Tuesday, May 23, 2006

When Taylor beat Katharine

Well, that wasn't very close, was it? It's the final performance night on "American Idol," and one of these contestants had to be damn near perfect to win, and she wasn't. In order...

Katharine McPhee, "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree": This was one of my two favorite Kat performances of the season, and a smart choice for her to reprise, but it felt like she was holding back vocally throughout. I've listened to the MP3 of the original a few dozen times in the last couple of weeks, and her voice has this raw, letting it all hang out quality that was completely lacking here. I started to wonder if she was losing her voice during her third performance, but when they showed the dress rehearsal footage during the montage at the end of the episode, it was obvious Kat had already lost it before the show began. Given that, this was better than it should have been, but not a patch on the first time she did it. (Also, good call getting up off her knees; given what was coming next, she didn't want to be known as The Girl on the Floor.)

Taylor Hicks, "Living for the City": This was my favorite Taylor song of the finals, even though he smiled like an idiot through it the first time. He had the goofy grin at the start here, but quickly shut it down once he got moving. Yes, Taylor has three or four moves that he repeats ad nauseum, and yes, he's a predictable doofus, but the boy has stage presence and he understands the limits of his voice much better than Katharine does and makes every note count.

Katharine McPhee, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow": On the one hand, this was far and away the best thing she did all season. On the other hand, she did it last week. Diana DeGarmo did this with "Don't Cry Out Loud" in the season three finals and got killed for it. (Oddly enough, Diana also had a malfunctioning earpiece when she reprised "Don't Cry"; cue the conspiracy theorists...) Given what bad shape her voice was in, this was really quite lovely, maybe even a bit better than last week (if nothing else, her expressions were less smiley). You can argue that she should have done "Someone to Watch Over Me" or "God Bless the Child" or something else we haven't heard in months, but this was her one perfect moment tonight.

Taylor Hicks, "Levon": As my sister points out, this is a song about a rich jerk whose son can't stand him, and Taylor believes "it's about family values." Whatever problem he may have parsing the lyrics isn't apparent when he sings it. We're back with Sad, Quiet Taylor again, and I like this incarnation of him. Not quite on par with "Over the Rainbow," but much closer than Simon tried to make it sound in the hope of creating some suspense for the final round.

Katharine McPhee, "My Destiny": And her voice is just totally gone on this maudlin pile of goo. There are parts where she's just talking, and one painful big note towards the end where she gives up halfway through and looks like she'd just like to go home and watch "The Notebook" on DVD and eat a gallon of Chunky Monkey and pretend like this whole night never happened.

(By the way, no matter how much I hate Randy Jackson for the way he wastes time and oxygen every week, I will always have some affection for the D-A-double-G for his insistence, year after year after year, on pointing out how awful the coronation single is. Of course, when you just signed a contract extension, you're not really at risk, are you?)

Taylor Hicks, "Do I Make You Proud": I can't tell if his song is marginally better than hers, as Randy suggests, or if it's just that Taylor once again manages to apply his personality and bluesy growl to it, but this was a vast improvement, performance-wise. Fantasia's "I Believe" is still the only coronation song performance I enjoyed completely, because of the way she gave herself over to the stupid emotions about rainbows and puppies and balloons, but this is the only other time I haven't wanted to change the channel when a finalist was singing it. And then, just as I've rediscovered my affection for Taylor in his moment of victory, he has to go and dash the goodwill by yelling out "Soul Patrol!" 85,000 times in a row, just in case his fans didn't already understand how much he loves and understands them.

Should win: Taylor. In a walk.
Will win: Only two scenarios in which I can imagine Kat winning: 1)We get another phone line jam like season two and she has more text messages than him; or 2)The tween girls who are the show's dominant voting bloc (and who I'm sure drove Carrie's victory over Bo last year) just can't bring themselves to vote for the funny-looking guy with the grey hair.

I'm writing a live story for Thursday's paper about the results show, which, given the deadline constraints, will have to be written like a liveblogging entry. And since I can't rob from Peter (the column) to pay Paul (the blog), I'll have to come up with something else after I finish the column tomorrow night. (Assuming Taylor wins, not sure I'll have much to say, anyway.) And having to cover the finale live means I won't get to watch "Lost" until the following morning. Sorry.


undercover black man said...

By my scorecard, round two was even. (Sorry, still not feeling Kat's "Rainbow"; I like her best in a saucy, mid-tempo R&B groove, and got none of that tonight.) So I call it an even more decisive victory for Taylor.

Kat's "My Destiny" has to be one of the worst vocal performances of any finale (not that Justin Guarini's and Diana DeGarmo's last songs remain in the memory). Vocal fatigue? Yeah, that would make sense. "AI" works those poor kids like dogs for months on end. Song sucked? You bet it did. But tonight demonstrated that Taylor Hicks simply has tons more confidence and vocal command and stage command than Kat.

(Her puzzled-puppy face or "I didn't pick it!" excuse-making whenever the judges reacted lukewarmly to her singing reflects her fragile ego. And tonight it was almost a little painful when Seacrest interrogated her on her choice of reprising "Cherry Tree" or whatever that song is; she reacted like a woman on trial.)

Singing in bars must've toughened Taylor up, because he's been underestimated and mocked and shit-talked from the beginning... from the rehearsals, in fact, which I'm glad they pointed out that Simon voted thumbs-down on Taylor in Vegas. He's been slagged for his dance moves, his fashion sense, his looks... and after all of that, he delivered his best on the night when it really mattered. Singing strong and proud, with flavor, with personality, and with soul.

Go get 'em, champ.

Jaynee said...

I, too, was praying last night that Taylor would never shout out "Soul Patrol". Oh well. I'm still happy that he's going to win. Poor Katherine was saddled with a HORRIBLE coronation song. Just awful. And she knew it, too. You could tell.

Laura Ingalls Wilder said...

Taylor totally deserves to win. I've liked him from the beginning, but never loved him, so I feel one big myeh about his victory. Katharine was actually one of my early favorites but something about her personality totally wore on me. She went from the modest girl at the auditions who cried when told she was one of the best they'd heard so far to a dare I say overly confident contestant who became too defensive at any negative comments from the judge. Taylor's coronation song was pretty good, but not even remotely close to Fantasia's performance two years ago.

Sars said...

I found this rendition of "Rainbow" painful. I'm sympathetic to vocal fatigue, but I had the same issue with it the last time I heard it: she doesn't have the range, or good compensation in her weak spots.

Plus I just get the feeling she's a bitch.