I wouldn’t have actually have thought it would turn out this way, but somehow all the idols ended up picking out songs that not only fit in the genre of the 50s, but were also well-suited to them. Even the people I usually place low did great, but the problem is, the others did better as well, meaning it still just wasn’t enough for those on that bottom tier.
Randy Jackson said at the beginning of the night he expected the 50s theme to be easier than last week’s Stevie Wonder theme, simply because there isn’t as many runs. Paula Abdul says that with what and from whom she heard, and with who she knows is offering special help night, she expects it to be masterful. Ryan Seacrest notes to Simon Cowell that he saw him in the press this week, and that Simon had picked the three performers he thinks will be the final three (Chris, Taylor and Mandisa). Asked if it’s too early for that, Simon says no. He can spot good and bad performers, yet he doesn’t really answer Ryan when asked how the thinks that makes the other eight performers feel. Ryan also notes Simon was the only one of them that was alive fifty years ago.
The man offering special help tonight happens to be none other than Barry Manilow. Along with so many of his other hits, he has a new album out of the greatest songs of the 50s. Before he had any success at all, he worked in the background writing, doing backup, and playing the piano. American Idol’s vocal coach, Debra Byrd has worked with him for years. All the idols flew to Las Vegas to watch a Manilow performance, and have him work with them on this week’s performances. He tells them all that the clue to making these songs original is to find their own take on it. He says if his career ended suddenly tomorrow, this is what he would like to do – help other singers.
First up tonight is Mandisa. She had heard of Barry, but wasn’t really a fan of his music. However, she has a newfound respect for him after working with him. Paying back the respect, Barry tells Mandisa he is such a fan already. She is singing Dinah Washington’s I Don’t Hurt Anymore. She says Dinah didn’t originally do the song with a huge ending likes the one Barry created in this arrangement, while Barry says the big ending was more Mandisa’s idea, and not his, but says she was right. He adds she has “no range” – she can sing from the bottom to the top without any trouble. Barry also refers to Mandisa as one of a kind.
Anyone listening to Mandisa’s performance tonight knows Barry is right. She is a natural, and looks absolutely beautiful tonight. When she hits some glory notes, the crowd just roars. At the risk of sounding like Paula, she is truly a gift. Randy has to wait to start talking for the crowd to stop cheering. He finally works in that he’s a little speechless, but finds a way to say it was a classy, great, amazing way to start the night. He calls it unbelievable, and doesn’t know who is waiting in the wings, but says after that, they definitely have to bring it. Paula says it can be very difficult with these different genres every week, and to be able to be in the seat and escape. (Is it only me, or did this sentence not compute? I swear that’s what she said.) She felt, though, that she was back in the 50s, and refers to Mandisa as a flawless thoroughbred. Simon sees Mandisa blossoming, and says even apart from the vocal, it was a very sexy performance. He absolutely loved it.
Before Bucky Covington even starts, I know he’s in trouble, as nothing he could do would ever measure up to what Mandisa just did. He’s going to be singing Oh Boy by Buddy Holly, and calls it right up his alley. When he sings it for Barry, Barry finds it repetitive, and suggests he add some changes and “stuff.” At the end he finds it a joyful piece of music, and calls it the right choice for Bucky. Bucky finds Barry to be a great guy and phenomenal musician, and notes he was so happy to meet them.
Thankfully, Bucky has no fluffy hair tonight, but you can tell it’s much shorter than it was a few weeks back. This song fits him very well, and if heard not a few minutes after Mandisa, it would have sounded terrific. He ends it with an “Ace” falsetto. Randy calls it a great song choice, and says he liked the mike technique. He likes that the old Bucky hair is back. While isn’t not the best vocal, Randy calls it a perfect choice. Paula says as soon as Bucky started singing, she and Randy whispered to each other that it was a great choice. When she asks Bucky how it was to work with Barry, he says when you meet celebrities, you hope they’re going to be nice, but a lot o times they’re not. But Barry is 150% nicer than he would have thought. Paula says Barry worked well with Bucky.
Simon offers up one of his reality checks, and says the performance was nothing more than pointless karaoke. If you were watching for the first time, you’d say so what. Randy interjects it wasn’t that bad, and Simon agrees, but says again it was pointless. Ryan asks Simon if he thinks Bucky has the potential to grow enough to be there in the end, and Simon answers he can’t be worse than that, so obviously he can grow and do better. Somebody took their grouchy pill today. Randy again says he thought Bucky found the right song to give the best vocal. Paula says it wasn’t rangey, but she had fun.
Before Paris Bennett comes on, we get the treat of seeing Constantine Maroulis and Ryan Cabrera in the audience. Paris is singing Peggy Lee’s Fever, and points out the song was out thirty years before she was born. Barry says it’s a mature song for a 17-year-old to sing, but while Peggy was cool, Paris is hot. Paris doesn’t think he expected her to sing like that. Barry admits he had forgotten she was so young, but adds it’s because she has such depth and power in her voice. He thinks she’s amazing and that’s she’ll have an enormous career ahead of her. It’s too bad she couldn’t pay Barry a little due here, and could only talk about how he feels about her.
With this song, Paris should have been even more sexy than Mandisa, but she’s not, although she, of course, sounds great. Somehow she’s a little boring, and not as mesmerizing as Mandisa was. Randy says when Paris started, he didn’t know about it at all, but by the middle he remembered hearing her the first time. He believes she was out of the box through the rest of the song. Paula says it was so amazing she forgot Paris was just 17. She also thinks Paris looks phenomenal, along with having impeccable vocals. Simon says it’s what Paris does best, and that she has the perfect voice for that kind of song. When asked by Ryan how Barry helped her, Paris only says when she did the song in Hollywood, she sang a capella and was tired, but with the singers and band tonight, she feels like she’s in the 50s. Too bad she still couldn’t give Barry some respect of the help he offered her, only giving respect to the band and singers.
As soon as Chris Daughtry is announced, it elicits big screams from the audience. Helping Chris with the intro is 7-year-old Sammy, showing the ease of using Cingular Wireless to text vote. She says, though, that her favorite is Ace Young. Chris is singing Johnny Cash’s Walk the Line, which of course is very timely, going along with the recent movie. (Read my review of the movie Walk The Line) Chris feels the song was edgy for the time, and that the lyrics had a lot of relevance for him, as Johnny wrote it for his wife on how he would stay true during touring. Barry admits Chris knocked him out, as he’d never heard that rendition. Chris says working with Barry was great, as he only wanted to help them be current. (See Paris? That’s how you pay respect to someone offering their time to help you.) After hearing him, Barry says, “You don’t need me, Baby.”
This rendition of Chris’s is so awesome and different. And having just watched the movie this weekend, it makes me remember that Johnny Cash was a different performer as well, and refused to compromise who he was. Johnny had a unique way of always feeling his music, and I think Chris does as well. In reference to the audience, Randy says to Chris, “They love you, Dude!” He doesn’t know if it was Chris’s best vocal, but he thinks it’s cool that Chris has the ability to take a song everyone knows and put his own spin on it, and make it alternative. Chris knows who he is and doesn’t veer from it. Paula says there are a few she waits for each week, and with Chris she likes he stays true to who he is. She thinks Chris grows every week, and that right now he should be touring. The rest of us buying tickets.
Simon agrees with Randy that it wasn’t the best vocal, but id didn’t matter. He says there’s an enormous difference with what Chris did and what he hated about Bucky’s Oh Boy. He believes Chris is the first one on the show who has refused to compromise who he is. Chris admits he got a couple of lines screwed around while singing, but it’s funny that we don’t notice like we did with Melissa McGhee last week. Ryan says he noticed Constantine banging his head in the audience, and Ryan Cabrera too. Constantine admits to being a fan. Girls are screaming all over with this one.
Katharine McPhee turned on the news just this morning and saw Simon’s girlfriend, Terri, interviewing him, and talking about her, although getting her name wrong, calling her “McVee.” She says it was unbelievable to work with Barry. She had no idea how great he was until she worked with him, but now feels this is why he has had the career he’s had. Barry notes Katharine has chosen one of the greatest songs of all time, Come Rain Or Come Shine by Ella Fitzgerald. He tells her to pretend she’s singing it to someone, and she agrees to, saying she will have someone in her mind she’s singing it to, changing it up from angry love to sweet love.
Starting out with her back to the camera, Katharine does as promised. She sings it with a big smile, and she looks so happy to be in love here, making it her goal to be loved by this person. There is something in her performances, that always draw me in with her personality. Randy suggests she could own the Dawg Pound with that performance. It wasn’t his favorite, but he still found it really, really sexy. It was a really difficult song, but he feels she worked it out. Paula asks if there was a “but”, but Randy says no. Paula tells Katharine everyone loves her, and says it may be tough to tackle Ella, but only Katharine could pull if off. Paula thinks she’ll be a contender all the way through. Simon says something happened tonight. She turned into a star. He says it was like watching a real seasoned, great performer, and that the performance was in a special category. He loved it. Katharine tells Ryan she is put together with double stick tape, and is feeling free. TMI?
Taylor Hicks makes an entrance into his session with Barry, singing Mandy. He feels Barry isn’t just a singer, but also a performer, and he feels the same about his own music. Tonight Taylor is also doing Buddy Holly – Not Fade Away. Barry says Taylor has one of the best voice he’s ever heard, a whiskey tenor. He loves the song until the ending, and works with Taylor to put one together. He says again that Taylor is one of the best vocalists on the show. I like that Barry can appreciate voices that aren’t necessarily pure, but rich.
I like Taylor’s version even better than the original. He seems to be just having so much fun. He goes over and sings with the saxophone player at one point in the song. This makes me thing back to Bucky’s Buddy Holly song, as this song didn’t have a lot in it either, but Taylor found so much more to do with the lack of lyrics. He even runs along the catwalk. Randy recognizes that Taylor is having a blast, and says it may not be the most challenging, but he worked it out. Randy calls himself a big fan. Paula says the song was a number one or top ten, and everyone danced to it back in the day. She suggests someone should make an exercise video of Taylor’s performance. She thinks he looks fantastic in his blue suit and loves his confidence. He’s one of kind, and she thinks they broke the mold.
Simon does something real odd here, rubbing his manboobs, then adds a “sorry, but …” He says that if it was the first time you’d seen the show, and took this out of context, it would seem a mess, and a hideous party performance. Paula starts arguing, saying this is all because Simon doesn’t know how to dance, and Simon tells her she is talking rubbish. Ryan asks what happened to his happy family. Simon tries to explain to Paula that it’s not a dancing competition, and she says she and Randy have to check Simon for a medic alert bracelet because he doesn’t move. Did she get her writer back?
Lisa Tucker is determined not to be in the bottom three again, and says every night she just has to try to do her best, although she feels she has been. She calls this week great, but says the only song she knows of Barry’s is Mandy. Lisa was so excited the theme was 50s, and knew right away she wanted to sing Why Do Fools Fall In Love by Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers. Barry says that although there is four key changes in this song, Lisa sings it like she’s been doing it all her life. And in effect she has. He suggests she sing the opening an octave higher as the song starts too polite. He notes how musical Lisa is, and that she picks up the suggestions right away.
Interestingly enough, though, she doesn’t do the octave higher with the performance, and in effect is so boring. It makes me wonder if she thinks she is above Barry’s suggestions. Her outfit isn’t boring in beige capris, red shirt, turquoise jacket and red pumps. Randy calls it a good song choice, with as young and perky as Lisa is. It wasn’t “oh my God” and the dopest ever for him though. Paula likes that Lisa got back to her youthfulness. Although she’s 16, she’s a powerhouse, and has a big career ahead of her. Simon wants to know from Paula whether he should be judging this on Lisa’s singing or dancing. He felt a little trapped in a high school musical with the cutsey-ness of the song.
Barry says Kevin Covais is the sweetest of all of the idols. Tonight he’s doing When I Fall In Love by Nat King Cole, calling it fitting for him. He has yet to experience true love, but looks forward to it. Barry asks him to be more vulnerable, as he was belting the song. As soon as he said vulnerable, Kevin got it. Kevin says he has to make it personal and heartfelt, and says Barry showed him that.
Kevin starts out singing the song sitting on the stage very relaxed. This is the first time I have ever liked Kevin’s performance, yet I think he is more fitted for Broadway. As we see Jasmine Trias in the audience, Randy says this song is one of his favorite of all time. He feels Kevin did a pretty good job, and he can see himself and Kevin doing something together, and having Kevin in the Dawg Pound for real. Paula, who is extra giddy tonight, thinks it took courage to start singing ten feet away from Simon. She thinks he has more moxy than anyone, and tells Kevin people adore him. Simon says he likes Kevin because he takes criticism like a man. It wasn’t the best version of the song he has heard, but he likes that Kevin knows who his audience is, and that they will love him.
This is not a good sign. I was trying to think of who hadn’t sung yet, and could only count two more. I was forgetting about Elliott Yamin. Elliott then admits that before he met Barry, he wasn’t really a fan of his work, but by the end of their session together, and after watching him perform in Las Vegas, he became a true Barry Fanilow, noting he’s an awesome songwriter, and puts so much feeling into his songs, conveying the lyrics and becoming a storyteller. Tonight he’s singing the Al Jareau version of Teach Me Tonight. Barry tells him he has to stop just singing the words, and needs to crawl into the lyrics, and caress it for awhile. Elliott calls him a genius, having arranged songs for anybody who’s anybody.
Tonight Elliott does much better than the past few weeks. He’s getting back to what I liked originally about him, but I don’t know if I’ll remember him next week again. Randy told him he chose the toughest song to sing tonight, but that he worked it out. Paula, still extra giddy, says she has goosebumps and that Elliott moved her. She says so many people respond to him, and says he is needed in this competition. After exchanging barbs with Paula again, Simon says if he is judging the singing … fantastic.
When Kellie Pickler heard they were doing 50s music, she asked her Grandpa for suggestions, and he told her to do Patsy Cline, who she didn’t even know was from that era. She is singing Walkin’ After Midnight, and Barry says coming from Brooklyn, he’s never heard it, as he doesn’t know much about country. He also says Kellie is so young, she needed to be reminded what the song was about. Kellie now realizes it’s about her boyfriend or husband kicking her to the curb and being very lonely. Barry calls her a natural, and says she has a beautiful sound.
Right off the bat, I have to say Kellie is wearing too much makeup, making me wonder if she’s walkin’ street corners after midnight. It was, however, the perfect song choice for her. Randy agrees with my assessment (the song choice, not street corner look), and likes that the country pop girl is back. He likes her giving Simon a little wink, and it brings up the minx/mink conversation again, with Kellie saying she thought he was calling her a jacket, and “I was like, ‘I’m a coat?” Paula says she’s a tigress tonight, and that it was a true authentic Kellie Pickler performance. Kellie interrupts her to tell her she sees a pickle in the audience. Simon tells her she got it absolutely right, being bluesy and sexy. He offers her a welcome back. With Ryan she still can’t get over the pickle, as someone in the audience has a Kellie sign in the shape of a pickle.
7-year-old Sammy is brought out again by Ryan to introduce her favorite, Ace Young. He’s going to be singing In The Still of the Night, by the Five Satins, although he wants to make it more jazzy, being that he’s changing it from a group song to a solo. Barry says when he first heard that, he thought, “oh no,” but now thinks it’s a fine choice. He likes that Ace made it his own, and says he sings it great too. He suggests Ace sing in the end in his famous falsetto, as “we all love that.”
Ace was slightly pitchy with the first few notes, but all is forgiven when he brings it home. He puts every feeling he has into it. Not to mention the fact, that he … well, to use a term from the 50s … he is quite dreamy. Randy announces Ace is back. He likes that he took a classic and brought something fresh to it. Paula says she saw thirty-four sings for Ace that asked him to marry them. She thinks this was the sexiest, sultriest performance of the whole season. Simon says it wasn’t the best vocal of the night, but it doesn’t matter. He tells him he won’t be in the bottom three this week, as it was one of his stronger performances.
I don’t think he will be either. It’s hard to choose, though, as everyone did well, and where they were off was only with conviction. Going on that, it would seem three of the following four – Kevin, Bucky, Lisa, and Paris – will be in the bottom three. They sounded good, but were lacking … something. With three of them, they’re just too young to pull off some of these feelings. With Bucky, he just didn’t do enough with it like the others did.
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