisa or Bucky with Kevin being spared by the sympathy/vote for the worst blocks.

XWL said...

And here, the Dead rip it up like no one

I think Paulfrommpls hit on a possible whole new thread.

Least likely artist/theme show.

I can just hear Ryan saying at the end of the results show tonight, '...and next week we'll be exploring the music of Grateful Dead!'

Given that three Opera albums are in the top ten in England (plus the guest performance could be by Simon's Il Divo project) maybe an Opera week is in order.

I already made my own suggestion that a Prince week would be great (plus he has a new album to push).

But I think the ultimate in unlikely American Idol theme weeks would be the songs of Leonard Cohen (though that could be some great fun watching Pickler sing Suzanne or Kevin try and interpret First We Take Manhattan, plus the idea of Leonard Cohen himself sitting down and working with the Idols is just too delicious not to contemplate)

Tristram said...

I agree. I thought the point of doing different genres was to "stretch" the performers and force them to sing in ways they do not normally sing. So while in one sense Chris was "remaining true to himself" in another he was avoiding the challenge given him.

See, I don't agree. At this point, we can pretty well assume everyone of them can actually sing. Now, it is really a measure of how well they can engage/entertain the audience. Doing something unexpected is a valid technique, but if you do something different every single week, then you aren't expected to do anyting in particualre (hence, cannot do anything unexpected).

However, as all these singers are in fact mature singers (yes, even the young'uns have been doing this for years), they know what they can sing and what they are compfortable with.

'Tis true, that sometimes coming out of the comfort zone may yeild dramatic moments, but dramatic is not synomouse with GOOD.

For example, unexpected would be Taylor doing 'Paranoid' by Ozzy Osbourne. If he pulled it off, then that would probably be the highlight of the year for AI.

AI, at this stage, is no longer a singing competition, but a star competetion. Yes, some of the contestants have better voices. Catherine and Elliot probably have the best technical voices, but Mandissa and Chris -at this stage- have better stage presence/star power.

Hayduke said...

Mark: I probably overstated things, but hey, it was early and I hadn't had my coffee.

I'm willing to play along with the thought that maybe he mentioned something in practice about the song that got cut out of the broadcast. However, he certainly had an opportunity to get the truth out there, but instead he balked. It sure feels good to have people say nice things abou you...why mess with the moment?

Of course, my objectivity was tainted when he screwed up the first two lines of the song.

Catherine Wilkinson said...

Really, Mandisa is the most amazing singer, but that alone won't do it for the girl...Chris is starting to annoy me, even though he's's that whole serious, dark, bald, alternative's wearing me out! He'll probably win, although I look for Taylor to pull it together as the show goes forward...he appears to be the most audience savvy...he obviously has been in front of audiences before many times. I want to send Kevin to his room. Lisa is talented, but she's no different from a good junior college play lead singer. Miss Pickler is either the smartest of all, or so ridiculously way or another, we all tend to like her...she does make me laugh. I want Bucky to do better, but there's not much life left in that deal.
And now, I must go order my Barry Manilow CDs. What a nice guy!