Just Six Old-Fashioned Love Songs on 'Idol'

EntertainmentTheaterMusical TheaterTelevisionDavid FosterKellie PicklerDeath

Is it bad luck or poor planning that the departure of Ace Young has left "American Idol" with a noticeable Pretty Void just in time for Tuesday's (April 25) Love Song Theme? Would the six remaining "Idol"-ites still be able to make viewers swoon?

Singer: KATHARINE MCPHEE
Song: "I Have Nothing"
My Take: You don't need to have followed "Idol" from the first season to be aware that few choices are as inherently stupid as covering Whitney Houston, because when you cover Whitney you just know that nobody's going to go "You sang that one so much better than Whitney-On-Crack." No. People only make comparisons to Clean-and-Sober Whitney, which is just unfair. This is pure speculation, but I'm nearly certain that Katharine sings this one much better than Whitney-on-Crack hypothetically would. In a plunging yellow dress, Katharine looks spectacular (far superior to Whitney-on-Crack). Her voice, musical theater-toned as always, is very different from Whitney's or from any of the other legion of wannabe-divas who have attempted to do Whitney on "Idol" and it takes a while to get used to the idea that she isn't just doing simple karaoke.
Cupid, Erato and Simon Say: The judges, it turns out, wanted karaoke. Randy thinks the song was too big for her and accuses her of trying to copy Whitney, which she wasn't. Paula heard pitch problems and notes, correctly, Katharine's tendency to oversing. Simon also accuses her of not being Whitney and says she went backwards. The judges may need to go back and listen to this one again.

Singer: ELLIOTT YAMIN
Song: "A Song For You"
My Take: Writer-producer David Foster is a pretty harsh taskmaster for a guy who starred in one of the worst reality shows ("The Princes of Malibu") in FOX history. That has nothing to do with Elliott's performance, which is vocally outstanding. He's sincere and passionate, absolutely radio-quality. Plus, this is the least distracting he's been visually. Perhaps he's figuring out how to avoid the awkward smiles, or perhaps the directors are realizing how to shoot him.
Cupid, Erato and Simon Say: Randy hated the arrangement, which overshadowed the vocals a bit, but still describes him as "da bomb." Paula is bawling, mascara running, blubbering about how Elliott has always moved her. OK. He was good. But he wasn't that good. Simon, unsure how to follow Paula's collapse, describes it as, in part, a "vocal masterclass."

Singer: KELLIE PICKLER
Song: "Unchained Melody"
My Take: Kellie Pickler, evil genius, staved off elimination last week by admitting she stunk and playing the humble card. This week, Kellie Pickler, evil genius, preemptively avoids any chance of elimination by batting her eyes, staring into the camera, pouting and admitting that she doesn't currently have a boyfriend, but she's looking. Noting her song choice (and its famous use in "Ghost"), she tells us that she's looking for somebody to "play pottery with." She's looking at all of the males in the audience and saying, "Vote for me and we might have sex with clay." That's just brilliant. How about the performance, though? Well, I've never seen an "Idol" contestant go as completely dead in the face as Kellie does here. If her face was shot up with a full tainted can of Vichyssoise-worth of botulism, she couldn't be less expressive. She's flat on the low notes and sharp on the high ones and she mumbles the words.
Cupid, Erato and Simon Say: Randy calls it very strange. Paula keeps waiting for Kellie to get better, but she isn't feeling any greatness. Simon wonders why Paula didn't cry tears of pain at this one and dubs it bland and monotonous. The music plays him off.

Singer: PARIS BENNETT
Song: "The Way We Were"
My Take: Somehow this whole episode would be much more interesting if the instructions were coming from David Foster Wallace rather than David Foster. Talk about a supposedly fun thing he'd never want to do again. The song starts a little too low for Paris, who hiccups several parts of the verse, trying to get the words out. Does she know what this song is about? It's about love and HUAC. I'm not getting any HUAC from her performance. Or, really, any love. Or any meaning at all. But she sounds fine, I guess.
Cupid, Erato and Simon Say: Randy wasn't blown away, but he thought it was pretty good. Paula calls it the best female vocal of the night. Simon talks really fast and says Paris sounded a bit too old-fashioned.

Singer: TAYLOR HICKS
Song: "Just Once"
My Take: You know who would love Taylor's Ray Charles impression? Andrea Bocelli. Never sing an "Idol" song that begins with "I did my best, but I guess my best wasn't good enough." This is the least challenging song of the night so far, but Taylor still loses the low notes. There's a needy vibrato that I've never heard before from Taylor and that I don't much like. This is a guy whose greatest attribute has been how effortless he's made this process look, but tonight it seems like he's trying too hard. Taken out of the context of my previous appreciation for Taylor, this was poor.
Cupid, Erato and Simon Say: Randy dismisses the song choice and calls it weird karaoke. I don't know what Paula says. Simon says Taylor looked uptight and compares it to a hotel lounge performance.

Singer: CHRIS DAUGHTRY
Song: "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman"
My Take: "If he delivers the performance of his life, he'll do amazing," Foster says in a taped bit. He starts to say "But..." when the producers cut him off. "But..." what? As is becoming a Chris trademark, the occasional rocker looks ready to kill anybody who hasn't ever really loved a woman. Threatening glare aside, Chris' version is less insufferable than Bryan Adams'. In fact, it's pretty strong, but would David Foster call this the performance of his life? I have no idea.
Cupid, Erato and Simon Say: Randy loves Chris. Paula loves him, loves him, loves him. Simon doesn't love him, but he really likes him.

TONIGHT'S BEST: Elliott and Chris stood out from the pack.
IN DANGER: Will the promise of pottery prurience keep Kellie from getting her richly deserved pink slip? Taylor gave the night's second worst performance. That leaves Katharine, who I fear may be in serious trouble, although she was far better than the judges suggested. America, if you eliminate Katharine before Kellie, it's possible that I may not ever talk to you again.

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