I’ll admit, like most of us, when I heard the theme for American Idol this week was Queen, I had my reservations, to say the least. But somehow, I found that it worked, and certainly worked better than the country genre did last week. And, I must admit, I couldn’t help but wonder how Mandisa would have done.
The Idols were treated to seeing Queen during an exclusive performance. After the tragic death of Freddie mercury in 1991, the band now consists of original members Brian May and Roger Taylor, and lead vocalist Paul Rogers from Bad Company. As with the guest artists from the past few weeks, Queen worked with the Idols on their song choices. There’s actually an Idol connection with Queen as well, as director Bruce Gowers was responsible for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody video.
First up tonight is Bucky Covington, who thinks Queen is a “great bunch of guys.” He can just picture them walking into a bar in Rockingham. As he practices Fat Bottom Girls, in front of an audience that consists of members of Queen and the other Idols, he offers them some backstage passes to his “show.” Performing tonight, Bucky is decked out in black leather, and I’m kind of diggin’ him on this song. I think it fits his raspy voice, and he even fits in a few Bo Bice-like moves at the end.
Randy Jackson believes it’s a cool way to start the show. He thinks Bucky was a little pitchy, but he loved his energy, and felt like he was at a “Bucky” concert. Paula Abdul calls it all very interesting, as Bucky was able to stay true to who he is. She likes how he made Fat Bottom Girls somehow into a country song. Simon Cowell calls it a good choice of song, but also thinks the song was bigger than Bucky. Overall, he finds it mediocre. Bucky says something to Ryan Seacrest, and I’m not so sure what it means, “Playing Freddie Mercury, ain’t nobody to jump up behind, but you have to take what you’re given.” I think he’s trying to say Freddie Mercury is a hard act to follow.
Ace Young tells Ryan the intensity surrounding the Idols is increasing every week. Tonight he’s reaching outside of his comfort zone, and is going to rock it out with We Will Rock You. With Queen songs, Ace thinks you need to not just hear it, but feel it. He’d like to put his own flavor into the song, but Brian May is none too happy with the changes, and flat out refuses. They eventually reach a compromise.
With Ace in black leather pans and a striped shirt, he looks hot, and I think I like Ace doing rock, although my teenage son thinks Ace looks a little like Jesus when he sings with his arms outstretched. That would be the same son that poured water onto my keyboard tonight and decided not to tell me and to just go to bed. Umm, it’s kind of a necessary tool for a writer. Thankfully, I had an old crappy backup, but I will have to buy a new keyboard in the next day or two unless the other one springs to life when it is fully dry. If anyone has suggestions on how to make my son pay me back for the keyboard, I’ll gladly listen.
Not only did we see Fantasia in the audience at the beginning of show, we also see Mickey Dolenz. I know two big fans of the Monkees – Stef and Greg – will be as excited as I am to see him. Randy says when he heard Ace was doing a big song like this, he was worried. And after hearing it, he’s only giving him a 5 or a 6. Even Paula says she can understand why Brian May didn’t want his song bastardized. She liked the tribute to the original by Ace in the beginning, and how he changed the arrangement a little. She also likes that he recognizes that it’s the time in the competition to take a risk. Simon is less enthused to say the least. He calls it a complete and utter mess and refers to it as “We Will Rock You Gently.” Regardless, Ace still thinks he rocked, and says he had fun. He may end up paying for his lack of humbleness in the votes.
Kellie Pickler says she used to hear Queen a lot as a little girl, as her dad played it a lot. Gee, that has to make the members of Queen feel great! She’s singing Bohemian Rhapsody, and recognizes she has big shoes to fill, the same thing she said during her audition when she sang Kelly Clarkson. Queen thinks she does a good job, and so do I, for the most part. I find it fails, though, in comparison to Constantine Maroulis’ version last season. He had so much more feeling into it. Kellie is also dressed in black leather, and adds knee-high black high-heeled boots to the look.
Like with Ace, Randy wasn’t so sure about this choice of Kellie’s but hearing it now, he thinks she worked it out, and he loves her fly jacket. Paula calls the song ambitious, and says she was nervous about Kellie singing it too. She found Kellie a little hesitant at first, but thinks she showed the rocker chick she is. Simon calls Kellie a brave girl, and thinks she looked like “Night Of The Living Dead.” He agrees with Paula and Randy that on paper, it sounds like it wouldn’t work, but somehow it did. Kellie says, “Paper? Huh?” and says Simon has the weirdest terminology. Kellie also blames Simon’s accent, to which he says, “Likewise.” She doesn’t believe she has an accent, though. And hey, Youse Guys, I don’t think I have a Chicago accent either.
Just like with Kellie and Bucky in their own genre of country last week, Chris Daughtry needs to bring it this week. He chooses to sing Innuendo, which Queen has never done live. Watching him practice, Brian May says he’s moved, and that his daughter thinks Chris is awesome, and he agrees, believing Chris has a great rock sensibility. Singing it live tonight, it’s definitely Classic Chris, and Cathryn Mannheim in the audience seems to agree. He continues to sound like he’s been doing this for years.
Scaring everyone, Randy says he’s been one of Chris’ fans since day one, and really expected him to bring it tonight, but … Chris didn’t … disappoint. Is he going for Ryan Seacrest-like suspense here? Paula likes Chris’ high C last note, and thinks the reason Queen has never done this song live, was for fear of not doing it justice like Chris just did. She advises him to look back at the clips that were played of Queen’s admiration of him. Simon believes the reason the song has never been done before is that it’s not a good song. However he sees this as the most believable vocal so far, if not also a little indulgent. He thinks Chris could’ve picked a different song and had a real moment with the audience.
Katharine McPhee originally wanted to run around the stage and sing Don’t Stop Me Now, but changed her mind to instead go with Who Wants To Live Forever, from the movie Highlander. She scratched the uptempo song to instead showcase vocals and the lyrics of the other. As Ryan’s introducing Katharine, he’s sitting with her mother, and notes how much she’s shaking as he touches her hand. There’s no reason for her nerves, as Katharine does quite well, although she shows a rare moment of being off with her pitch. Rock ballads suit her, as does the red satin shirt, and black pants she’s wearing.
Randy calls the song switch a good one. He compares it to Broadway, and thinks Katharine was in her element, though a little pitchy. Paula says she loves it when artists recognize the need to change it up, and thinks it was the right decision. She likes how Katharine was able to stand and be glorious in her song, comparing her to Celine and Barbra (no last names are needed there, right?) Simon calls this almost the moment, but notes the tuning problems. He tells Katharine to thank the director and lighting director for making her look amazing. Simon thinks she was one of the strongest tonight. As Ryan greets Katharine on the stage, he shares with her some of her mom’s sweat from her hand. Nice.
Elliott Yamin isn’t wearing black, he’s wearing taupe. Ryan asks him about the different jobs he’s held, and Elliott cites fast food, and the corporate world. Somehow I can’t picture that. Ryan says he heard Elliott used to be in radio, and he admits to a weekend graveyard shift. With Ryan’s urging, he announces his own song with his old radio name, referring to himself as “E Double on your box.” He’s going to sing Somebody To Love tonight, and admits to never hearing it before. What kind of music was E Double playing? Brian May refers to it as kind of a gospel song and one of the hardest songs of theirs. Elliott says it’s ironic he was told it was written with the Queen of Soul in mind, as he likes her a lot. Weird editing going on here, as we were never told it was written with Aretha Franklin, as that’s the only Queen of Soul I know. Did I hear that right? Were they discussing Aretha?
Seeming to finally be listening to the advice, Elliott seems to really feel the song. He’s totally into it until the end, when he goes back to the old Elliott, that just sings with lots of vibrato. Randy says he was looking forward to Elliott singing this because he has a similar vibrato to Freddie Mercury’s. He agrees that it’s arguably the hardest song to sing tonight. He also heard a little pitchiness. Paula calls it the best vocal, and notes Elliott did all the best parts of this song in just the 1:20 minutes he was given. She thinks this is the best Elliott performance so far. Simon also agrees it’s a tough song, and believes like Randy, that Elliott was in and out of pitch, but thinks overall he pulled it off.
Taylor Hicks also made a song switch. He started off with We Are The Champions, and while he was rehearsing it, Queen said he had a very good voice, an instrument with good quality. He changes it to Crazy Little Thing Called Love, because he likes the energy, and more than that, he gets to dance. The energy is definitely there tonight, and leads to a funny moment that only Taylor could pull off. He goes to kick the microphone stand down at the beginning of the chorus, and misses it, making him fall backward and have to retry. He catches up to where he left in the song, and even goes out to the catwalk to dance. Wearing a silver jacket that “The Son” thinks matches Taylor’s hair, he’s back to the Taylor we know and love.
Randy says the last two weeks he was wondering where Taylor was. But now, Taylor’s back, and he’s kicking. I don’t think Randy meant the pun there. Paula says she’s heard this song so many times, but this was still refreshing, and authentic Taylor. She’s not sure if they should give him a record deal or strait jacket. Simon asks point blank if Taylor is drunk, and then calls it ridiculous. I think Simon missed the boos he didn’t get last week. As Ryan is trying to give his number, Taylor is so pumped, he’s yelling out, “Idols 0-7, Baby.” Randy just thinks Simon is drunk, and Ryan asks the rest of us to be the judge. Odd, that he has said that twice now to Taylor, and never to Paula.
Rounding out the night is Paris Bennett. Listening to her rehearse The Show Must Go On, Brian May says, “The thing about Paris is she’s damn good!” Paris says the reaction she got from Queen will be the highlight of her life with American Idol. I would think it would be the highlight of her first seventeen years, but that’s me. If they hadn’t told me it was Paris standing on the stage tonight, I wouldn’t have known. Gone is the sweet innocent little girl. She’s in black leather, and it looks like she borrowed Kellie’s boots. The Son dug it … a lot. She looks so much different, it’s hard to hear the song and concentrate on if she’s doing well or not.
The judges comments are all short and sweet, so we must be running short on time. Randy says he knew the song choice would be tough, and it was in the beginning, but he thinks Paris worked it out in the end. Paula says now the whole country, along with every rock group, knows the powerhouse Paris really is. Simon says simply, “I found it all a little weird.” Okay, so Simon was just short, not sweet.
It’s really hard to tell how the votes will go tonight. I think those with a definitive fan base will be safe. Those that go back and forth won’t be. Chris, Taylor, and Kellie are all safe. But the other five aren’t. Elliott should be safe, as he did better than he has in weeks, but it might not be enough. He has a hard time connecting to the songs, and Paris has a hard time connecting to the audience, even though the judges and Queen give her raves. I think it will be Elliott and Paris in the bottom three, along with either Ace or Bucky. There’s a slim chance Katharine will be thrown in there instead of Paris, but with only three girls left, I think only one of them will be in the bottom three. Make sure your VCRs are set right tomorrow. The show is a whole hour long. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to bring my keyboard back to life.
Read more about American Idol here LauraBelle’s Blog
Comments on American Idol? You can email me at LauraBelle@realityshack.com