Well, we didn't exactly get a time capsule "American Idol" performance on Rod Stewart Sings The Great American Songbook Night Even Though You'd Rather Hear His 8 Billionth Performance of "Maggie Mae" Night, but overall, this was the best show of these finals since '50s Night. When you devote an entire night to standards, you're assured that the songs are all going to be great -- and, more interestingly for "Idol," that the performances will be less about vocal gymnastics than stage presence and emotion. Only one real stinker, though it was the one you probably would have predicted when they announced the theme. In order...
Chris Daughtry, "What a Wonderful World": For a split-second, I thought he was going to do the Joey Ramone version, but my hat's off to Chris for doing it completely straight and doing it well. Understated and pretty, which are two adjectives you wouldn't think you could use to describe a Chris Daughtry performance, yet he pulled it off without seeming like a chameleon phony. Plus, how often do you see the ascot/chain-wallet combination? And do you think Randy could come up with a compliment other than "da bomb" for this night?
Paris Bennett, "Foolish Things": Talk about a singer born 50 years too late. She sounded like she'd been playing the Blue Note for decades. Again, I buy her little girl with an old voice quality on older songs than when she's doing, say, Beyonce, but this was impeccable.
Taylor Hicks, "You Send Me": First of all, I think he meant to say "Humor's a great form of flattery," not the other way around, during that interminable Seacrest-erview about "SNL." The first half felt way too soft and without the gruff quality to his voice that makes even his bad performances interesting, and then midway through, he turned back into Taylor, for good (growly, passionate vocals) and for ill (that one spastic fist shake over and over and over and over). I would have liked a more natural transition from gear to gear, but he's in no danger.
Elliot Yamin, "It Had To Be You": He really should never be shown in tight closeup like that, though he did look good in the tuxedo jacket and pocket square. One of his more consistent vocals of the last few weeks, but I'm afraid he's at more risk than anybody else tonight. When there wasn't a significant difference among the vocals of the top five performers, then it comes down to personality, show placement, etc., and I don't think the larger audience has fallen in love with this guy.
Kellie Pickler, "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered": Like her performance of "Walking After Midnight" a while back, there was that weird vocoder quality that made some of her vowels sound like whale song. Even if she really is dumb enough not to know what "on paper" or "sal-mon" mean, she's smart enough to fall on her sword and apologize for the performance before the judges could tear her to pieces over it. Not that I'm going to watch it, but the results show is going to be a really interesting sign of how the rest of the season's going to play out. If Pickler's just another contestant, she at least makes the bottom three, even if she doesn't go home; if she's this personality-driven phenomenon I fear that she is, she won't make bottom three and you can pencil her into the final three right now with Chris and Taylor.
Ace Young, "That's All": Who the hell was that? No multi-layered t-shirts, no slack hair or anything; he actually looked the part. Almost sounded it, too, except for that stupid f'ing falsetto that Randy and Paula are in love with for reasons that completely baffle me. A very fine boy band rendition of a standard, and maybe enough to save his ass after being in danger for the last month or so.
Katharine McPhee, "Someone to Watch Over Me": A perfect match for her voice, though I don't know that I'd call her significantly better than Paris or Chris or even Elliot. The end of episode placement and Simon's raves seemed more about boosting a contestant TPTB like who hasn't quite caught on yet. It was great, yes, but not Kelly on "Stuff Like That There" great, or Fantasia on "Summertime" great, or any of the other "Idol" classics I've been name-checking for the last few weeks.
Should go home: Pickler
Will go home: Elliot, I fear; or maybe Ace's averageness kills him
What did everybody else think?