My daughter's been having some sleep issues the last couple of nights, and I spent a good 45 minutes to an hour in her bedroom tonight sitting silently as she moaned from the crib about not wanting to go to bed. Finally, Marian relieved me and I went down to watch "American Idol" -- where I spent most of the hour wishing I was back upstairs.
Shouldn't the show be getting better as we winnow out the weaker performers? On the one hand, I suppose I'm pleased I finally got the trainwreck I've been asking for for weeks, or at least half a trainwreck. But at this stage, I'd rather be dazzled than appalled, and between the theme and some crappy song selection within it, way too much ugliness. In order (and after the singer and song title, I'll be sure to list their alleged celebrity supporter -- or, at least, the celebrity the director cut to right after that performance):
Katharine McPhee, "I Have Nothing Except Sasha Cohen": Why, Katharine? Why? Why would you do this? There are exactly two singers in the history of this show who have sung Whitney and not come off looking like a fool. One was Tamyra, who actually had the chops to pull off a straight cover; the other was Fantasia, who had the charisma and savvy to change the song up to fit her. Kat doesn't have Tamyra's pipes or Fantasia's inner funk, so what we were left with was a very pretty girl in a very low-cut dress being overwhelmed by a song tailored to one of the great oversingers of our time. She deserved every second of that pile-on by the judges -- and, frankly, she should be grateful for it, because the only thing that could save her is the sympathy vote. (More later.)
Elliot Yamin, "A Song For You and Kevin Nealon": I've been asking for a goosebump-inducing performance for weeks, and this is the closest we've come since Mandisa on '50s Night. Great song, great voice, great arrangement (as we all know by now, Randy has a pathology about needing to hear note-for-note copies sung by contestants beating their respective gimmick into the ground, so he can STFU here), real emotion, just about perfect. And yet I didn't feel the goosebumps. Not sure why, other than that Elliot, for all his vocal genius, doesn't have the stage presence of a Kelly or a Fantasia. But close your eyes, and that was pretty f'ing great.
Kellie Pickler, "Sela Ward's Unchained Melody": Never has a guest vocal coach's commentary been more prophetic than David Foster (who was great all night) saying that if you sing this without passion, it's the most boring song ever written. And if ever there was an "Idol" finalist with a passion gap, it's Pickler. (Well, Carrie's version would've put me to sleep, too.) Couple the Sominex effect with her continued effort to invent new vowels, plus a deliberate sabotage attempt by the hair and makeup people (Pickler's not a supermodel, but she's a much prettier girl than they made her into here), and you have as big a mess in its own way as Kat's opener. Not that she's going home, but if she's not bottom three this week, you know she's winning it all, whether the producers like it or not (more on that in a minute).
Paris Bennett, "The Way We and Joely Fisher Were": She didn't take Foster's advice about starting softly, and pretty much bull-dozed her way through the whole song. Still, if there's someone in this field who can get away with that, it's Paris. I hate Streisand and I hate this song, but I enjoyed this. On the other hand, when you take her audience disconnect and then add some of the most lukewarm praise I've ever heard from the judges (some of it inspired by Simon's tantrum over being cut off while tearing Pickler a new one), and you have the set-up for one of those quintessential "shocking" boots. Say it long, say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud... No, wait, that's not it. Say it again: On "Idol," it's better to suck than to be middle of the pack.
Taylor Hicks, "Just Once, I'd Like to Graduate with Tori Spelling": Geez, maybe he should go back to the stupid dancing. There were spots in here where his voice sounded great, but not enough of them. There has to be a happy medium between him looking terrified while standing rigid at the mike and him bouncing around like a Ritalin case, and the only time he's really hit it was with "Living for the City" on Stevie Wonder Night. He really seems to have peaked and is now coasting on an obsessive fan base's love.
Chris Daughtry, "Have You (and only you, and no Special Celebrity Fan) Ever Really Loved a Woman?": For a split-second, I thought I heard Chris say he was going to sing "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" by Derek and the Dominos, which would have been awesome in just about every way (great song, and anguished enough to merit Chris' usual Hillside Strangler intensity). Instead, he sings a cheery little ditty from "Don Juan DeMarco." Sigh... So let's see: Chris gets bottom two last week, and this week he not only gets to go last again (the first finalist to do so), but he gets another elaborate production number like on "Higher Ground," and another tongue-bath from the judges that's several degrees above a very solid but not spectacular performance... ya think they want him to win? There are a lot of things I like about Chris. He has a much better voice than you would think, given his influences and usual singing style. He is the only contestant who consistently carries himself on stage like a professional capable of being on the radio and MTV tomorrow. He has charisma to burn. But the type of music he likes to sing and that come-hither-so-I-can-kill-you look bores me after a while. When his coronation is complete, I think he'll be one of the more deserving winners, and I'll feel bad that he'll be stuck with this year's crap-ass ballad, but at this point I think I'm pulling for Elliot, who seems like the only one left capable of making me want to download his performance and put it into heavy iPod rotation.
Sorry, I'm rambling. To sum up:
Should go home: Either of Kat or Pickler, and preferably Pickler, since she's been awful for so long and since at least Kat has the potential to tramp it up next week if she survives.
Will go home: Kat or Paris. I have no doubt it's going to be one of those two, and I suspect it's going to be the latter, not the former.
What did everybody else think?