Only three people are left on American Idol, and on tonight’s show, they each had to sing three songs — one picked by music legend/dinosaur Clive Davis, one picked by the judges, and one picked by their own brains. The result: a fairly entertaining show, which some great moments (the return of McPheever!) and some not so great moments (hey, where did that McPheever go?). But all in all, it was the judges who really stole the show. They were at their kookiest tonight. Maybe they had done a pre-show cocktail hour or maybe everyone broke into Paula’s medicine chest. Either way, it was a little bananas tonight — which is all we can ever really ask for from Fox.The show begins on a hairy note: Ryan’s beard is back. No, not Terri Hatcher (ah, I could make that joke every week. And I think I have). I mean he’s actually grown his facial hair again, and no, Ryan, three times is not the charm. Once again, he looks like a pre-pubescent fool, but at least he’s got a sharp suit on. It’s a dark black, as opposed to his usual gray outfits that he’s accustomed to wearing. He was wearing gray so much, I was starting to wonder if he frequents gray clubs on the weekends. Probably.
We then see the opening credits, and afterwards, we have our first celebrity sighting: Roseanne! Seriously? Is that the best we can do? The penultimate performance show, and we can’t get a better celebrity than Roseanne? X3 is coming out. Where the hell is Halle Berry? She should be in the audience, clapping away, possibly crying.
Ryan then reminds the audience that Chris is no longer on the show, causing boos all around. Hey, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. The very, very unfair cookie. Ryan then says, “We’ve come a long way since the first auditions last summer, and these three have been inseparable.” Oh, surely he’s talking about Katharine, Taylor, and Elliot. Nope! “Always at each other’s throats, that is. Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon,” Ryan says. HILARIOUS fakeout! Well played, Seacrest!
After Ryan explains that each contestant will have three songs and three phone number tonight, we then move onto the obligatory Clive Davis bio. We learn of all the amazing musicians he’s signed such as Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, and… Kenny G? C’mon. We could have left him out of the montage. We also learn (as we do every year) that he was the one who discovered the one and only Whitney Houston. (Maybe he can help her discover a rehab facility. Boo-ya! Gotcha Whitney!) Hey, I wonder how Clive found Whitney anyway. I’m sure his recording artist DIONNE WARWICK had nothing to do with it.
Anyway, Elliot is up first tonight. Clive has picked “Open Arms” by Journey for him. We then cut to an awkward video of the two sitting in chairs facing each other. Clive has a bright blue shirt on. Elliot has a dumb hat on. It’s all fairly awful. Clive tells us that he picked “Open Arms” because Elliot really hasn’t done any rock songs before. Uh, does “Open Arms” really qualify as a rock song? It’s more of a ballad than anything else. I won’t question Clive, though. He’s earned a few million more than me in the music industry.
This is awkward.
The meeting ends with Elliot saying he’s “looking forward to working on some projects with you in the very near future.” A bit presumptuous, yes? Last I checked, Clive hadn’t offered a record deal. That’s like me taking one of my scripts to Spielberg and saying, “So anyway, looking forward to making this with you.” (And yes, I understand that Clive may have offered him something off camera. Gosh, can’t I just have my joke??).
Elliot then takes the stage, and MAN does this Journey song rock… in a slow, easy-listening sort of way. Elliot actually does a pretty good job, I think, and I realize that it really is very lovely when trolls sing ballads. After the song ends, we catch another celebrity cameo. This time it’s hard-hitting journalist, Leeza Gibbons. The A-List has come out tonight!
Anyway, Randy gives Elliot mixed reviews. “You kind of worked it out,” he says. Uh, I think that’s good. Paula, meanwhile, says, “Elliot, you are in excellent voice tonight.” I didn’t realize “voice” was a state one could be in, but I guess anything’s possible in PaulaBabble. Simon says it wasn’t great and that Elliot should loosen up. He’s too stiff. He’s gotta believe he can be in the finals. It’s a surprisingly inspirational comments from Mr. Cowell. Who knows if it will work though.
Next is Katharine, who has to sing, “I Believe I Can Fly.” This song pops up every season, it seems, and for whatever reason, the judges always praise it as being some wonderful piece of art. It’s not. This song sucks. I’ve always felt like it’s sucked. And when I hear that people are going to sing it, I cringe. A) Because I hate the song; and B) because no one seems able to really sing it that well. I guess Anwar was pretty good at it last season, but that’s neither here nor there.
Anyway, in her sit-down with Clive Davis, Kat seems wanting to spread the McPheever, what with her legs crossed and everything, but all attempts at seduction are thwarted by the general look of disdain she gets when she learns she must sing this song. I don’t blame her. R&B is not her thing.
“So Mr. Davis. Do I McTurn You On?”
Sure enough, the McPheever is nowhere to be found. Kat seems off again — both in terms of pitch and tempo. What the hell happened to her confidence the past few weeks? I don’t get it. She seemed to be so great in the middle of the season, and now she’s got a bad case of Pickler-itis. Well, Kat tries her best to wail through the song, but she misses a few notes and seems generally deflated by her own performance. Randy says, “Let me start off by saying you look amazing.” Now THAT’S a bad sign. Whenever anyone cribs a signature line from Paula, it’s can only mean bad things.
Well, Randy doesn’t like the performance, and as for Paula, she also heads to the sartorial well first. “Katharine, that color for you is gorgeous,” she says. Too bad she’s not a contestant on Pretty Idol instead. Paula then tries to break the news that Katharine sucked. “I… this is difficult,” she says. And now, I don’t think she was referring to the act of forming a coherent sentence. Luckily, an audience member helps Paula out by yelling, “She’s incredible!” Relieved to no longer needing to tax her brain, Paula agrees and says Katharine’s incredible. McPhee should let sleeping (and Vicodin-hazed) dogs lie, but she can’t help talking.
“You guys are hard on me these last couple of weeks,” Katharine says . Yeah, well, your singing has been hard on our hearing these past couple of weeks too. It goes both ways, Ms. Entitlement. Wow. I just sassed her.
Paula tries to speak to this comment by stuttering out some sounds, but eventually she tosses to Randy to help bail her out. He says it’s a case of bad song choice, but Katharine has a fresh little McComeback: she didn’t pick the song! Lesson number one of the recording industry: don’t dog Clive Davis on national TV.
Anyway, Simon chimes in with his critique, and he says that Randy’s been unfair. He says that Katharine created a bit of a moment for herself. This causes the audience to applaud wildly, and Katharine exhales with relief. For a few seconds there, it looked like curtains…
Ryan then hops on the stage, and in quite a bold move, he says that Randy was being disrespectful to Clive by questioning his song choice. Oh wow. Talk about disrespecting. Ryan just put Randy on blast, as they say. Of course, Simon jumps on the bandwagon and agrees with Ryan, and Randy tries to defend himself by saying Katharine just needs to stick to the melody. It’s not the song per se, just her interpretation of it. Too late, Jackson. Seacrest made you look like a fool. You’ll have to live with that embarrassment for quite a while.
Next, it’s Taylor. Clive picks “Dancing in the Dark” for him, which is a pretty apt song. No, not because it’s Springsteen. It’s because that’s the way Taylor’s dancing should be: cloaked in darkness so no one has to see it. Anyway, we learn that Clive had to put in a special call to Bruce to get permission for this song. In fact, this is the first time The Boss has let one of his songs be performed and/or butchered on Idol. So, uh, Taylor — no pressure, buddy!
Yes, Taylor. Pet the Clive.
The meeting ends with Taylor awkwardly patting Clive’s arm, and then it’s time for the song. It’s an okay performance. Not great. It could be vastly improved if Taylor were to dance like Bruce and sway his arms and hips back and forth (the only appropriate dance for this song). Alas, he doesn’t do that, but he does pay homage to Courtney Cox by pulling Paula onto the stage and dancing with her. She absolutely loves it, but then again, she also probably thinks she’s performing for a bunch of Care Bears and jellybeans.
When the song ends, randy says that Taylor definitely knows how to have a good time. Paula says something about wishing she had double-stick tape, which makes me realize just how close we must have been to a wardrobe malfunction. Simon says the performance was okay, but paled by comparison to the original. Well, yeah. (Imagine me pantomiming scales) Bruce Springsteen (high near my shoulder), Taylor Hicks (low by my waist).
Randy then notes that it was a “great song choice!” Oh, too late, my friend. You’re dead to Clive. DEAD! Simon also gives some props to Paula, saying, “Paula, for your age, you were fantastic.” I expect her to nudge him and get angry, but instead, she breaks out into laughter and tries to bite his neck. Someone get the tranquilizers.
Round two! Judges pick!
We come back from commercial and find Paula sitting on Ryan’s lap at the judge’s table. I don’t know why either. Making things stranger is that two camera men suddenly walk into the shot and hover above the two as if they have a really burning question. Their presence goes unexplained, and we cut to a video of Elliot in his hometown of Richmond, VA. The mayor of the city tells everyone “I just got a private fax from Paula Abdul!” And in a major TVgasm coup, we have a copy of that very fax:
Anyway, Paula’s song choice for Elliot is “What You Won’t Do For Love,” which I think is actually quite the inspired selection. Seal clap for Paula! We then return to the live show as Ryan asks Ms. Abdul why she chose that song. Before she can get two words out, she suddenly lurches forward and seethes, “Stop it, SIMON!” Ryan reprimands Simon in that “I think he’s joking, but I sort of think maybe he’s not” way, and then Paula returns to her explanation. Sadly, all this stimulation has caused her to babble; so Ryan asks again. She then states it’s because Elliot is “the funky white boy who has soul, has rhythm can get into this song.” Ryan then gets all condescending and acts like she’s bonkers (which she is, but it’s one thing for me to say it and another for Ryan to). Paula’s face drops, and she looks pissed off. Greetings, mood swing! Glad to have you!
Note where Simon’s arm is…
Elliot then bounds onto the stage, and for the first time ever, I think he actually looks pretty good — like a real pop star. Unfortunately, even though I quite enjoy this song in general, Elliot’s performance is a bit lackluster. Randy calls it sharp, Paula says that he pierces the heart (which could still mean sharp, I suppose), and Simon says that the style worked well and that it was a pretty good performance.
Next is Katharine, and at her homecoming celebration (which I have to admit, I drove by right when it was going on. If only I had known! If only! I was right there!) Mayor Villaraigosa of Los Angeles reveals that Simon has chosen “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Ooh. Good choice for her. Simon then tells Ryan that this should be the absolute perfect song for Katharine.
Sure enough, Simon is right. He is crazy right. As she sings the first few notes, we can immediately tell that the McPheever is back, baby! You can always tell right away. She has total control of the stage, the camera, her voice — everything. There’s something about her — when she sits on a stage, she does much better. Might make her concerts somewhat dull though.
McPheever on the McFloor!
Anyway, the song is truly McAmazing, and the McPheever is back in full force. Randy gushes, “FINALLY! FINALLY! This is what I’ve been waiting for! This is the best vocal of the season!”
Paula rises to her feet and say, “I applaud you. Soak in this moment.” She then says that when Katharine doesn’t go overboard, she’s amazing. Hate to say this, but I agree with Paula.
Simon then says, “That was the single best performance of the competition to date.” I don’t know if he means just for this year or all the seasons, but I kind of think he meant the latter — which is a huge compliment. Enough to make people forget about the earlier R. Kelly abomination? Don’t know. Either way, Daddy McPhee is crying and pumping his fist as if to say, “Nailed it!” Aw, McLove.
Next is Taylor, and before he even gets on stage he’s swaying in the wings. Why are you swaying? THERE’S NO MUSIC! We then return from commercial and travel down to Alabama where Governor Bob Riley, who reads a fax from Randy. “Yo, Governor Riley. You are an official member of the Dawg Pound,” Riley reads. As if the Dawg Pound couldn’t suck any more. Now it features an old white guy with a wife named Patsy. Worst Dawg EVER.
Anyway, Taylor’s song is “You Are So Beautiful,” and believe it or not, he manages to sing it remarkably well with only a minimum of twitching and swaying. It’s a strong performance, but I’ll be honest — I zoned out midway through. Still, the judges love it. Randy says he did the song proud. Paula says he’s a star. And Simon says, “For me, that was so far and away your best performance so far.”
Round three! Singers’ choice!
I’m sort of dreading this round, only because all season long, nearly all the idols have picked terrible songs. Yes, each of them have had moments of glory, but who — week after week — has really been smart and savvy with the song choice? Anyway, Elliot kicks things off with “I Believe to My Soul” by Ray Charles. And to avoid any Chris Daughtry/Johnny Cash/Live controversy, Elliot notes that he’ll be doing the Donnie Hathaway version. He LOVES Donnie Hathaway.
It’s a fun song. Not excellent, but enjoyable enough. Elliot even slips his own name into the lyrics, singing, “Well, you know my name is Elliot Yamin.” Oddly enough, this doesn’t really bring the audience reaction that I expect. I guess everyone else is as bored with Donnie Hathaway as I am.
After the performance, we see the next huge star in the audience: Zac Efron, from Disney Channel sensation, High School Musical. A million little girls just fainted in front of the TV. Anyway, Randy says it’s not the perfect song but that there’s no doubt that Elliot can sing. Paula says that nobody can sing songs like that. And Simon, well, he coughs into his mic. It sounds like a beatbox and a cannon all at once. The poor audience is probably deaf by now. He then says, “Elliot, your songs are not going to carry you through to next week. That’s the problem. However, you are a great guy. You are a great singer. And whatever happens, you will make your mum very happy for what you’ve achieved in this competition.” Aww. That was nice. It was sort of Simon’s way of saying, “Smell ya later!”
Katharine takes the stage next and sings “I Ain’t Got Nothing But The Blues.” She says she doesn’t want to be compared to anyone in the industry (yeah, Ella Fitzgerald is a real nobody), and I can’t help thinking that she just PA’d the judges (passive aggressive’d, that is). Anyway, the song begins, and it seems like the McPheever is back yet again. Not super strong like the last song, but strong enough where I feel like it’s a solid rendition. I think what I like about her is that she seems to not just sing, but perform too. However, that’s clearly not enough. Randy says it’s okay. Paula says she did a great job — but she’s not crazy about it — and Simon says it’s okay also. Hey, it’s hard to follow “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but this performance deserved a few more kudos. Or at least, that’s what I thought. Oh well. No use crying over spilt McMilk.
Lastly, Taylor takes the stage to sing “Try A Little Tenderness.” It’s good, but again, I’m just not a Taylor person. He gets all hyperactive at the end, and we’re supposed to believe that his mania is supposed to qualify as talent. Then again, I totally appreciate how he throws himself (quite literally) into a song and how that energy is contagious, especially in a live venue. Dammit! I can’t bash Taylor as much as I want to. What is this world coming to?
Randy says he has a new name for Taylor: “Have A Good Time Funky Taylor.” Uh, kind of clunky, Randy. Can’t you do any better? Like maybe “Good Time Hicks” or “Mr. Epilepsy” or “Count Funk-ula?” That last one’s a stretch — I know.
Paula then gushes that she’s been waiting all season for him to sing that song. She even wanted to pick it for him, but he had already chosen it for himself. What a coinky-dink! Simon then says the ending was hideous but… “I’ll see you next Tuesday.”
This leads to Taylor screaming “Soul Patrol! Soul Patrol! Soul Patrol!” over and over again. STOP. ENOUGH. WE GET IT.
And that’s how the show ended. Nine songs of varying quality. Taylor seemed to have two rave-worthy performances and one okay one. Katharine had one excellent showing, one okay showing, and one not so great showing. And Elliot kept an even keel — pretty good performances across the board. Based on that, Taylor seems like a lock (but then again, so was Chris). Do the voters go for the uneven singer with flashes of pure brilliance? Or do they pick the guy who’s not excellent, but always reliably good? I think Elliot’s going to go home, but you can never underestimate all the people who are bitter at Katharine over Chris. I guess we’ll just have to tune in to find out!
What do you think? Who was the best? Who was the worst? Who should go home? Who WILL go home?