The top 3 sing for a spot in the finals – and a record deal.
Because this is American Idol, and I like to rank them from best to worst, not in the order they sang. Singing order was Elliott Yamin, Katharine McPhee, and Taylor Hicks. The contestants sang three songs: first a song chosen by BMG Chairman/CEO Clive Davis, second a song chosen by one of the judges, third their own song choice.
Here’s how I ranked them, from best to worst, using their combined scores.
1. Taylor Hicks (21.5 + 21.5 + 24 = 67/75).
Clive Davis chose “Dancing In The Dark” for Taylor’s first song, and it was apparently the first time that a Bruce Springsteen song has been performed on American Idol. Taylor sung the song strongly, even squeezing in some (spontaneous?) dancing with judge Paula Abdul. Notice I said “squeezing in,” because this performance felt truncated and rushed (kind of like the “round of 5” night). I thought it was a very good performance but it didn’t give Taylor a chance to show off his vocal range.
Judge Randy Jackson chose “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker for Taylor’s second song. You know, because Taylor reminds Randy of Joe Cocker. I don’t know. I do not like the sappy ballads. Maybe it’s just me. The song started off slow, and I was wondering how (or whether) Taylor would pull off the falsetto portion, assuming he sticks to a Cocker-like performance, but he pulled it off nicely. In fact, this style of singing is very much like what you’ll find on Taylor’s second CD, which I blogged about yesterday. Simon called it Taylor’s best performance yet. Simon should also listen to Taylor’s CD.
Taylor chose “Try A Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding for this third song. And he said he was doing this one for the Soul Patrol. The song starts out as a slow ballad and then transitions to a more soulful upbeat song, and the longer the song went, the more fun it was. Taylor gives the kind of performance which, at least in this household (of five people), can make you simultaneously smile, laugh, and cheer. It was magic, awesome, a home run. Simon didn’t like the ending but said he’d see Taylor next week in the finals.
2. Katharine McPhee (18.5 + 21 + 19.5 = 59/75). Clive Davis chose “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly for Katharine’s first song. Katharine’s voice sounded hoarse in her video clip with Clive Davis. She got a little ahead of the music and then inexplicably dropped out before the chorus. I can’t believe that was the arrangement, to have the backup singers sing the first chorus. If it was, it was a horrible arrangement. It was a bit rough after the modulation but nothing major. Randy said that with a song like this, you should concentrate on singing the melody, and I agree.
Judge Simon Cowell chose “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” for Katharine’s second song. She started a cappella, and I was wondering if she would do the who song without the band (like Bo Bice did last year), but the band joined in soon after the song started. Katharine sounded like Karen Carpenter during this song. I will leave it to the reader to determine whether or not that is a good thing. It was much better than her first song. But why was she sitting down? Does any popular artist perform a song this way? In any event, she sang the song extremely well (even though it is a dreadful song). Someone forgot to tell Kat that she was supposed to crash and burn in the round of three. She had a couple of saccharine moments mixed in there. And is it my imagination or was that song a lot longer than the other songs tonight? Simon called it the best performance of the season by any contestant. Of course he did, he chose the song. It was very good, even great, but it was not the best of the season, not by a long shot. Why do judges love the sappy ballads?
Katharine chose “I Ain’t Got Nothing But The Blues” for her third song. I had never heard the song before. The style of the song, surprisingly, suited Kat just fine. Surprisingly, because I don’t recall her doing this sort of piece previously. It was, however, more suitable for Broadway than for Hollywood. And it ended rather suddenly. Perhaps because her second song was so long. Overall, it was a solid performance of an obscure song. My oldest son counted four gratuitous lip licks (the “tongue thing”) during the post-song chat with Ryan Seacrest. This is the sort of thing that I miss when I’m taking notes.
3. Elliott Yamin (20 + 19 + 19 = 58/75). Clive Davis chose “Open Arms” by Journey. I predict that Randy (who played bass for Journey at one point in the 1980s) will love the choice. At the start of the song, we can actually hear Elliott’s voice. I have complained regularly about the band being too loud this season, especially when Elliott sings, but not this time. Why hasn’t Elliott done more popular songs like this? Elliott did a very good job with the song, delivering it simply, standing behind the mic. He was a tad flat before the chorus. It was a solid blow but not a knockout punch for Elliott. And the arrangement was too short. Because this is American Idol, and we have to cram 9 songs and 20 minutes of commercials into one hour.
Judge Paula Abdul, who is on the record saying that she wants Elliott to win, chose “What You Won’t Do For Love” by Bobby Caldwell for Elliott’s second song. I don’t know about the song choice. It is the sort of song that Elliott should be able to sing well, but I think he needs to broaden his base of songs and supporters. See this week’s NY Post editorial on how American Idol is like politics to see what I’m talking about (http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/63585.htm). But Elliott did not nail this song. He had some pitch problems (again), and the band was too loud (again). It was not a home run for Elliott.
Elliott chose “I Believe To My Soul” by Donny Hathaway for his third song. This is another obscure song that will not serve to broaden Elliott’s base of supporters. At the start of the song, Elliott appeared to be showing his nerves. Or maybe the song was too low for him. The result, in any event, was a bit too much vibrato. He over-sung the song at times and had a couple of clunker notes at the end. It was a good performance but not memorable. Simon said that Elliott’s songs (I think he meant song choices (some choices made for him)) will not carry him through to next week.
Taylor was solid on his first two songs and knocked the third out of the park, so I expect him to move to the finals. Katharine was up and down. Her second song was her best. Elliot started strong but did not improve. So it comes down to Katharine vs. Elliott for the final spot. As the American Idol season progresses, there are more new viewers. I think that Katharine will connect with first-time viewers more than Elliott will, so I give Kat a slight edge over Elliot.
And here’s how I ranked the song choices. The Clive Davis choices: 60/75. The judges’ choices: 61.5/75. The contestants’ choices: 62.5/75.
Erik’s blogging promise: I hereby swear and affirm that, as always, I have not consulted other blogs (including DialIdol.com) before making my predictions. I am linking to others here, for your convenience, before having read the opinions of the other pundits (which I’ll be doing shortly). I will be updating the URLs in the chart as other posts become available.
Erik’s rankings (best to worst): Taylor, Katharine, Elliott.
Erik’s pick to go home: Elliott.
(erikjheels.com is 80% in picking the bottom American Idol contestants over the past six weeks.)
|Erik’s List of American Idol Pundits|
|Pundit||Bottom 2-3 Accuracy||Bottom One Accuracy|
|DialIdol.com||87% (13 for 15)||67% (4 for 6)|
|The Woes and the Prose of an American Idol Junkie||87% (13 for 15)||33% (2 for 6)|
|Reality TV Magazine||80% (12 for 15)||50% (3 for 6)|
|Erik J. Heels||80% (12 for 15)||33% (2 for 6)|
|Various and Sundry » American Idol||73% (11 for 15)||50% (3 for 6)|
|High Lord Dave’s Blog||67% (10 for 15)||50% (3 for 6)|
|USATODAY||67% (10 for 15)||50% (3 for 6)|
|American Idol Season 5 Blog||60% (9 for 15)||33% (2 for 6)|
|Flipping A Coin||50%||50%|
|Vote For The Worst||40% (6 for 15)||33% (2 for 6)|
|Simon Cowell||NA||33% (2 for 6)|
|Zabasearch.com – Most Searched American Idol Contestants||no historical data||no historical data|