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Freelance entertainment writer, martial arts instructor, and mother of two.

American Idol 5, 05-09-06 – Elvis Is In The Building


by LauraBelle

After a couple of slow theme weeks, followed by dual themes last week that were way too open, the news that this was to be Elvis Night was much more welcome. It sounded fun – it has songs we all know, and it’s not as loose of a theme. The night ended up being perhaps even better than expected.

The remaining four Idols boarded a private jet to visit Elvis’s home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee. Since his death, Graceland has become a shine for Elvis’ career. There to greet the Idols was Elvis’ ex-wife Priscilla, looking a little on the rough side, I’ll add. To help the Idols with their song choices this week, was music producer Tommy Mottola, Maria Carey’s ex. Priscilla thinks American Idol would be one of Elvis’ favorite shows, if he was still alive. Are we trying to revive that old rumor? Mottola thinks this week’s American Idol could end up being the greatest show so far because of how personal each song is, and how for each individual artist takes the song.

Taylor Hicks starts out the evening with Jailhouse Rock from 1957. Hearing what the theme was going to be, his first thought was now he was going to have some fun. That’s funny; that was our thought too. He’s going to get to fit in dancing into the performances and “the whole nine yards.” Mottola convinces Taylor to move the key of the song up a little, saying it’s more like the Elvis version, and it really drives home the vocal. He thinks Taylor will do well with this, and we will see his real entertaining qualities.

Starting the song from out in the audience, I can only think that this was meant to be. It seems like the perfect match; Taylor Hicks meets Elvis Presley. And, of course, it’s impossible not to compare this performance to that of JPL in season three. Taylor doesn’t screw up the words like JPL did, and his dancing seems much more controlled than JPL’s. Wow, that’s weird, to think of Taylor being controlled. Randy Jackson thinks Taylor is in his element, and says it felt good. He tells him it was a “Good job, Baby.” Paula Abdul tells Taylor he looks fantastic, and says he’s as original as ever and phenomenal.

Simon Cowell asks the other two judges for a favor. He would like them to agree that with four people left, it’s time to get real. After they agree, Simon says in the real world, Taylor’s performance is a terrible impersonation of Elvis. He believes the dancing was hideous. When Paula tries to defend Taylor, Simon tells her to shut up. He just seeks it as karaoke with a capital K. Ryan Seacrest wants to know if Simon has ever lived in the real world, with the staff he has at his house, the staff at the show, his Rolls Royce, etc. He says that’s hardly the real world. I have to agree with that.

You can tell Paris Bennett was voted out last week, as now other Idols get to sit and chat with Ryan before their performance. He asks Chris Daughtry about his fan clubs, and he says there’s the Daughtry Gang, Chris’s Crew, Chrsoholics, etc. He’s received gifts of junk food, a belt buckle, a watch, stuffed animals, letters of encouragement, cologne, sunscreen for his head, etc. He does want to settle the debate among his fans, and says the answer is boxer briefs. Ryan, feigning uncomfortableness, gets up and leaves.

Chris is singing my all-time favorite Elvis tune, Suspicious Minds from 1969. Not so coincidentally, it’s also Chris’s favorite. He thought working with Tommy Mottola was excellent, and calls him a really genuine guy who gives heartfelt sincere comments. Mottola tells Chris this is easy for him vocally, so he wants him to really dig in to really get the song. What he loves about Chris is his vocal sound. He thinks it’s incredible, and says he is going to be amazing on record. This is high remarks coming from a music producer.

Onstage to sing, Chris is wearing sunglasses, looking a little bit like old Elvis, without the white jumpsuit. He doesn’t sound like he’s pushing the vocal like what Motolla asked for, but he still sounds great. At one point in the song, he takes off the sunglasses and winks at the camera, making girls across American swoon. Randy calls it a nice tender moment from his Dawg, Chris, although he doesn’t think it is one of his best vocals. Paula says you forget how great a song that really is until you hear Chris Daughtry singing it. She tells him she’ll see him in the finals. Simon adds that sunglasses aside, the performance worked.

Elliott Yamin has chosen an Elvis song I don’t recognize, 1968′s I Can Dream. he says it’s another way to show America his “Love Me Tender” side. He’s still learning his lyrics, and says Mottola definitely recognized that, as Mottola tells him he needs a lot of practice, as he doesn’t want it to sound like a Bar Mitzvah song. He says Elliott is really going to have to learn it to pull it off.

I don’t know if it’s the song itself, or the way Elliott is singing it, but I can’t imagine Elvis ever singing it. This is especially true when he adds in that heavy vibrato of his. Still, there is no question this guy has talent. At the end he begins belting it out, and sounds terrific. Randy says he wasn’t so sure when he heard Elliott was going to do this song, but now he thinks he laid it out, and made it his own. Paula says Simon told her Elvis closed his shows with this song, and now, she thinks this is the best vocal performance Elliott has done this season. Simon notes that Elliott came into this week as the underdog, and chose a song not many people are going to know (glad it’s not just me), and yet, he believes it’s the best performance so far. Ryan notes how much Elliott has evolved in the competition. As for the old Elliott, the new Elliott says he’s history.

Katharine McPhee picks a unique arrangement for her first performance. She does a mix of Hound Dog from 1956 and All Shook Up from 1957. Motolla says the Hound Dog part is going to be hard to pull off, because it’s a signature song for Elvis. However, he’s impressed with Katharine, saying she was so much better a singer than he has ever heard on American Idol. He thinks her vocals are incredible, and notes her fluid style and incredible range. He says she would really score big with him, and I can only imagine he means if he did a record with her.

Just as Randy was nervous for Elliott, I’m a little nervous for Katharine. She doesn’t usually do faster songs very well. To use a Randy quote, she works it out tonight, though. That is, except for the part where she forgot her lyrics, and turned around in the hopes no one would notice. It’s nice to see Nikko Smith out in the audience. Randy tells Katharine he knows she had a good time with it, and says it was fun, but he needs to know what happened in the middle. She acknowledges she forgot her lyrics, and turned around, prompting Paula to say it was okay because she worked the choreography to cover it. She just liked seeing her having fun and dancing. Simon says the performance reminded him of auditions that are held for theatrical production. He feels it was a desperate manic audition. When he gets booed, he begs for them to let him finish. He just felt it was shrieky, and says to be fair, this will always be tough for Katharine. Ryan asks how Katharine feels being in the boys club with the three guys with an Elvis theme. She admits to being nervous, but says she had a lot of fun. Just as Taylor shouts out “Soul Patrol! , Katharine shouts out, “McPhans!’ Somehow it’s not the same.

Before his second song, Taylor gets to sit down and talk to Ryan about the visit to Graceland. He sys they toured the grounds on a “magical carpet ride” with Lisa Marie. They went through a pasture, and decided to go down to a gate. Taylor told Lisa to floor it, and she did. They took off down the road and had press following them. Ryan asks if the rumors are true that Taylor asked Lisa Marie for a date. He laughs it off. That would be quite the pair, although if I were a guy, I’m not sure if I would want to date Michael Jackson’s leftovers.

Taylor says he’s always wanted to sing 1969′s In The Ghetto, seeing it as one of the most soulful numbers that Elvis ever did. When he sings it for Mottola, he tells Taylor it was very impressive. He believes that unlike most of his performances, he should try to lock that one out and block it. Taylor says Mottola told him to feel it from his heart and leave the dancing out of it. When he does, Mottola says Taylor actually gave it a very personal rendition, and says it’ very impressive. He thinks this will be one of Taylor’s best performances.

As a much subdued Taylor sits on the stage singing tonight, I can only think how amazing he is. He even manages to work in a great falsetto. Randy wants to offer some constructive criticism, and says it was finally the right key for Taylor, and finally the right song for him. He says when and if Taylor makes a record, he should make it about that type of music. He calls it hot. Paula says what was great about it is that it showed a whole different side to Taylor. He has a playful unique side, and this hows how well-rounded of an artist he is. Simon knows Taylor knows what he’s going to say. There was a world of difference between the first song that was just silly and this one. But like Randy said, this is the perfect song for Taylor. He follows this with, “Taylor, what you have just done is sung your way into the semi-finals, young man.” I like the sentiment, but why is he calling it the semi-finals?

It starts to feel like a JPL night as Chris Daughtry is now singing another song that JPL did, A Little Less Conversation from 1968. In fact it was what got him into the finals from when American Idol used to do wild cards. Mottola says he was curious to see what Chris picked. He calls this a difficult piece, an uptempo jivey song. He advises Chris to take songs and practice them in front of the mirror, believing that if he watches himself, he’ll pay more attention to the lyrics. Mottola thinks Chris will rise to the occasion, calling him always impressive. It sounds like he’s quite the fan of American Idol.

Singing his version of the song tonight, he does it a lot more darker than JPL; it’s much more intense. He certainly doesn’t apply the same crazy dance moves. Randy says that was the right key for him too. He liked how he kept it low, then kicked it up and brought the rocker edge in at the end. He thinks it was hot. Paula says there’s nothing else she can say. She adores Chris. What she loves is that he picked a song that shows a little more personality. Simon believes the first song was a lot more stronger. He thought until the end that it was fairly flat, which isn’t like Chris. Ryan asks Chris if he felt like he was holding back. He says he just wanted to sing the song the way it was written, and also wanted to stay true to Elvis.

Elliott is doing Trouble, which he says is a great bluesy song from 1958 with a lot of heartfelt soul in it. Mottola says his impression of Elliott is different than what he sees on the show. He’s really a laid back kid. This is a rebellious song, and he thinks Elliott’s raspy, rough and tumble style will pull off the song well.

As he sings tonight, this song is definitely something different for Elliott. I see a few problems. For one, he got out of singing the lyrics on this song. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of meaning attached to them. And for another, he doesn’t seem like trouble at all. He’s way too innocent and unassuming. Randy thinks something’s going on tonight on the show. He thinks this is Elliott’s best performance ever. Paula reserves the right to change her mind, and says “this” is Elliott’s best performance ever in the competition, not his first song. Simon says he has to hand it to Elliott tonight. He came out fighting, showing personality. He thinks he deserves to go through to the next round. Ryan notes Yamin is playing for the win. He then mentions the moves Paula was pulling off, and says he felt obligated to give her a dollar after that. She looks quite insulted. Simon tells Ryan to stop as it’s a family show.

This song always reminds me of being at my friend’s wedding in Las Vegas, as they were married by Elvis. Can’t Help Falling In Love was one of the songs Elvis sang to them. It just kind of gives me the warm fuzzies. Katharine’s singing it tonight, calling it one of Elvis’ best romantic ballads that he ever did. Mottola advises Katharine to listen to the original recording, as it’s where Elvis really goes into the lyrics. He says it’s important she emotes, and not just loud, but project. He says vocals come so easily to Katharine, that she forgets what she’s singing about.

Katharine doesn’t seem to take the advice. She sings Can’t Help Falling In Love while smiling. While it is a nice song, the meaning needs to come from something more than a blank smile. She also has a few pitch problems in this song. I expected more.Randy says it’s better than her first, but he thinks she ran out of air a little at the end. He, too, noticed the pitchy problems. Paula says she enjoyed watching Katharine dance and have fun for change. She must be talking about the first song. She’s used to hearing ballads on Katharine, though, and says she has a lovely voice. Randy asks how about those shoes? Did he know Paula was struggling to find something positive to say? Katharine worries about people looking at her toes. Simon pulls the truck back around, and says it was not one of Katharine’s best nights. The song started out beautifully, then when he wanted apple pie ala mode, he got apple pie with a gallon of cream on top. He says the middle part was to mcuh. Simon believes Katharine came into the night at a disadvantage, then chose the wrong songs, and says the arrangement of the last one was just too much.

I’m not sure who’s gong home tomorrow night. If the audience votes for who performed the worst, it will be Katharine. If they vote for favorites, it should be Elliott. But I also know the Elliott fans were worried, and were voting for him all over the place. As the only female left, Katharine could pick up a lot of votes there. I think any one of the them could be in bottom two, but the person leaving is definitely either Elliott or Katharine.

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