If there's been a worse night of "American Idol," I can't remember it. This was worse than Broadway night last year, worse than 21st Century Night last year, worse than any of the Burt Bacharach nights. This was a stinkeroonie, virtually from start to finish, where the between-song filler was more entertaining than most of the songs. In order...
Lisa Tucker, "Because of You": I had been joking with Fienberg that you could probably turn this theme into an "Idol" Salute to "Idol," with Kellie singing "Inside Your Heaven," Taylor doing "Invisible," Elliott doing "Flying Without Wings," etc., etc., etc. I just never imagined Lisa would be brave/dumb enough to pick a Kelly Clarkson tune. Very sharp all over the place and not that interesting. I know I said it last week, but she's going home.
Kellie Pickler, "Suds in the Bucket": The judges nailed it: a novelty song, and one that didn't even give Kellie a chance to show off her alleged personality, save for a wink in the middle. Much as I hate to quote an old line by the D-A-double-G, that whole performance was a non-event.
Ace Young, "Drops of Jupiter": The highlight of the show, by far, was Simon's scolding of Paula when she was having a Corey Clark flashback while fantasizing about Ace's scar. The arrangement was so modest and avoided all of the song's big notes, so I have no idea if Ace could sing the real thing. Snooze.
Taylor Hicks, "Trouble": Simon was right and he was wrong about the wardrobe choice. It didn't look like something Clay would wear, but the motorcycle jacket wasn't working for him at all. I like that he abandoned most of the tics and Pee-Wee Herman big shoe dancing in favor of doing a straight rendition (and I'm stunned that I agree with Paula on anything). Oddly enough, I think he could have made that ending bigger than it was, and I'm usually anti-belting for the sake of belting. One of the better ones of the night, but far from Taylor's best. And, of course, they cut to Taylor's season three doppleganger George Huff in mid-performance.
Mandisa, "Wanna Praise You": Prostelytising aside, this was energetic but not good. She was talk-singing the verses and shouting the chorus, and she always seemed like she was racing to keep up with the arrangement; don't know if that's how the actual song goes or if that's just the result of squeezing it into 90 seconds.
Chris Daughtry, "What If": Before Chris gets to sing, Seacrest has to come out to do one of his patented damage control interviews where he tries to defuse a controversy from the week before, in this case by not only crediting Live for Chris' arrangement of "Walk the Line," but inviting him to suck up to Live as much as possible. As for the performance? Bleah. I hate Creed to begin with, and this song was all shouting and growling, with Chris trying to look so hardcore that he might as well be singing "The Legend of the Rent." On the one hand, I'm glad Simon finally called Chris on being a one-trick pony, but wasn't he the same guy who last week was applauding Chris for refusing to step out of his tiny box?
Katharine McPhee, "The Voice Within": Earlier in the show, Marian dubbed her "the hot wedding singer," and this performance didn't exactly give me evidence to rebut the charge. She looked uncomfortable, was relying on way too much meliasma to compensate for her inability to hold some of those vintage Xtina notes, and it was easily the worst vocal she's done to date. And for all Simon scolds Paula for wanting to be inside Ace's heaven, the only excuse for him dubbing this almost as good as the original is if he wants to do the same with the McPheever.
Bucky Covington, "Real Good Man": Well, this is the most comfortable Bucky has looked and sounded so far, but I'm guessing that this kind of performance would land him in about seventh place on "Nashville Star." (Just like Chris would have struggled to go far on "Rock Star.") Nothing special, but on this night, nothing special is an accomplishment.
Paris Bennett, "Work It Out": Again, I don't have much to say that Simon didn't already put perfectly with his "A little girl pretending to be Beyonce" comment. Paris can sing and she can dance, but that entire performance had me wishing for the real thing.
Elliott Yamin, "I Don't Want to Be": He's growing leaps and bounds as a stage performer, but the vocals kept getting swallowed up by the orchestra and the backup singers, and the one spot in the song where they dropped out so he could go a cappella, he was doing the talk-sing thing. I'm happy to see Elliott showing some confidence (and the producers showing confidence in him by giving him the final spot), but it wasn't spectacular.
Prediction: I'm gonna keep saying Lisa is going home until she does, but this should be a telling bottom three. With everyone either sucking or being mediocre, the votes are going to depend entirely on fanbase strength. Is Pickler really as indestructible as Simon has been suggesting? Will Ace get bottom three'd again? Or does Bucky suffer the Kevin Covais fate of going home when he was slightly above average and his fanbase assumed he was safe?
Ugh. The only pluses were the no-nonsense pace and the return of "House." (More on that tomorrow.)