American Idol: A Mixed Bag on Elvis Night

Last night was Elvis night on American Idol. We knew it was going to be interesting just based on the fact that there was a girl left and Elvis doesn't really fit all their styles. If anyone was expected to do better than the others, it would have had to have been Taylor. Speaking of which . . .

Taylor started off the night with his annoying Soul Patrol chanting and what looked like an impression as much as a performance of "Jailhouse Rock." I know Taylor has a huge number of fans, but he really can't escape his own cheesiness. It brings me to the question of how these contestants will do in their careers post-Idol. I am not sure if Taylor has a career more than a year or so after AI. I mean the majority of people buying records and going to concerts aren't going to dig his act after the novelty of the show wears away. Just think about it this way. Can you imagine what his album would sound like? I think every song will easily be traced to the influence. One will sound like Harry Connick. One will sound like Michael McDonald. Etc. Etc. It will be like a collection of genres that would play better for a variety show in Vegas than anywhere else.

Chris Daughtry did "Suspicious Minds" by Elvis and while I thought it was a solid performance, he didn't take the kinds of chances, vocally, that he has gotten us used to. Maybe he was a little gun-shy after almost singing his voice out last week. The judges weren't critical and Simon even said "it worked," but I am not sure if this performance had the energy to really rile up the Chris fan-base.

Elliott Yamin did "Why Can't My Dream Come True" and he did yet another solid performance. At the same time, if he hasn't swayed all those out there to vote for him yet, I am not sure it was enough of a performance to make it happen. Elliott is probably the most mismatched performer on the show between his actual performances and ability and the disparity in the number of times he has been in the bottom few. If there is anyone on the show who has really progressed as a singer and performer, it is definitely Elliott Yamin. He strikes me as the type of guy who might be able to find a career with the proper kind of marketing and placement. After American Idol, I don't think he will be able to play basketball arenas around the country, but he will definitely be able to play jazzy types of clubs and the House of Blues assuming he gets a great backing band.

Speaking of life after Idol, I am not sure where Katharine McPhee is going to fit in. She doesn't have the pipes to be a "diva" and I am not sure she is well-rounded enough to mold into something more genuine the way that Kelly Clarkson has over the last two years. I think what is left is a girl who is better than average in terms of voice and looks, but unless she is capable of over-acting on the WB, I don't really know that she is going to be able to keep the music-buying public riveted in any way shape or form. McPhee did "Hound Dog" mixed with "All Shook Up" and she pulled it off pretty well, except that she started to lose her breath with all the dancing and parading about. Her finish was quite excellent as she did some range-bending histrionics to finish the song. She dropped one part of one of the lyrics, but I am not sure that it will hurt her. Simon didn't really like the performance, but I think he was overly harsh.

The Second Songs of the Night

Taylor decided to do "In the Ghetto." Another solid vocal performance for Taylor and while he continues to impress, we will soon find out if America has the same amount of love for him that they have shown throughout the competition. Again, the judges were very complimentary with this song, but like Chris' first song, I am not sure that it was really all that exciting at home.

Chris' second song was "A Little Less Conversation," which lots of people will recognize more recently as the title theme from the show Las Vegas on NBC. This is definitely a little more funky than Chris usually goes. The quick spitting lyrics are not exactly what you think of when you think of Chris. It seems more in his character to hold elongated notes and get a little bit guttural, which he did very briefly at the end of the song. Simon didn't really find the performance exciting and I tend to agree that it wasn't as exciting as what we have come to expect from Chris. When Chris gets away from the excitement, he usually replaces it with emotion and A Little Less Conversation doesn't open itself up for that.

Elliott Yamin's second song was "Trouble." Something weird happened in this song. The camera really cut to the band who were all rocking it out with Elliott with dance moves along with their backup vocals. I am not sure I have seen any of this kind of thing during the rest of the show. It would be interesting to know if this has an effect on the perception of the performance at home. Elliott really didn't do anything but stand in the middle of the stage for this performance and the production really helped him out. The performance was good by Elliott but this definitely seems like some extra special help from the show's producers.

Last but not least Katharine McPhee did "Can't Help Falling in Love." From the start, her performance was spotty and flat in spots. I was also not a big fan of the arrangement. When Katharine extends her range, sometimes the tone falters and the tone of her falsetto at the end of the song was especially horrendous. Simon also didn't appreciate the arrangement or the performance and I think he was right on.

So Who Goes Home?

I honestly don't have much of a prediction here. I think that Chris and Taylor will be safe. It definitely will come down to Elliott and Katharine, and if you put me in a corner, I would have to say that Elliott is going to go home. If Katharine had shown any cleavage at all it would be a no doubt, but all we were left with was her mediocre singing performance.

I wrote that long article yesterday and posted it multiple places. At the end you will notice that I made a crack about Katharine winning votes if she showed more cleavage. I posted this article not only here at but also at where I took a pounding from some of the AI fans for including looks in a "singing contest."

I couldn't possibly have disagreed with them more about this being an actual singing competition. I have plenty of things to point to from this season. Pickler got enough votes after stinking up the joint to stick around for an extra week even though her performance was horrendous and filled with mistakes. Ace's tenure on the show should have been enough to tell everyone that this thing wasn't just about singing.

Well, after last night, I feel completely and totally vindicated. (I realize a lot of you are sitting out there and going, "Well, duh! Of course it isn't about the singing!" but trust me when I say that this needs to be said.) Chris Daughtry doesn't receive enough votes and that portly, pitchy, cleavage monster with no adequate voice control named Katharine gets to continue. This doesn't have much to do with singing talent.

And those of you who want to point to Taylor as a reason that it is about singing and not about personality and looks, I would ask you this question. Is Taylor kind of a popular guy because he doesn't look like anyone else? Have you ever heard of an anti-hero? He is popular because of his grey hair and the lack of pop sensibilities when he is onstage. He is like the clean-cut anti Justin Timberlake. It is kind of a reverse philosophy, but I would guess that has as much to do with his success as his actual singing.

As for Elliott, I really don't have an explanation yet. I mean his singing is really good, but I can't figure out where the rest of his votes are coming from.

Anyway, the show will be far less entertaining for me without Chris Daughtry, but it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. I can't imagine that Katharine is going to survive another week, but then again, I couldn't have imagined that she would outlast Chris.

So, again, I throw my hands up in the air.