We knew it was a special night tonight on American Idol as Ryan opened the show with a totally black backdrop, instead of the normal audience and stage in the background. Yet, after he announces the show beginning, the lights come on to reveal the entire audience at the Kodak Theatre behind him. It’s a special night, indeed. And besides, Simon Cowell is wearing a jacket over his ever-present dark t-shirt. Even Ryan Seacrest expresses shock that Simon even owns a jacket.
Randy Jackson says what the Idols have to do tonight to break away from the other is realize it’s now or never, and lay it on the line. He’s either been listening to Elvis Presley or Triumph. Paula Abdul hopes the nerves have subsided for the final two, and also hopes they are in good voice and have picked the right songs to sing. Simon suggests to the contestants that they pray the other one forgets the words. Well, that’s certainly in the spirit of things, isn’t it?
Tonight each of the finalists will be singing three songs apiece, and as Ryan points out, there have been two girl vs. guy finales before (Kelly Clarkson vs. Justin Guarini and Carrie Underwood vs. Bo Bice), and he notes both times the girls nailed it. Will this be the year to change that trend? Everyone in fan clubs, message boards, chat groups, etc. has been debating the stats all week. Taylor Hicks has never been in the bottom three, and Katharine McPhee has one time. That was the same for Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard. So that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. The person from the South has always won as well, and Katharine is from California, and Taylor is from Birmingham, Alabama, the home of Ruben and Bo. I think it might be time to put the stats aside and just go by who performs the best.
As a way of re-introducing us to our two finalists, we see the audition videos of Katharine and Taylor once again, along with a few childhood pics. We get to see Taylor speak his unique words at his audition. When asked why he was there, he said he wanted his voice heard. When asked why, he said, “Because I feel like I got one.” He kept that same uniqueness throughout the competition, as he says he was just a guy playing music in a bar, but now you’re listening to the American Dream by Taylor Hicks. McPheever was rising, though, Ryan tells us. Randy said she had the best voice he had heard so far this auditioning season, and Katharine admitted she always dreamed she would be on a stage like this. Both of them continued to impress everyone through the semi-finals and finals, as Simon admitted he was wrong about Taylor when he voted against him making it to Hollywood, and Paula told Katharine there was something about her that just pierces through the heart.
After Ryan takes an audience poll to see who they are rooting for tonight, and hears back a roaring, “AAAAHHHHH”, the only thing that is clear is that everyone is very excited this evening. Last week there was a coin flip to see who would go first, and Taylor won the flip and chose to go last. Again, the only time the person that went last didn’t win, was Ruben. Again, enough of the stats.
All the American Idol finalists are in the audience tonight, and curiously Constantine Maroulis from last year’s finals, is sitting amongst them. Ryan catches Chris in the audience, and the two have a very endearing embrace. This isn’t host and contestant; this is two buddies. It either speaks well for Ryan or Chris or both.
Ryan then moves amongst the McPhee family and notes there are no tears yet from Mr. McPhee. They talk about being ready for tonight, and Katharine being a California girl. Her first song tonight is a repeat from a few weeks ago, Black Horse and the Cherry Tree. I agree with my thoughts from the first time she sang this. I think she sounds great on it, and it’s definitely one of my favorites that she has done, but she’s missing some of the grit and realness that KT Tunstall brings to it. This time, she curiously is not sitting on the floor. Is she trying to prove she can sing well when standing as well? The thing that bugs me is that she smiles real big with the lyrics, “You’re not the one for me.” I’m not so sure she understands the point of the song.
Randy tells Katharine it finally looks like she’s having a little fun with the song the way she was jiving with the guys playing the beat box and doing her thing. Although he says it wasn’t super exciting, he does think she sang it better than the first time she did it. Paula calls this a fun way to open the show up and celebrate why she is here tonight. She knows there is more of Katharine and a better Katharine in the songs to come. Well, that’s not real glowing. Simon gives Katharine a good with a small g. When he tries to explain why, he gets booed. He eventually gets out that he thinks tonight is bigger than that performance. Ouch. He decides it must be a warmup. Katharine tells Ryan she chose to do this one again because she enjoyed it last time, and knowing it’s in the top 40 today, she wants to show the public she can be in the top 40. Ryan mentions walking by her dressing room and seeing a thousand roses, and asks, “Who’s the guy?” She explains there is no guy, and that they are from her “Kat Pack” fan club. I’m wondering which is better, to know your fans like you that much, or that a guy likes you that much?
Taylor has decided for his first song to repeat his performance of Livin’ for the City. He’s wearing an electrifying purple velvet jacket. As he runs past Idols and his family he runs up the stairs, and looking at his feet, I remember reading this week he wears size 14 shoes. Yep, them are gun boots for sure. I’ve also read he is a very focused performer, and he is definitely seeming like that tonight. Dancing at one point, Taylor almost looks like he is dong the mayor’s “Sprinkler” dance from last week. In all the songs he did well on that he could have picked, he chose to do this one that people kind of forgot about, and helped remind us what made us fall in love with him.
Randy says what he loves about Taylor is that he was originally worried that Taylor might try to sing Stevie Wonder, as his songs are among the hardest in the world to sing. Yet, Taylor doesn’t care who sings it, where it’s from or who it’s from, he always makes it his own. Randy
For Katharine’s second song she chooses to do Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Somehow we all knew we’d hear that again, didn’t we? Once again she’s sitting, making me realize why she didn’t sit down for her first song. Again I feel the same way about this song as I did the first time. I still like Kimberley Locke’s version better. Usually this song makes me cry, but there seems to be emotion missing when Katharine sings it. But, of course, her Dad is crying. Hey, I’m not knocking him, I cry watching The Brady Bunch, and even when my choice of American Idol doesn’t win.
Randy tells Katharine that when he saw she was doing this song again, he thought it might be a little anti-climactic, but “check it out; you worked it out again, Baby!” Paula says there is no mistake that it’s a God-given talent Katharine is possessed with and possesses. She says every father feels the tears down his face like Katharine’s father when she sings that. She makes every father proud, and every little girl proud that wants to dream big and aspires to be like Katharine. Simon notes that in round one, Katharine got slaughtered, but he believes she has now come back with what he truly believes is her best performance of the competition so far. Katharine explains to Ryan she was just happy she started on the right key, as she wears an earpiece only for the beginning of the song so she can start on the right key, but it wasn’t working. Ryan puts in the earpiece and jokes that Katharine is listening to a different station. Maybe she was listening to Chris Daughtry and Elliott Yamin sing.
Ryan makes a visit to what he calls “Hicks corner” in the audience, where Taylor’s family is sitting. His dad, Brad, says it’s a long way from Alabama, and Ryan notes if he closes his eyes, Brad sounds like Taylor. Ryan then asks him to say Levon, and he’s right. He sounds like Taylor. This is Taylor’s second song and what he considers his favorite of the season, one from the final twenty four, and the song that made Simon “eat his words” and say he was wrong about Taylor. The audience is waving their arms as he sings. Now, this song makes me cry, and the reason is because Taylor puts the necessary emotion into it. This has always been my favorite of Taylor’s, along with Easy, so I find that kind of interesting. As his dad claps at the end, we see him say, “really good.”
Randy calls this a nice song, but says to be honest, and to really keep it real, it was a little pitchy for him this time. I didn’t notice, but I was way too into it. Paula says maybe what is pitchy to Randy is the essence of what Taylor is as Taylor was getting into the song. Simon tells Paula she’s not making sense. Turning to his own critique, he says it’s probably not as popular as Taylor’s first song, and notes that he walked the first round, but Kat is taking this round. He calls it now a tie ballgame. In the audience, Bucky and Constantine don’t look too happy with Simon’s words. Then again, that’s nothing new for the two of them.
As Katharine gets ready to sing what will be her debut single, her parents say she was always singing since she was old enough to understand that when she would open her mouth, it would make noise. Katharine herself says all she heard while growing up was scales up and down all day long, and in all these years since, she always dreamed about doing this. Her debut single is My Destiny, and I think she sounds a little pitchy, and that’s without a malfunctioning earpiece. The camera focuses on her dad tearing up once again. As the choir takes the stage, Katharine’s mom covers her mouth, seemingly in awe. I hate to say, for a vocal coach to see her daughter getting the royal treatment such as this, much seem … indescribable. What I can’t get away from with this is that Katharine is jumping the gun. She is singing this and looking longingly in the distance with the lyrics about her destiny as if she is singing her coronation song. A little too early for that.
Randy tells Katharine he has three things for her, as again, he’s just keeping it real. Number one – she looks amazing. (uh-oh) Number two – she sounded really good. Number three – he did not love the song, yet she still sounded good. Paula says the bad song isn’t her fault, as she was brilliant. Simon says, “Sorry, Katharine, you went from brilliant to quite good with one song.” He believes Katharine has great potential as an arist, and he is delighted she is in the final, but he advises people that are voting for Katharine to remember the second song. Ryan gets clarification from Randy that the problem was the song, not the singer. Randy says she was better than the song. To me it’s starting to come down to who is looking at this as their whole life, and who is looking at the fact that this is just who they are. Katharine knows no other life; she was raised by a vocal coach.
Taylor’s dad remembers Taylor coming to him one day and saying if he wanted to hear something, he should come into Taylor’s room. What he heard was Taylor listening to the radio, hearing something, then playing it back on a harmonica. His dad asked where he learned to do that, and Taylor said he just taught himself. This wasn’t the way he raised; it was something he discovered about himself one day. Taylor begins singing his debut single Do I Make You Proud, and I think he needs to Taylorize it. The choir comes out, and he pulls it out from the middle to the end, just like he always does, and finds the soul in the song. He yells out, “Soul Patrol” at the end, and it’s his good buddy, Elliott Yamin, in the audience, saying it back.
Randy has to say that just based on the song, he thinks it’s a slightly better song. Yet what he loves about Taylor is that since day one, he knows who Taylor Hicks is. No matter what it is, he knows how to make it into a Taylor Hicks song. Paula couldn’t agree more. She says he was better than the song, but it was because he knows who he is as an artist. All the riffs and nuances of Taylor Hicks exist in the song no matter what it is. Simon says assuming he was right that the show was tied after the first two songs, then Taylor has just won American Idol. Ryan tells Taylor that deserves a couple of “Woohs!” Paula and Randy are upset, though, that Simon just has to get the last word in. They remember, as does Ryan, and all of Taylor’s fans, that Simon voted against Taylor going to Hollywood at his audition in Las Vegas.
At the risk of getting too sappy, but hey, this is American Idol … Daniel Powter, whose Bad Day song has been used as an anthem on results night, sings the song live over the backdrop of us seeing video of the finalists getting their golden tickets in Hollywood, and some other funny or truly odd moments of the season. This is what it’s all about. It really is about making someone’s dream come true. I know this sounds trite, but it happens to be true. Both of their dreams are about to come true, as Clive Davis has already announced, both are getting contracts. Both of them are reaching their destiny, and both are making us proud. Yet who will have bragging rights? Will it be the girl that picked songs that she knew the audience liked or will it be the guy that picked songs because they meant the most to him as a performer?
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