Song #1: Clive Davis chooses -- mostly poorly -- and stays mercifully under cover of video clip, instead of on the panel like last year. He gives Elliott maybe the one song too big for his voice, '80s cheese rock classic "Open Arms" by Journey, and Elliott does shuffly things with it, but his voice underwhelms at numerous intervals. Clive gives Katharine the assignment of R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly," and Clive Davis, apart from being actually dead, is now dead to me. ASSHOLE! So, instead of being really screechy on the song like she would have been, Kat takes the less-traveled (but still pretty annoying) road of letting the backup singers sing the actual chorus while she hits only the bells and whistles. Then there's this whole U.N. summit between the judges and Kat and the audience and the McPholks and Clive where all the cards are first laid out on the table, then swept away, with the constant being: she's pretty. Clive reads Taylor the lyrics to Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark," as everyone not Taylorly inclined across the nation screams in anguish. He sings it in that Doobie Brothers voice he hauls out every once in a while, but he looks like he's keeping his ass in check. Until he breaks loose and makes Paula Abdul his own personal Courtney Cox, as we all knew he would the second we heard the song title.
Song #2: The judges choose -- surprisingly well -- as we take quick peeks into the dumb, sweaty visits to the hometowns. Paula chooses "What You Won't Do For Love" for Elliott, which is exactly the kind of song he sounds best on. Except he does not sound good on it. Shouty and sharp. Do we still have to talk about nerves with this kid? I really don't want to. Simon chooses for Katharine (thank God), and it's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (thank God it's my week and not Jacob's). She sits on the stage like Splash! with one giant spotlight and is incredible. The judges kind of flip out with the praise, but it really was pretty great. Randy chooses Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful" for Taylor, because Randy has a theory that Taylor is kinda, sorta Cocker-esque. The DeNiro face goes crazy, and the cracked-voice stuff is grossly affected, but it's inoffensive on the giant sliding scale that is Taylor Hicks and His Heaping Pile O' Bullshit.
Song #3: The contestants choose -- indulgently, if understandably so. Elliott sings "I Believe To My Soul" (Ray Charles via Donny Hathaway) super-boringly, only grabbing my attention long enough to drop his own name. Simon gives him the verbal equivalent of a tap on the cheek with a "good job, kid -- have a safe trip home tomorrow." Katharine's singing "I Aint Got Nothing But the Blues," which I thought was a good idea, because she's great on the old stuff. But this is pretty boring and she's pretty nervous for the first half, at least. She pulls it off, mostly, but it's exceedingly unmemorable. Randy and Paula basically look her right in the face and make the fart noise with their mouths, because they're too lazy to think of anything
intelligent substantial resembling their usual catch phrases. Taylor at long last rights the world's greatest injustice by finally assaulting us with a stupidly cruise-shippy "Try a Little Tenderness." The judges tell us what we already knew: meet your next American Idol.
Tonight: Elliott. Except, I kind of don't want to jinx it, so: Katharine.
So lots of people voted on Tuesday night, and the margin between each contestant is really tiny, at least according to a possibly Pants-on-Fire Seacrest. The performances they voted for are gone over with a fine-toothed comb: the Clive songs got mixed reviews, the judges' songs got raves, and the contestants' choices fared much better for the boys than for Katharine. And then? In what I am 100% taking as a shout-out to me, no matter how many times Jacob and Sars try to talk me out of it, the pimp-mercial has Elliott, Kat, and Taylor dressed up like old people in a home. Music for Old People! They're dressed like Run DMC and "rapping" "When You're Young at Heart," because that's the "funny" part, but I just found it a fitting tribute to a season that might as well have been sponsored by the good people at Geritol.
Then, the final three get a visit from Hugh Jackman and Puppet Romijn, who present DVDs of X-Men 3 to watch on the plane as they head home for the interminable visits. Taylor's up first, and he's as understated as ever. In Birmingham, there are radio shows and parades, and in Hoover he plays to a packed shopping mall. Finally, he takes on the governor's mansion. Watch out, Mr. President! Then, back live and in the studio, he Doobies it up again with "Takin' It to the Streets." Whatever, he's winning, I've made my peace.
Katharine takes on L.A., including the glad-handlers at Good Day Live or whatever it's called now that it's not in syndication. She takes the radio tour, the aerial tour, visits the old high school, gets hugged a bajillion times, and then heads home for a barbecue where she actually kisses a baby (shut up, it was her goddaughter). Then she sings "Think" back in the studio, and name-checks Simon rather aggressively.
Elliott crowns himself king of Richmond or whatever and does the radio thing like everyone else. Then he stops by a rally at -- why would I lie to you? -- a pharmacy. Thank you, Richmond! He sings "Home" sweetly at a different rally, and then he meets the governor, too. Hey, what the fuck, Schwarzenegger? Everyone but Kat gets a Gov? I call conspiracy! Back in the studio, Elliott wades through the Poseidon Adventure of everyone's tears and gives us "Moody's Mood for Love," and I still like it.
Then Clive emerges and gives the President of the Academy of Motion Pictures speech that no one ever listens to, so...no one does. Oh, you did not; don't lie. Then, after a commercial, Ryan projects the numbers 33.06%, 33.26%, and 33.68% in a giant font on the big screen. Those are the voting totals, so basically, they split the vote. But whose fan base was just a teeny bit smaller than the other two? It's Elliott, at long last. Kat's parents don't cry for him like they're supposed to. Well, wait, maybe her dad does. Who knows with that guy? Elliott takes it like a pro, seeing third place as the achievement it is. Ryan goes straight for the mom card, because he wants big fat droplets. Daniel Powter also lends a hand with the Sad Boy Remix. Elliott keeps it together, both in the clips and live onstage. No, he totally doesn't. He sings out and reminds us, once again, that his name is "Elliott Yamin." Not "that shuffly one from Season Five."
We're down to three, or so Ryan Seacrest tells us. He lies that this is the last time they'll be singing for us before the finale. If only. When did this season get so damn interminable? Roseanne is in the audience tonight. She'll be married to Taylor by week's end. Ryan reminds us that "everybody's still talking" about Chris getting voted off, which is accurate to the letter, if not the spirit, of the statement. I think if you see enough headlines screaming "Shocking AI Exit!" you're eventually going to ask, "What's with the big freak-out?" ["Or alternately, 'Ousted Bitter Idol Acts The Fool Everywhere'? Because all the talking I was hearing was about how hideous his behavior was after the fact." -- Jacob] Okay, Randy Jackson and I are going to have to have a talk about this booing Simon thing. I know the man likes his shtick, and when he finds a new club to put in his bag, he's going to want to play it. But check it out, dawg: it makes you even more of a Cowell puppet than you already had been. He's already got Paula, the audience, Ryan, and half the contestants on a string. The fact that he gets to Pavlov you into freaking out like a fourth grader? Just feeds the beast. Stop it.
Ryan says the first of three songs the contestants will sing tonight will be chosen by Clive Davis. Clive, looking about ready to battle Aaron Spelling for that last batch of life-extending sheep embryos, is in the audience this year instead of on the judges' panel. Because without Bo Bice to make out with, what's the point? The video package gives us the usual Clive signposts, including -- get ready, now -- Whitney Houston and Alicia Keyes. And I know you can't deny the awesome voice of yesteryear and everything, but you'd have to figure at some point "discovered Whitney Houston" is going to lose its luster, right? Also, as head of BMG, he's overseeing the careers of Britney and Justin Timberlake. Um. You think he might want to get a move on with the latter? And euthanize the former? Anyway, the point of the video package is to get to show this hilarious old black-and-white studio shot of Clive with his head resting on the palm of his hand. Aspiring recording stars? He's listening.
Elliott's up first, and we once again go to the videotape, where Clive is wearing a stunning crushed velvet collared shirt, in a royal shade of blue. Clive Davis: he can get you what you need, baby. The song Clive has chosen is Journey's "Open Arms," which is awesome, frankly. Not for Elliott, of course, but for mankind. Journey, right now, seems to be in that post-ironic place that Styx was in right after Eric Cartman sang "Come Sail Away," so Elliott knocking this song out would make him seem at least as cutting-edge as Aileen Wuornos. Which is an improvement for Elliott. It would also make me like him a lot, and God knows I don't need a last-minute change of heart. Elliott, as you might expect, is honored to be working with Clive, and is super-polite and gracious, because he was raised right and whatever. I was told the rules of polite society didn't extend to things that were mummified, but maybe that's just how I was raised. Anyway, lucky for me, once Elliott starts singing, you can tell that, while his voice is excellent in many of his chosen genres, it is not quite up to the Steve Perry challenge. He's also not entirely up to the "remembering the lyrics" challenge, though he recovers decently. I'll freely admit that I may be the only person alive who could call this song "cool," but what makes it cool is how Steve Perry is about to fall out all over himself with the deep emotion of the arena rock ballad. Whereas Elliott's just sort of...singing a song. Well, Leeza Gibbons enjoys it anyway.Randy reminds us that he was in Journey back in the day, and that it was "one of the greatest bands ever!" He says Elliott "kinda worked it out" despite a problem in the chorus. He does wish Elliott had taken more chances with it. Gee, maybe it would have been better to have told him this in any of the weeks leading up to now instead of mindlessly slobbering over him like Randy and Paula have been. Hmm? Speaking of Her Loopiness, she talks nonsense about how she can't wait to hear everyone else sing tonight, and that Elliott was great. Simon, closest to my own thoughts as usual, says it was a great song choice, not a very good performance, and too stiff and nervous. He calls Elliott "young man" as he advises him to start believing he can make the final two. Dude never believed he'd make the final ten. I think that ship has long since sailed. Ryan comes out to talk, and the words they say don't matter because the subtext goes like this: Ryan: "Elliott, you loose?" Elliott: "Fuck no, but I better get loose, right?" Ryan: "Do you believe you can win this?" Elliott: "Fuck no, dude. No. NO! ...Yes?"