May 16, 2006

"American Idol" -- the final 3.

Three contestants, singing three songs each. Do you really want to hear these three characters sing three songs? It sounds rather painful to me. As an idea, I mean. As an actual reality... let's just see.

"Just to be in your presence is an honor." Ugh! The kids have to suck up to Clive Davis this week.

Elliott Yamin goes first and sings "Open Arms," a Journey song. The judges goad him to loosen up and to believe he can make it. Frankly, I think they've got to want him not to make it. Taylor is going to make it, and they simply must want the beautiful Katharine to be with him next week.

Next is Katharine McPhee. The song Clive Davis picks for her is "I Believe I Can Fly." I detest this song: "There are miracles in life I must achieve." Ridiculous! She's wearing a shiny blue cocktail dress. Both Randy and Paula begin by telling her how good she looks. You know what that means. The two of them sputter for something constructive to say. Randy blurts out "Song choice." And she's bold enough to say "I didn't pick it!" It's that fiend Clive. "Sometimes you should just sing the melody," Randy advises. Simon goes mushy: "You kind of created a moment there for yourself."

Ah! "Dancing in the Dark" is the song for Taylor Hicks. First Springsteen song ever on "American Idol." He karaokes Bruce. He even does the Bruce move of pulling Paula up onto the stage to dance with him. Paula was unprepared, wearing a strapless dress that could not take the movement. What's the pattern on that dress? (It looks like dirty toilet paper!)

The judges choose the second song, and Paula chooses for "What You Won't Do for Love" for Elliott. It's pleasantly soulful.

Simon chooses -- chills! -- "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" for Katharine. Does she take Randy's advice from a few minutes ago and "just sing the melody"? No! The judges lie: Randy says it was the best performance of the season. Paula says "You don't go overboard." (!) Simon also says it was the best performance of the season.

Randy picks the perfect song for Taylor: "You Are So Beautiful." That was one of the very few performances that I enjoyed.

Now, they're picking their own songs, and Elliott is doing Ray Charles's "I Believe to My Soul" ("the Donny Hathaway version"). He's good, but Simon predicts he won't make it -- possibly lighting a fire under the voters.

Katharine's doing "I Ain't Got Nothing But the Blues." She does a great job -- and really reveals that current music is not where her heart is. The judges aren't too pleased! But this expression of unpleasure will stimulate the voters.

Taylor's doing Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness." Wow! I loved it. He sang it with feeling then got all crazy -- with feeling! -- in the end.

So, my friends, I am giving my endorsement to Taylor. Who is going to win the season, you know.


Jenny D. said...

Is it possible that Taylor Hicks could actually win this? Hard to believe. I can't watch at all. Tell me if they mention Chris Daughtry.

Ann Althouse said...

Possible? It's nearly certain.

esk said...

oy - I hope one of the others pull it out of the hat. I have a hard time watching Taylor when he sings. I should download one of his songs to see if I enjoy it more.

Perry said...

Prediction - elliott gets the boot this week and its katherine vs Taylor next week. I think the 'vote for the cute girl' vote comes out in force for that one.

Also, if any of you are into this at all, theres a mock futures market for Idol market at inkling markets.

Dangerous Mind said... the spirit of an old David Spade bit, I liked him better the first time I saw him...when he was named Joe Cocker. I even tried leaving the room and listening to his songs, and it wasn't any better.

It kind of seems like every song that Elliot sang was overshadowed by the instruments - like they're trying to make us forget that he can actually sing.

At least Elliot is going out on a high note, since I doubt America will suddenly wake up to the fact that Taylor isn't that great.

Unknown said...

Elliott is gone. Katharine is the new AI.

Taylor can't quite escape karaoke. "Dancing in the Dark" was almost there, but I think (he thinks) he's better than he is today. That's a shame...the kid can flat out sing.

knox said...

the heck did that guy pick "Open Arms" for Elliot? yukko! I thought his last 2 were good, but he had no much-needed "moment." Oh well.

(I actually liked Katherine's rendition of Rainbow, surprising myself!)

Elliot's still the only one I'd consider actually listening to after the show's over...

Jim H said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Irene Done said...

I was disappointed that Clive Davis wasn't allowed to offer his evaluations of each performance. In past years, his remarks always seemed to be spot-on.

And I'm nervous for Elliott.

Jim H said...

So, my friends, I am giving my endorsement to Taylor. Who is going to win the season, you know.

So Professor Althouse has adopted Don Imus's approach to endorsements? What happened to "dear sweet boy" Elliott?

Ann Althouse said...

Jim: I've known Taylor was the frontrunner for weeks. I'm only tonight embracing him -- based on the last two songs.

Ann Althouse said...

As of now, Elliott is ahead of Katharine -- per DialIdol.

Simon said...

"[Katharine] reveals that current music is not where her heart is"

Good looking AND good taste? Killer.

Jim H said...

That's true--it hasn't been much of a secret that Taylor may be unstoppable.

That doesn't make it less painful!

HalfCentTriChic said...

We are at the youngest's softball game, so I was spared Kat's channeling of Whitney (which I totally expected, knowing the relationship between Clive and Whitney).

What is the phone number for Elliot? I"m going to hit the phone, vote for him. Thanks!

BTW, is getting hammered right now.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Voting for Dear, Sweet Elliot while I type this. Have only gotten through twice. Lots of busy signals.

My first Idol vote ever, so, yes, they did light a fire.

HalfCentTriChic said...

What's his number? Please!

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Elliot's numbers are: 1-866-IDOLS 01 or IDOLS 04 or IDOLS 07

Dangerous Mind said...

I'd be careful about using the -07 number for Elliot. I've gotten through twice on that number, and both times, a fax machine picked up instead of me getting the "Thank you for voting" response.


HalfCentTriChic said...

I'm getting through the 01 and 04 numbers with no problem at all. Uh-oh.

Thanks for the digits ruth anne!

Jenny D. said...

I found a video clip of Chris Daughtry singing an acoustic version of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive." then I listened to when he sang it on AI. what a difference. This guy has learned a lot, and he is good. REally good. I would pay for this song. What a shame. Or maybe it's better for him that the hack Taylor wins. Mr Karaoke man. Funny thinking of Simon Cowell promoting his record.

Jim H said...

Taylor has had a substantial lead over the others for a while, and this week is apparently no exception. Am I correct in stating that he engenders strong opinions from viewers--they are either devoted fans or wanted him off the show weeks ago?

He clearly has more fans than whichever finalist he'll face next week. Does anyone think that there are enough anyone-but-Taylor voters to make it close when their votes won't be divided, or will those people sit on their phones?

Laura Reynolds said...

With all due respect Ann, Taylor's songs could only be considered good performances if you considered the other six crappy. Fine he gets all jazzed up on Try a Litle Tenderness but vocally it was very average, and he couldn't put nearly the passion into You Are So Beautiful to make me even remember how Joe Cocker sang it.

I couldn't care less how well organized his fans are and that he will likely win, he's very average. Simon, resigned to his victory, refrains from outright criticism, but listen don't watch.

I won't even comment on the others until after I see Michael Farris' comments.

HalfCentTriChic said...

I'm curious as to what AI's ratings are tonight. I've heard from more than one of the other moms at both my kid's games "well, with Chris gone, why bother watching it?"

And these are women in their 40s saying this.

I think you're right Ann - Taylor will win the whole enchilada, but I don't expect he'll have success on the level of Kelly.

Jenny D. said...

ann, it's about cheese. Imagine you are in a supermarket trying to buy cheese. There's the cheese in the bag, or the individualu hunks that are not as bad. You sample the cheese and say, hey, the chunks are better than stuff in the bag. And so, you can support Taylor because he's better than the cheese in the bags.

But Ann, you've been to a decent deli too. You know that the quality of cheese extends way beyond the supermarlet

Ann Althouse said...

Jenny: Of course, it is just a silly game, a pointless pastime. The mystery is why it holds us.

Hecla Ma said...

Ah well...Elliott had a nice run. He'll be sent home tomorrow, and I'll never have to watch the show again. I can't abide Taylor Hicks. He makes me retch.

michael farris said...

My forgettable take on an ephemeral phenomenon.

Taylor - I'm mostly convinced he'll win, but there is the question of picking up votes. As someone pointed out, the key to winning is being able to pick up the votes of the people kicked off ahead of you. He has a core, devoted audience, but I don't see him picking up Elliot or Katharine votes.
I also really don't see him having a musical career because he's a shadow. Almost all of what he does is calculated to remind people of better performers (counting on many people confusing the line between him and them). Dancing in the Dark? Pull up someone to dance and hope the audience fondly remembering the original video. You are so beautiful? Work that human-wreck-saved-by-love-shtick that worked with Cocker, because he _was_ a human wreck at the time. For all that his fans like to say that he makes songs 'his own', my guess is that he'll fail when he has to put over music that doesn't already have someone else's strong imprint on it (and when the visuals aren't there).
My favorite this night was Try a Little Tenderness just cause he screwed up the lyrics (again!). Changing 'women do get weary' to 'them young girls they do get weary' and 'that same old shabby dress' to 'that same old shaggy dress'. I! heart! shaggy!! dresses!!!
The gentle, conciliatory irony of the original is completely lost of course. Does he really equate 'tenderness' with faux passionate growling and poorly executed gospel cadenzas?

Katharine - I'm trying so hard to like her, really I am. But despite a very commercial timbre and obvious talent, her strange technique usually destroys all my good will before it can gell into anything concrete. The first number made no new impression on me (pitchy and shifting gears to fit things into the fractured registers she uses in material like this). The second was a lot better with some great sustained notes (though the sustained high in 'that's where you'll find me' sounded flat). The last song was by far the best thing from her. There were still too many gospel cadenzas (Maria Carey has a _lot_ to answer for) and the voice was a little undersupported in the beginning but she was very good when she got to push the sweet spot of her voice. I now think her strength would be musicals. Her delivery in the last two numbers (for a change) really sounded committed and, what's more important, idiomatic (like she understands the material stylistically) Is AI ready for a winner whose strength is show tunes?

Elliott - My, the powers that be on this show really do want to get rid of him, don't they? How do you get rid of the best singer on a singing contest? One, pick material that doesn't show off his talents. Two, make him sing in the wrong keys. Three, cover him up with the band. He was really struggling in Open Arms, having trouble getting into the lines and singing outside of his comfort register and unable to ride on top of the sound of the band. Still, some great line readings. The second was so so, but again sounded like the key was chosen to show of his weakness (he doesn't have a power voice). The third song was really blah, my least favorite thing I've heard from him. Bye Elliott, you're still the only one I'd consider paying to listen to.

Should leave: Taylor
Will leave: Elliott (outside chance Katherine, I like it, but I don't know if that last song will fly with the AI demographic)

Final winner? It depends on whether Taylor has over fifty percent of the vote now, I think Elliott or Katharine will get each others votes.

Jerome C. Austriaco said...

Taylor will win. That's a shame. His "signature" performance, "You Are So Beautiful," consisted of about ten words.

Elliott deserves to take it.

Ann Althouse said...

Michael: "My favorite this night was Try a Little Tenderness just cause he screwed up the lyrics (again!). Changing 'women do get weary' to 'them young girls they do get weary' and 'that same old shabby dress' to 'that same old shaggy dress'. I! heart! shaggy!! dresses!!!"

That wasn't screwing up the lyrics. It was word for word the Otis Redding version of the song. You've got to stop and think whether if Otis were around today and on the show you'd be ridiculing him. "The gentle, conciliatory irony of the original is completely lost of course." You would have said that about Otis, then. That's what he did to what was, even then, a very old song.

I'm not trying to promote Taylor, just point out that some folks are a little too eager to tear him down.

And I don't think people say "you made it your own" about Taylor. He's channeling other people. But Joe Cocker, whom you praise, channeled Ray Charles. Wouldn't you have ripped into Cocker at the time?

Anyway, Taylor can be criticized for being too much like Otis Redding. And too much like Bruce Springsteen. And too much like Joe Cocker. But that's pretty good company. Pretty damned good taste, especially for someone who also throws himself out there and risks being in bad taste constantly. And he's able to do that and inspire a lot of love in millions of people in only a few weeks and with very little time to prepare and rehearse.

Meanwhile, Elliott stands there and sings pleasantly and tastefully. And Katharine grins and beams and screetches and melismas with little sense of the meaning of the song and a giant sense of her own entitlement.

I say Taylor won it fair and square.

Hecla Ma said...

Maybe he did. But I still ain't buyin' any of his product! :-)

knox said...

I dunno, Bruce Springsteen and Joe Cocker both rank too high in the "melodrama" category for me, reaching dangerously cheesey levels themselves! I guess there are worse people Taylor could emulate, though.

My main beef with him is how he sways around like a bad imitation of Ray Charles. It approaches being inappropriate for me.

I keep saying "for me"... I'm channeling Randy!

SF said...

For my money, Taylor went from goofy, entertaining karaoke guy to the real thing with the very first phrase of "You Are So Beautiful". If he can keep on singing like that, he'll have a fine career in music.

Elliot's got pipes, no doubt, but he doesn't know how to perform. I was firmly in his corner after he did "Moody's Mood for Love" way back in the beginning. But Queen week really set the contrast for the two in my mind.

"Somebody to Love" is perhaps my favorite song ever sung on the show, and I was totally pulling for Elliot to sing it, from the moment I heard they were doing Queen. It was his big chance to shine. And he just plain didn't. His performance was the epitome of boring competence.

"Crazy Little Thing Called Love", on the other hand, has been wildly over-exposed on AI, and usually not to good effect. But Taylor nailed it, turning in the best performance of the night. He may not have the best voice on the show, but he knows what to do with what he has, and he's a real entertainer.

Ann Althouse said...

Knoxgirl: "My main beef with him is how he sways around like a bad imitation of Ray Charles. It approaches being inappropriate for me."

I think he's imitating Joe Cocker imitating Ray Charles. Doesn't that make it different? Whatever the offense was, Cocker already took the punishment. Hicks is not copying a blind black man. Cocker was the guy with the nerve to do that.

Remember when Cocker performed on SNL and John Belushi did his Joe Cocker imitation right next to him?

Are we stuffier now about things like this than we were then?

michael farris said...

"That wasn't screwing up the lyrics. It was word for word the Otis Redding version of the song."

I stand corrected. But ... 'shaggy dress'? What was he (Redding) thinking of?

"You've got to stop and think whether if Otis were around today and on the show you'd be ridiculing him."

Quite possibly, if he spazzed out at the end like Taylor did (and to that extent), I would. But I came to know that song through Nancy Wilson's restrained version which may have spoiled me.

Now I don't doubt Taylor's abilities as an entertainer (with visuals) and his charisma for a big chunk of the audience (I don't get it, but it's obviously there) and if he wins, he'll have deserved it and worked hard for it.
But take the visuals and the adoring audience and there's really not much left.
Or, maybe I'm just being a heartless sob because I've always _hated_ the maudlin weepiness of 'you are so beautiful' and find it hard to say anything positive about any version of it.

The 'made it his own' was actually the most common remark when I ventured (daintily and quickly) into a pro-Taylor forum. No remarks on the singing as singing, just how 'real' he was and how he 'made it his own' and how much they all loved him for being him. It reminded me a lot of Roxie Hart: "and the audience loves me. I love them, and they love me for lovin' them and I love them for lovin' me and we _love_ each other".

Elliott without visuals is usually worth listening to (despite some excessesive vocalising and vibrato). His voice isn't the most spectacular but it's serviceable, he also understands the material he does and (for me, ymmv) matches words and melody together better than any of the others. (though he was undeniably weaker on this program than in the past).

Katharine I've never been able to stand before tonight and I'm still not what you'd call a fan, but at least she finally sounded like she had some material that suited her (despite some vocal excesses).

Of the three, it's hard for me to imagine Taylor being convincing in original material and Katharine being convincing in anything written in the last 40 years (that wasn't written for the stage). Elliott's the only one I can imagine doing original material well, though you never really know.

Simon said...

"Remember when Cocker performed on SNL and John Belushi did his Joe Cocker imitation right next to him? Are we stuffier now about things like this than we were then?"

When Prince graced SNL with his presence a month or two ago, they still did the "The Prince Show" skit, although Armison looked pretty nervous about it, and given the obvious possible gag, either SNL lacked the nerve to ask, or Prince lacked the nerve to do.

Anonymous said...

Katharine's "Over the Rainbow" was excellent! I listened to .mp3 versions by Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald and Kat's was the best. The judges didn't lie: USA Today has the same take and so does AOL. And this morning brings news that DialIdol no longer has Kat at the bottom.

Laura Reynolds said...

All season long we've been waiting for Taylor to do Joe Cocker as Ray Charles and this was the best he could do? What type of original music could he do that anyone would buy?

Elliott- is being a "funky white boy" really a selling point in 2006?

Katharine- I'm resigned to her limitations although I think she could be taught to sing other types of music better than she herself has shown, up to now. The judges did not like that last song but she sang it quite well (contrast with Taylor who's song they loved and who sang it quite ordinary) What's more important, the song or the talent? She said I don't want to sing anything more recent because the judges will just compare me to the original (true and they did anyway) although they never compared Taylor to Joe Cocker or Otis Redding because in reality how, could they?

Anonymous said...

A review I agree with, including the interesting simile "spraying bum notes like bird guano."

tcd said...

So I guess Screechy Mcboobs will have to sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" for the rest of her career since that is the only song she's been able to do competently. If Elliott goes home tonight, I'll be voting with the Soul Patrol. It's annoying to think that dry-humping a stage is all it takes to win a singing competition.

Tara Alta said...

AI Rewind:
Elliot, to use Bo Bice's song title, is The Real Thing. But alas, America prefers cheese.
I get a kick out of Taylor (and champagne, thank you very much). He definitely has the most charisma as an entertainer.
Root canal vs. listening to Kat. Hmm, a tough one. She had moments of brilliance (most of Rainbow) derailed by drifting keys and screech-owl reaches. That strumpet walk in her last song made her look like she was auditioning for the Pussycat Dolls. And the "why are you so mean to me?" backtalk to judges is ridiculous. The others took it on the chin.

Emkay said...

Is it just me or was Katherine's version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow very similar to that done by the late, great Eva Cassidy? Eva's version is so beautiful and haunting. Tragic that she died so young, leaving so little of her recorded work behind for us to treasure...

The ID

jult52 said...

Methinks Michael Farris is overlooking Elliott's very significant musical flaws. They were on full display last night.

MadisonMan said...

But alas, America prefers cheese.

As long as it's from Wisconsin!!

Lonesome Payne said...

Elliot convinced me last week he could be something unique, with his muscular verions of that long pretty boring Elvis show-concluding song and especially his version of "I'm Trouble."

Kind of a more muscular Tony Bennett, if he keeps progressing and gaining confidence. He lacked confidence last night, although he was given bad songs to sing and didn't do a great job on the one he chose for himself. Couldn't get back to the confidence.

Really terrible songs given by Clive and Ms. Medicated who I love, don't get me wrong.

Hayduke said...


That's exactly what I thought while watching Katherine last night. In fact, I found it so similar -- even the instrumentation -- that I pulled out my iPod immediately after to do a "side-by-side" comparision.

After listening to both several times, they are very similar, particularly at the climax of the song where she sings the final "somewhere over the rainbow;" the melody and vocal runs she used during this part were almost exactly the same as Cassidy's.

As tragic as Cassidy's early death and stunted music catalogue are, the fact that so few people have heard her sing is even more so.

katiebakes said...

Does anyone else think that Elliot sounds a little bit like John Legend? I'd love to hear him sing "Ordinary People".

And I agree with the poster who said that his would be the only CD they would actually buy.

Uncle Mikey said...

Taylor the cheesebag. Or out of the bag. Love it either way.

Ann, I agree that Kat was right to point out to Randy that his comment about song choice after "I Believe I Can Fly" was not her fault. Someone on TV w/o Pity said they were at the taping and that Randy scurried over to Clive Davis to apologize during the commercial break. Between the dumb comments and booing Simon at the beginning of every show, I'm starting to dislike him more than Paula.

It was also pointed out on TWOP that Clive may have purposely removed himself from the judge's area because he wasn't impressed by the remaining contestants. I think he has his eye on Paris. I know I'm looking forward to her album, and I'd love to see her, Kat and Elliott do an oldies tour. That would be awesome.

Sol, if you didn't see or hear Elliott's redo of "Somebody to Love" on the results show, it was fantastic. You can find it and all the songs from this season here (Yahoo registration and group-joining required, I think).

stocious said...

No matter the result, Katharine is a winner.

Whether she lost the weight through some form of diet or binge/purge program she looks much better now than she did at the beginning of the contest.

Moan said...

The three finalists are all better in more intimate spaces I think. Taylor in Vegas or Atlantic City seems a pretty good fit; Katherine in on stage in musicals or in smaller clubs with an act that is considerably ramped toward ballads...she has an intimacy that works well close up as evidenced by how close they got to her last night and on "Someone To Watch Over Me" a few weeks ago; same for Elliot except more toward smooth jazz and funk...great in clubs and cabarets.

The late, and personally much lamented Chris is probably the only one of the top twelve that's ready to stand in an arena today in front of 30,000+ and really be entertaining...which is to say that he's the one with the most potential to be a big thing over the next year or so. One hopes that he thinks it over before he takes the offer from Fuel since he brings more to them than they do to him at this point. He can be the front guy for Fuel or he can be Chris Daughtery. I hope he takes the latter path first.

That's not to say that the other three won't eventually get there once they have some real management and have more control over their songs.

I'm guessing that Taylor is something a little different when he has his band with him. Really, all along, it's been apparent that Taylor is a pretty good club singer and cover artist. Like most, I haven't seen him (and almost can't imagine him) carving out some original musical space.

Time will tell if he or anyone else can really make the leap.

RSE said...

Do you post the results at 6:30 Pacific Time?

Ann Althouse said...

RSE: Yes. But in a new post.

Jenny D. said...

My last Chris lament:

He has been on Ellen, the Today Show, Jay Leno, Regis and Whoever. And all the weird TVGuide channel things.

Oh...this after he was voted off.

He could manage a crowd of 30,000. That's star power. It might not be perfect pipes. But did you listen to Rod Stewart??

Taylor will win. I predict he'll start a chain of Taylor Hicks; Karaoke Clubs.

Blue Turtle said...

Emkay -

YES!! The version was EVA CASSIDY - as someone else pointed out. And I agree with them - it is sad that so many, including the judges apparently, don't know that particular arrangement. Side by side, Katherine really could not compare. But she is young ... My contention is that Eva should have a grammy!!