Can you feel the excitement in the air? It’s the final night of American Idol competition. All the singing, all the heartache, all the drama has come down to this! Good God. I sound like Ryan Seacrest. So yeah, Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee battled it out for supremacy one last time tonight. I’m pulling for Katharine (based on star power), but I’ll be hard pressed to say she out-performed Taylor. Even I can’t deny that overall Taylor had a better night. But still, in a post Chris and Mandisa universe, I don’t know if I can ever call Taylor an American Idol. I just can’t. That won’t be his problem though. He’s probably gonna win. The full rundown after the jump.The night begins with a solitary image: a beanpole cloaked in darkness. Yes, Ryan Seacrest greets us in front of a shadowy, mysterious background. Hmm… I wonder if the lights will suddenly come up and reveal the audience? Just as it does every year. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happens, and the crowd reacts with exhilaration. It’s like one massive game of peekaboo. Ryan yells, “THIS is American Idol,” which is good because for a second there, I thought I was watching The Sopranos. OF COURSE IT’S AMERICAN IDOL.
The credits roll and then we see our first dollops of celebrities for the night. Why, there’s Mandy Moore, star of Idol satire, American Dreamz! And look! Who goes there? It’s Ben Stiller, looking angry and simian. He seems to be hiding behind a pleasant looking Muslim girl. George Bush has already called her in for questioning.
“They can see me!”
We then see the judges. Randy looks the same as usual. Paula seems to be wearing the sartorial version of a deconstructed rainbow, and Simon is wearing… a blazer! Wow. Very classy. If only his dark t-shirt underneath were a turtleneck. Then he’d be the perfect Blacksploitation movie villain.
“I’ll get you, Foxy Brown!”
Ryan asks the judges if they have any words of advice. Randy says it’s “now or never.” Paula babbles about something incoherent. Simon suggests that each singer prays that the other one forgets their lyrics. Polite laughter all around. Let’s just get on with the show. Ah, but before we can get to singing, Ryan tells us that we’re going to watch each of the finalists’ journeys — which means a montage set to, you guessed it, Journey! Get it? Journey?? Oh, American Idol. You’re a pistol!
We then watch the sappy video segment, and I can’t help thinking, “Is Taylor really in the finals?” I mean, look, his enthusiasm and passion are great, he’s consistently very good, and he’s an amusing entertainer — for my parents. But let’s be honest. The guy’s going to churn out some junk for Lite-FM, and then it’s off to the cruise ships and obscure casinos in the middle of Nevada (Primm comes to mind).
After the montage ends, we go to commercial, and when we return, Ryan appears in the audience. He enthusiastically hugs Chris Daughtry, relishing the brief moment when neck touches neck, soul touches soul. All Ryan feels is the firm yet gentle embrace of Chris’s man muscles, his swelling biceps clutching his body, enveloping him with the delicate touch of Aphrodite’s finger tips. It all happens so fast, and yet, for Ryan, each second is a breathless eternity. The heart skips a beat, a bead of sweat appears on the brow, and deep, hidden impulses surge. In that instance, Ryan feels complete.
Love lift us up where we belong…
Anyhoo, once Ryan commands Chris to return to his chair, our intrepid host ambles down to the McPhees. Dad isn’t crying yet, but he notes that the night is young. And how. Katharine then takes the stage and performs “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” again. She starts off well and seems mildly preoccupied with feeling up one of the drummers on stage with her. It starts as just a quick caress, but soon, it’s a full-scale ass-grind. She’s trying to force the McPheever out, but it’s like a bottle of ketchup — sometimes, it takes more than just a few shakes to get things going.
That’s not to say it’s a bad performance. I like it quite a bit. But it’s just not at a total MCPHEEVER level. Eventually, Kat starts to go on melisma runs, and unfortunately, she’s just not seasoned enough to do this. Paula is right — Katharine’s strengths are when she keeps things under control. Nevertheless, the song ends fairly quickly, and I think it’s a good way to start the night. Randy says she looks like she had fun and that she sang it better than the first time. Paula also calls it fun, and Simon says it was “a good with a small g.” The audience boos (they really like capitalization), and Simon reveals that he just didn’t really like the song. He says it was more like a warmup. Not the best reviews. Not the worst.
A few minutes later, Ryan asks Katharine why she chose that song, and she gives a litany of reasons, one of which being that it “kind of can show the public that I can, you know, be in the Top 40.” Translation: I’m commercial! Taylor’s not! Please vote for me!!
We also learn that apparently, Katharine’s fans — the “KatPack” — sent her a thousand roses to her dressing room. Was it the KatPack? Or was it CHRIS DAUGHTRY?!?!? Sorry, I just completely fabricated that rumor.
Okay, up next, the head sentry of the Soul Patrol, Taylor Hicks! Singing an old Stevie Wonder song, Taylor appears in the audience wearing a glaringly awful red, velvet blazer. As he convulses his way to the stage, we pass by all sorts of familiar faces and breasts: Tori Spelling, Kevin Covais, Mandisa, Ace, Paris, Elliot! It’s wonderful! Well, not really.
What’s more bizarre? The presence of Tori Spelling? Or that fake Gallagher guy behind her?
Anyway, Taylor admittedly has a much, much better performance than Katharine. He really involves the audience and loses himself in the music and the moment (much like Eminem). By the time he wraps up his song, the audience is going nuts. And hey, there’s Taye Diggs! But oh no! He’s not facing the camera. We then cut to Paula clapping like a seal, and then… back to Taye Diggs! And this time we can see his face. That was Fox’s way of saying, “See? See? We’re not crazy. He’s really there!”
As can be expected, Taylor gets rave reviews. Randy yells, “America, that’s a hot one right there!!!” Paula gushes, “Taylor, you and I match tonight! We match!” Note: they do not match at all. Nevertheless, Paula goes nuts and screams to the audience and whatnot. Simon jokes that the audience hated him. He then reveals that he liked the performance quite a bit and “round one goes to you.” Can’t disagree.
We go to a commercial break, and when we return, Katharine takes the stage for her second performance. She wisely sings “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” again, and even though I don’t think it’s as great as the first time (the element of surprise is gone, I think), it’s still quite amazing. Hard to top it. I also notice that she has a long cord dangling from her ear. Turns out it’s her ear piece. I think the producers tried to make it more obvious this time so that people wouldn’t be scratching their heads and saying, “Why she playin’ with her ear again?”
Anyway, this is definitely her song, and Katharine nails it again. I’m amused by the audience, which sways its hands back and forth as if she were singing “We Are The World.” People, this is a stand-still-and-relish song, not hand-waving. Get it right!
As expected, Daddy McPhee is McCrying once again. This time, his tears are full-on streaming down his cheeks. The Idol director gets a raging hard-on as he zooms in so close on Katharine’s dad that you can nearly see the salt in the tears. The audience loves the performance and will not stop clapping. It’s rapturous applause. Finally, Randy manages to get a word in edgewise as he says that she worked it out. Paula also loves the song, and Simon says that she was slaughtered during the first round, but now this was her best performance of the competition — even better than last week’s rendition. McRebound!
During her interview with Ryan, Katharine then tells us how the earpiece was supposed to play a note so she’d be in key for the song’s intro — which was a cappella. Unfortunately, the earpiece didn’t work, but she managed to hit the right key anyway. How wonderful for her. McSerendipity!
“Did I forget to load Cher onto my iPod?”
Taylor then takes the stage to sing his favorite song from the season, “Levon.” Not saying this with any bias, but it’s a really boring performance. It never really climaxes the way it should, and Taylor seems off his game. Even Paula looks bored out of her mind. Bored and/or lost in a painkiller haze. On the plus side, it provides me ample time to think about how all the easy listening fans will truly enjoy Taylor’s album next to their Michael McDonald and Don Henley CDs.
Afterwards, the camera zips through the audience, revealing all sorts of Idol folk: Chris Daughtry again, Pickler, Bucky — okay, they’re basically all there. I’m not going to list them all. We then return to the judges for their thoughts. Randy says “Nice song” but then notes, “it was a little pitchy for me this time, this song.” I’ll tell you one thing: Melissa McGhee doesn’t look very happy about that!!
Paula then slurs, “I don’t know, Randy. What may be pitchy to you is the essence of who Taylor is.” Uh, that’s not a good thing. Last time I checked, sounds off was also the essence of William Hung.
Simon correctly tells Paula that she doesn’t make any sense. He then proclaims that Taylor took round one, but Katharine took round two. Tie game! The camera then trains on Bucky, and off in the corner, Constantine Maroulis just can’t resist craning his neck forward and smirking at the camera. Hey, jerk, the camera’s not on you. GIVE IT A REST.
Seriously, Constantine. Just stop.
And now the third round of songs. This is what I like to call “the crap round.” It’s when the producers force the singers to perform their upcoming singles, and in case you’ve never seen this show before, the upcoming singles are always CRAP. I’m fairly sure they’re written by the same people who arrange musical revues at Six Flags. Here’s how the songs work: they start off quiet and intimate. Then, after we’ve had all the cheesy lyrics we can take, we bust into the chorus where the singer gets to hit a few high notes, all the while spewing inspirational observations about dreams and heaven and flying and wings and moments. Since that’s never enough, a gospel choir then marches in to provide “the power” behind the ballad, and just when everything seems to be reaching a climax, we suddenly — shhh!! — take it all the way back down again for one last intimate moment and then BAM! Back to the choir for the rah-rah-rah finale, emotional confetti falling all over the audience.
Before we even get to these craptastic songs, we must endure something even more painful: a commercial Garfield 2. Somebody put that kitty to sleep. Please. We then return and find Dan and Peisha McPhee talking about their daughter. They say how she was always singing growing up, and then Katharine tells us how when she was a kid, all she ever heard was talk about scales this and scales that. Finally, Peisha says that when it comes to singing, “I think it’s what she was born to do.” Yes, I’m sure she was born to sing. And you being a vocal coach had nothing to do with it whatsoever. Keep telling yourself that, PEISHA.
Anyway, Katharine takes the stage to sing her special piece of schmaltz, “My Destiny.” At first, it sounds decent, but soon she loses control. We head into Caterwaul Central as she strains to hit the high notes. Katharine’s biggest shortcoming is how rattled she becomes once she messes up. Everything goes to shit, and you can see it on her face. By the time the song is done, she seems to have lost most of her confidence, swallowing up the last few notes in her smile.
We then see Katharine’s “family and friends,” which apparently includes Tori Spelling. Kind of odd. Sort of like last year when Method Man showed up in Scott Savol’s “friend” section. Where is Scott Savol these days, anyway? Probably singing on some cruise liner in the Baltic.
Well, Randy tells Katharine, “You look amazing.” (Uh oh). He then says, “You sounded really good” and finishes with “I did not love the song.” Wow. I thought he was really going to bust her chops about the whole “not hitting notes” thing. Paula also bashes the song (c’mon, producers. Even the judges hate the original music), but she calls Katharine brilliant anyway. Simon says that over the course of one song, Katharine went from “brilliant to quite good.” He says that her voters better remember her second song. Yikes. Randy again reiterates that Katharine was better than the song, but it may be too little too late.
We then shift gears to Taylor, and we see a video of his dad talking about his son. And wait, there’s Taylor’s other dad. Or maybe it’s his uncle? Oh, never mind. It’s just Taylor. We learn that Taylor taught himself harmonica, which is pretty cool, and then it’s time for the “Silver Fox” to take the stage one last time and wow us with a completely generic, lame song. This one’s called “Do I Make You Proud?” and already, I can answer that with a “not really.”
Taylor begins singing, and within ten seconds, “Do I Make You Proud?” already sounds like five other different songs mixed together. It’s marginally better than “My Destiny,” but that’s not saying much. The lyrics are also simplistically earnest — so much so that I wonder if Alanis Morissette was possibly involved in writing the song.
Anyway, “Do I Make You Proud?” follows the structure of “My Destiny” almost to a tee. It’s sad and disturbing. The good news for Taylor is that he manages to make his song semi-bareable. Yes, he’s on again, and he’s able to bring all his charisma and soul to the otherwise dreary tune. He’s not perfect — he misses one high note towards the end — and he’s certainly not afraid to be annoying — during one long note, he shakes his head, causing his voice to undulate in volume. But overall, it’s a much better performance than Katharine’s. Oh well. He’ll win this. What can I say?
The audience erupts passionately with a standing ovation (to be fair, everyone gets a standing ovation in the Kodack Theater), and Taylor spastically yells, “SoulPatrolSoulPatrolSoulPatrolSoulPatrolSoulPatrol!!” We then see Elliot, and hey, what happened to all his wonderful stylists? He’s now wearing some nasty army shirt that makes him look like a homeless vet who crawled in from the streets (and believe me, there’s one or two of those guys who hang out just a block away from that theater).
Anyway, Randy tells Taylor that this is a slightly better song than Katharine’s, and “no matter what the song is, you know how to make it into a Taylor Hicks vehicle.” Paula then raves about how Taylor always brings all his riffs and whatnot to each performance, and Simon says, “assuming that I was right that the show was tied, then you just won American Idol.”
Taylor goes nuts. Mandy Moore goes nuts. The crowd goes nuts. EVERYONE goes nuts! It’s pure insanity, and Randy and Paula then gloat about how they were the ones who originally wanted Taylor in the competition and that Simon passed. “That’s show business,” Simon says with a huge grin. Doesn’t make much sense, but who cares, right?
We then watch a recap of the performances, and then the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Daniel Powter takes the stage to sing “Bad Day” live! OMG! How special!!!
Unfortunately, Daniel Powter seems a bit off his game because he just sits at his piano doing nothing while a montage of auditions plays silently in the background. Awwwwkward… We can faintly hear someone say “Go!” and finally he begins. Gosh. You finally get a chance to play on the big stage, and what do you do? YOU MESS IT UP. Oh well. Don’t fret too much. Just think of it this way: SO YOU HAD A BAD DAY.
Anyway, once Daniel Powter actually starts playing, he does a decent job, but I wind up enthralled in the montage and listening for who’s most popular. Elliot, Chris, and Ace garner the most shrieks from the audience. I find myself suddenly angered when the camera veers off the montage and onto Daniel Powter’s annoying face. Stop, FOX! Show us the montage!!
The song finally ends, and I take comfort in knowing this might be one of the last times I hear it on Idol (I hope). Well done, Daniel Powter. Now enjoy your descent back into obscurity.
Now, for the record, I just have to say this. I’ve never ever voted for an Idol contestant ever. I told myself that I would vote for Chris, but of course, the assumption in that pledge is quite obvious. Still, in the spirit of being a true Idol fan, I decided to vote tonight for McPhee. I know, I know. She really wasn’t that great. But I still believe that she has a career on MTV and the radio and all that fun stuff, and that’s what I care about really. Truth is that they’re all great singers, right? It’s more than singing. It’s about being an idol! Wow, I can’t even justify continuing on this little soapbox. I don’t really care that much who wins. But the point was that I decided to vote for McPhee. First I called 1-866-IDOLS 01. Busy. Then I called IDOLS 03. Busy. Then I called IDOLS 05. Busy. Then I tried the first one again. Busy. And then I stopped. Sorry, Kat. I tried, but you’re really not worth taking up any more of my minutes.
Be sure to check out the site tomorrow. Not only will we be doing a live-blog of the finale and not only will we have a recap up, but I’m going to bite the bullet and go to the official McPhee viewing party in Los Angeles (thanks for the hookup, Carla). It will probably be horrendous and ear-splitting, but the photo ops should be quite good. Plus, hey, I might wind up on Fox (unlikely).
So that wraps up tonight. What did you think about the show? Who had the best performance? Who had the best night? Who should win? Who will win?