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

American Idol 5, 05-16-06 – Judges Choices Make The Night


by LauraBelle

Quite frankly, I just got used to this idea of these three as THE final three of American Idol Season Five. It’s hard to believe, still, that Chris Daughtry isn’t included, and that instead of Katharine McPhee or Elliott Yamin leaving last week, it was the one person we thought was a solid choice. And don’t even get into the fact of how it was that Mandisa didn’t even make it close to the final three. But somehow, listening to them tonight, I can’t imagine anyone one else in the final three this week than Katharine, Elliott and Taylor Hicks.

Since it’s final three week, as usual, each Idol sings a song they pick themselves, one picked by one of the judges, and another picked by music mogul Clive Davis. I could go on with his list of credits like Ryan Seacrest did tonight, but suffice it to say, Clive is a bigwig. The Man!

Elliott is performing first, and Clive has picked for him Open Arms by Journey. He tells Elliot he needs to be electrifying with this song, but not over the top, yet still show some soul and be honest with his delivery, and most importantly, show off his power of voice. Do you think he’s asking for too much? Clive knows Elliott hasn’t done too many rock songs, and he wants to prove to him that he can do it. Elliott jumps the gun a little, and says he looks forward to working on projects in the future with Clive. Is there something going on we don’t know about?

As Elliott starts singing, his voice sounds a touch hoarse, and it does sound like he’s trying a little hard for the power vocal Clive was looking for. I wonder if Clive was trying to erase the image of Corey Clark singing this song from Paula Abdul’s mind. Curiously Clive isn’t on the judges’ panel like he usually is this week; he’s sitting in the audience behind Roseanne. Randy Jackson points out that, of course, the song is near and dear to his heart, since he used to be part of Journey. At first he wasn’t sure about Elliott doing it, but he beleives he worked it out despite some problems in the chorus. He advises Elliott to feel free to take a chance and do his thing. Paula tells Elliott he is in excellent voice tonight, and says she cannot wait to hear everyone sing. Simon beleives it was a good choice of song, but wasn’t a great performance. He feels he was a little stiff, and advises him to loosen up and start believing he can make the finals next week. Perhaps he should click his heels together and repeat it three times.

For Katharine, Clive wanted to come up with a song that would give her the opportunity to dig down deep in a modern day classic. He chooses the R Kelly classic I Believe I Can Fly, believing it will give her the opportunity to make it her own. He wants her to soar with it, saying she has great range. He wants to have a “Katharine McPhee” sound when they record together. Again, is there something going on here we don’t know about? Clive ends saying he believes Katharine will command the stage with this.

Just from the beginning, Katharine sounds leagues better than she has the past few weeks. Although by the time she gets to the chorus, she seems to try and get bigger than the sound, and she starts rolling her eyes, pointing upward, and doing huge arm motions the rest of the song. By the end, she’s putting way too many runs in it again. Randy starts off saying she looks amazing, meaning he’s searching for something to say. He tells her the problem is still these kind of songs. He knows she wants to be that kind of singer, but she’s just not. Paula says woman to another woman, that Katharine looks beautiful. When she starts to say this is difficult, someone from the audience yells out that Katharine is incredible, and Paula agrees. Katharine jumps in and says they have been hard on her the last couple of weeks. Paula mentions the song choice, and Katharine drops the ball in Clive’s lap, and says she didn’t pick it. So much for him working to create the Katharine McPhee sound. Paula tells her sometimes she just needs to sing the melody. Simon believes Randy is being a bit unfair, because she didn’t choose the song. He believes despite a few notes at the end, that Katharine created a bit of a moment for herself.

Apparently Clive has some pull in this business. He called up Bruce Springsteen, as in The Boss, and got him to personally give his okay for Taylor to sing his classic, Dancing In The Dark. Clive believes with this song he can command the stage and get into the lyrics, singing the lines that end with “tired and bored with myself.” He says Taylor has a shot with a great Springsteen classic to bring it home in an incredible way. Taylor tells him from one music lover to another, he wants to thank hm for making that call, and allowing him to do the first Springsteen song ever on American Idol. How does a guy go from singing in bars one night, to having a music mogul call Springsteen to get his personal approval for him to sing one of his songs the next?

Taylor completely belts out this song, and you can’t miss the fact he’s wearing makeup. He looks good, as always, but it’s a little heavy on the rouge. He doesn’t do too much dancing; just enough. He wants to flip out and starting dancing all over, but doesn’t. Is that Courtney Cox? No, that’s Paula dancing with Taylor on the catwalk. Randy says what he loves about Taylor, besides him being in the Dawg pound, is that he knows how to have a good time. Paula wishes she had known she would be dancing, as she would have worn some double stick tape, calling it a little nerve-racking. Men might be scratching their heads, but us ladies understand. She tells Taylor she had fun, and says he’s incredible. Simon says it was okay, but a bit pale in comparison to the original. He tells Paula that for her age, she was fantastic. Taylor just has an ear to ear grin all night, like he just can’t believe he is here.

When Elliott went back home to Richmond, Virginia this week, Mayor Wilder told him he had a fax from Paula. It said that she was picking What You Won’t Do For Love by Bobby Caldwell. Ryan asks Paula why she picked this song and she has to interrupt to tell Simon to “stop it!” Ryan threatens to make Simon go sit in the parking lot. Pretty soon he’ll start making Paula and Randy write sentences for talking during a performance. Getting back to why she picked the song, Paula says she feels Elliott is full of love, and has been the entire season. She thinks he’s a funky white boy with soul and rhythm, and he can get into this song as it suits his voice.

I have to say Elliott seems much more comfortable with this song than he was his first. He still does that wide open stare with his eyes that sometimes bugs me. Yet at the end, the open-eyed look is gone, and he seems much more focused. Randy calls this a good song choice, but not Elliott’s best performance. He thinks he was a little sharp most of the song. Paula felt the song choice spoke of what kind of artist Elliott is. She says he has amazing soul with an R&B tone that pierces through the heart. Maybe she should be the writer with descriptions like that. Simon says it wasn’t the best song in the world, but says the style suited Elliott very well. He actually thought Elliott sounded pretty good.

The mayor of Los Angeles tells Katharine that he has some information from Simon Cowell. Simon has chosen for her to do Somewhere Over The Rainbow.Asked why he chose it, Simon has to tell Paula to stop. Do they do things to each other under the table, or what? Simon says that he knew from the first day that they met Katharine that this was the perfect song in the world for her. He believes tonight she could have the moment they have been waiting for with this.

Perhaps trying to repeat a little of the Black Horse and the Cherry Tree magic, Katharine sings this whole song sitting on the floor. She sings the beginning a capella, and when it goes to the title of the song, the music kicks in. She makes some changes in the melody that don’t seem right for this song, and I do have to say I like Kimberly Locke’s version better. However, this is the best emoting I have seen from Katharine. Randy says finally this is what he’s been waiting for. It’s the best vocal of the season from her. He calls it brilliant and hot. Paula advices Katharine to soak in this moment … the element and magic when she doesn’t go overboard and taps into her beautiful natural self. Simon says he is happy for Katharine tonight. As he said last week, she doesn’t need to lay on too much. It’s not just because he chose the song, but he believes this is the best performance of the season so far.

Governor Riley of Alabama reads a fax from Randy. “Yo. Governor Riley. You are an official member of the Dawg Pound. Take care of my Dawg, and let him know his judge’s choice is You Are So Beautiful. The whole crowd in Alabama went up in a roar at the thought of this. Randy tells Ryan tonight that he chose this because it’s a Joe Cocker song, and one of the best songs of all time, being written by the great Billy Preston. Taylor always gives Randy a Joe Cocker/Ray Charles vibe, and with his old soul, he knows Taylor will do alright.

Taylor sings this so wonderfully subdued, and it’s not like he’s holding back the dancing like he seems to when he slows it down; it’s just from his heart very tender. I feel like I am having a Paula Abdul moment, but I literally have to catch my breath listening to it, and it brings tears to my eyes. He feels it so deep within him, and it makes me feel it. Randy calls it a great tender moment from Taylor, and congratulates him, saying he did the song proud. Paula tells Taylor he hot only looks like a star, he is a star. She tells him that was beautiful. Simon says for him, that was far and away his best performance so far. He also credits Randy for picking the song. Taylor jumps up and down, and says, “He’s happy!” meaning Simon. Ryan notes, “He smiles too!” meaning Simon once again. The only time I have seen Taylor break his ear to ear grin tonight was singing the song when he felt the words he sang.

Despite the fact that Randy has just called Taylor a mixture of Ray Charles and Joe Cocker, Elliott chooses to do a Ray Charles song I Bellieve To My Soul although he chooses to sing the Donnie Hathaway version which is a bit more believable. This song is definitely his type of thing. I must admit I’ve never heard Donnie Hathaway before, but Elliott doesn’t bring to mind a picture of Ray Charles. He seems to be much more believable on the songs he likes. I’m sure everyone does to some extent, but the gap here is larger with him.

Randy says he doesn’t believe it was a perfect song for Elliott, but he can still definitely sing, and does a good job no matter what it is. Paula agrees with Randy, and says people won’t connect with it, as they don’t know it. Yet, still, not many people can sing with that type of soul like her funky white boy. Simon says Elliott’s songs aren’t going to carry hinm through to next week, but he tells him he is a great guy, great singer, and says he will make his mom very proud for what he has achieved in this competition.

Katharine is choosing to sing another old song, I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues, calling it another old song, but does so because she doesn’t want to be compared to anyone in the industry today. Okay, it took a ton of bricks to fall on her, but she finally gets it. She wears a mini dress and go go boots, and it’s clear she’s still working that sexy image. Regardless, she had fun, and it shows. Randy says still the last song was really the one for him. He knows she wants to compare herself to Ella, but he doesn’t see it. Ouch. Paula says Kat’s magic was Somewhere Over The Rainbow. “That’s your magic, my dear.” Still, though, Paula tells her she did a great job. Simon says overall it was a good night tonight, but he feels with Kat they take five steps forward, and one step back. He wishes they could have reversed the order of the songs tonight, as he feels everyone did better with their middle songs, and he’d like the images of those stuck in his mind.

Taylor says his choice for himself is Try A Little Tenderness by Otis Redding, as it has a lot of heart, and he’s doing it for the Soul Patrol. I think this is great, as he was supposed to do this song during love theme week, but was told the day before the show that it didn’t fit well with the theme, because they couldn’t imagine Andrea Bocelli singing it. I’m glad he finally gets to do it. He takes the song from slow to fast, and as soon as he kicks it in gear, I can’t wait for the ending, just imagining it and anticipating it. And, of course, he totally sells it. Randy says he has a new name for Taylor – “Have a Good Time Funky Taylor.” Paula says when they were asked to pick songs, she chose this one for Taylor, but he had already picked it for himself. She tells him he did an incredible job. Simon tells Taylor it was a smart choice of song, and a good performance with a hideous ending. But, he’ll see him next Tuesday. Then again, Paula said the same thing to Chris last week.

I predict the judges are right tonight, though. I don’t think there will be more surprises. Elliott’s fan base has done a lot to keep him in the competition, but he didn’t do much tonight to win over those on the fence voters. I think Taylor and Katharine will split those votes. I didn’t personally get her Rainbow performance, but it apparently won the judges over. If Simon’s right that Elliott goes home tomorrow, he has nothing to be sad about. He had all these weeks to show America who Elliott Yamin is, and now they know. I predict we’ll see him again soon.

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