The Fifties Are Nifty for 'Idol' Final 11
With Barry Manilow as their spirit guide, the 'Idol' singers visit the Eisenhower Era
Without further ado, let the rampant Adlai Stevenson jokes commence...
Song: "I Don't Hurt Anymore"
My Take: Mandisa's got a saucy new look, complete with subtle make-up and springy ringlets. Those wacky "Idol" stylists even have her looking slimmer. It's a breeze of a song for her, but she sounds splendid, breaking out of the safe range by the end. I'm not entirely blown away, but I'm not sure how it could have been better. It's polished and brassy.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy, fighting a cold, calls it an unbelievable way to start the night. You know Paula is just dying to mention that she knows the decade well, because she once took a time machine back to the '50s for that great "Rush, Rush" video. Simon raves that Mandisa's blossoming and even dubs it sexy and "a great stripper's song."
Singer: BUCKY COVINGTON
Song: "Oh Boy"
My Take: Bucky substitutes his own goofball charm for Buddy Holly's geek-chic swagger. His approach is also sluggish and lackadaisical where Holly was manic and galvanic. As a dumbed down version of a great pop song, it's OK, though Bucky doesn't sing so much as he barks lyrics with telegraphed country gruffness. It's tough to complain about pitch, because he ruffs over almost all of the actual notes.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy doesn't think it was his best vocal, but he liked the sound choice. Paula, looking confused, is itching to talk about the time she went back in a time machine to the '50s and was interviewed by Edward R. Murrow. Simon calls it a "pointless karaoke performance."
Singer: PARIS BENNETT
My Take: Wait. Hasn't Paris sung this before? Back in the Hollywood round? She was unaccompanied for that performance, but she synchs up perfectly with the band tonight. Goodness, she's got pipes. She sways around the stage, commanding it completely. But when will somebody make a good choice on what to do with her hair? Oh well. I guess if "Idol" hasn't figured out how to hide Constantine Maroulis in a shallow grave, certain tonsorial failings must be forgiven. Since ABC doesn't seem to be interested in Constantine's sitcom anymore, he's become the "Idol" equivalent of The Fonz. He's just living over the garage at this point.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy alleges that Paris "blew it out da box." Paula seems eager to mention her trip in a time machine to dance on the original "American Bandstand." Simon says Paris has the perfect voice for that kind of song.
Singer: CHRIS DAUGHTRY
Song: "Walk the Line"
My Take: It sounds like a wacky and risky song choice for Chris until he reminds us of his relationship with his wife. Awwww... This isn't Johnny Cash's "Walk the Line," or even Joaquin Phoenix's "Walk the Line." I'm sure somebody knows this arrangement, but I don't. It hasn't a hint of '50s style, but it's haunting in its own way. Chris' unblinking intensity is a tiny bit freaky, though. He's not really on the same show as the other people. You sense that the band and the lighting crew just love it whenever he performs, which is an unfair advantage.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy praises his manipulation of the theme. Paula's wondering if anybody remembers when she took a time machine back and was launched into orbit with Laika on Sputnik 2. Simon thinks Chris is the first uncompromising artist they've ever had on the show. In your face, Constantine.
Singer: KATHARINE MCPHEE
Song: "Come Rain or Come Shine"
My Take: If ever an "Idol" singer has been meant to dance out on stage in poodle skirt, it was Katharine. Alas, she lets me down. But only a little. She's got enough sultry goin' on for me to forgive. Hands up, men, if you're convinced Katharine was singing to you tonight? Well, you're wrong. All me. She does a few weird things vocally (not that I noticed) and it takes a bit of time for her to massage several notes (not that I noticed), but she's a knockout.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy calls it really really strong. Paula thinks there isn't enough recognition for that day in 1953 when she and Tenzing Norgay took a time machine back and helped Edmund Hillary climb Mt. Everest. Simon announces that Katharine turned into a star tonight.
Singer: TAYLOR HICKS
Song: "Not Fade Away"
My Take: This, Mr. Bucky, is how you do Buddy Holly. It's much too easy a song, but Taylor bounces around the stage with enough energy to cover his total absence of vocal fireworks. I wish we could just boot Bucky and let Taylor sing "Oh Boy."
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy didn't love the performance, but he loves Taylor. Paula makes the observation that somebody should be shooting Taylor's performances. Ummm... Paula? What do you reckon the cameras are for? Simon compares it a hideous party performance. Paula tries talking over Simon, who tells her to stop being a blithering idiot. Of course, Paula's jabbering because she's ashamed to admit the time she went back in time machine and named names at the HUAC hearings.
Singer: LISA TUCKER
Song: "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?"
My Take: Lisa's losing ground to Paris. But you know the best way to gain votes? Flood pants! She may have been excited by all those key changes, but it's the rhythmic changes that mess her up. She sounds OK, but she's never comfortable with what's happening behind her. But at least if the plumbing breaks, her slacks won't get soaked.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy doesn't think it was the dopest he's ever seen her. Paula's time machine-aided early appearance in Playboy has, thankfully, been lost. Simon feels like he's trapped in a high school musical.
Singer: KEVIN COVAIS
Song: "When I Fall In Love"
My Take: Eraserhead's Baby chooses the most vulnerable, sincere, innocent, earnest song imaginable. I choose to floss. Anybody want to speculate on what Kevin's right hand was doing in his pocket for the whole performance? Is that just to play up his "Oh shucks" fetal charm? The best moments are when the director has two images of Kevin superimposed. Double Kevin, Double Trouble!
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy raves that Kevin did a "pretty good job." She was wearing a mask at the time, but in 1956, thanks to a time machine, Paula caught Don Larsen's perfect game. Simon spits out the backhanded compliment that Kevin's audience will love him.
Singer: ELLIOTT YAMIN
Song: "Teach Me Tonight"
My Take: Unsettling smile aside, Elliott's back in his element tonight. There's a bit too much vibrato and he forces a couple runs, but it's a suave performance from a man who probably isn't all that suave in real life. Elliott has the Everyman appeal that people keep misattributing to Kevin.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy says he worked it out. Paula doesn't want anybody to know that she went back in a time machine and gave Charles Van Doren the answers on "21." Simon calls Elliott fantastic.
Singer: KELLIE PICKLER
Song: "Walkin' After Midnight"
My Take: As cute as she is and as solid as her voice may be, Kellie will forever be hamstrung by the fact that she doesn't understand a word she sings. Ever. I've yet to hear a Kellie Pickler performance where she caught the nuances and storytelling of her particular song. So it is that a beautiful song of melancholy becomes a bland all-voice/no-feeling showcase for Kellie and her over-rouged cheeks. I guess the pure music of it was acceptable, but whoever did her makeup tonight needs to be instructed to avoid the Tennessee Hooker look.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy says something. Paula doesn't want to brag, but she isn't just a songwriter -- she once used a time machine to zip back and write Richard Nixon's "Checkers Speech." She keeps mum. Kellie wouldn't understand anyway. She's too transfixed by the pickle with her face on it. Simon welcomes her back.
Singer: ACE YOUNG
Song: "In the Still of the Night"
My Take: Ace sings right from the nose. I like his rendition a bit more if I'm not watching him sneer and shake his finger at me. Also, I hate to say it, but his falsetto really isn't that good. I wish people would stop raving about it. It's reedy and weak.
Two Men and a Little Lady Say: Randy gives props. Ace has Paula too hot and bothered to think of any additional '50s moments she might have experienced courtesy of her time machine. Simon isn't enthusiastic about the vocals, but he calls it a helluva lot better than last week.
TONIGHT'S BEST: Paris, Mandisa and Katharine
IN DANGER: I'm not dumb enough to believe that Kevin is in danger, but he'd go in my Bottom Three with Bucky and Lisa.