The Final Two

I can’t believe this is my last performance recap of the season.  Wow.  It’s been fun.

The Final Two – Recap

I’m running on tea and chocolate tonight…

It’s a Big Show.  Besides the rest of the Top 12, there are many celebrities in the audience.  Oh man, I see Ben Stiller!  YAY!

Back from the break, Chris Daughtry gets a hug from Ryan.  Simon and Nigel sob.

A picture named Final2Kat1b.jpegKatharine McPhee – “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” by KT Tunstall –  Katharine was on her feet for this number.  The drummers were back.  She danced around and played to them.  The song was abrupt–it seemed shorter this time.  BHCT is perfect for her range and her vocals were good, but they unfortunately got swallowed up on the Kodak’s big stage.  Her first version a few weeks ago had some grit and an intimacy that was lost here.  Part of the first version’s impact was that nothing like Tunstall’s folk-blues had ever been attempted on Idol before.  The second time around, the tune seemed slight.  It lost it’s punch.  The song lost it’s impact for Randy too, but he thought she sang it better this time.  Simon said, “The occasion tonight is actually bigger than that song.”  An astute observation.  Katharine mentioned the 1000 roses given to her by her fans.  A very sweet gesture.

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Taylor Hicks – “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder – Taylor made his way out from the audience, and from the first note there was no doubt he was playing to win.  He had the audience on its feet from the moment he stepped out in his purple velvet jacket.  Taylor’s gruff, tough, passionate vocals made Stevie’s story of a decent kid who loses his way in the urban jungle come alive. However, I wish he would have stayed stage bound. It’s crowd pleasing,  but dancing his way down the stairs and out to the catwalk was a bit too Vegas and was at odds with the gravity of Stevie’s lyric.  But that’s a quibble.  Taylor nailed it.  Randy said, “You don’t care who it is…you always make it your own.”  Paula yelled something crazy.  Then Simon said, “Great way to start the show, smart choice of song, it’s arguably the worst jacket I’ve ever seen in my life. But what do I know…round one for you.” Heh.

A picture named Top2Kat2a.jpegKatharine McPhee – “Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland and others – Just like last week, Katharine started the song seated on the floor, bathed in a single spotlight.  Will lightening strike two weeks in a row?  Yes.  This performance was every bit as lovely as last week’s.  Better, actually.  She hit every note perfectly.  She seemed relaxed and self-assured, which allowed a sweet vulnerability to slip into her performance.  She didn’t seem so “practiced” this week.  Afterwards, we found out that her earpiece didn’t work, but she came in on the right key anyway.  We got the requisite shot of a crying father McPhee in the audience, who’s probably got his own cameraman at this point.  Simon said, “Round one, you just got slaughtered.  Now you’ve come back with, I believe…your best performance of the competition.”

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Taylor Hicks – “Levon” by Elton John – As I listened to this performance, I fell in love with each passing note.  But I also knew the judges would hate it.  “Levon” offered none of the Idol moments that win a song praise.  All it had was Taylor’s beautiful, subtle phrasing, and that was enough for me. I don’t need no stinkin’ glory notes.  A moving performance that will get better with each listening.   And the judge that made the most sense here?  Why Paula.  After Randy dismissed the performance as a “nice song…a little pitchy for me this time.” (No. It wasn’t pitchy) Paula said, “Randy, what may be pitchy to you, is the essence of who Taylor is…and Taylor’s just getting into the song…”  Ok, that sounded a little goofy.  But if I’m translating Paulaese correctly, she said that while Taylor’s raw vocals aren’t always perfect, he connects to a song perfectly.  Simon waved her off and said,  “probably not as popular as the first song.”  Well, he had a point there.  He went on to say,  “Katharine has taken the second round.”

Before the commercial break we get Constantine Maroulis rolling his eyes at the camera…

Next, the contestants tackle the Coronation Songs of Suck.  Let’s see how they did.

A picture named Final2Kat3a.jpegKatharine McPhee – “My Destiny” written by Hanne Sorvaag –  Katharine sang the first 2/3rds of this song passably.  This was your typically banal Idol coronation song filled with cliched phrases like “Dream come true, ” “Every moment led me to this, ” “I didn’t give up” and “I owe it to you…I made it through.”   Every coronation song is the same: If-Only-You-Believe-a-Moment-Like-This-Tonight-Inside-Your-Heaven-Will-Be-My-Destiny.  Every year it’s the same.  At this point, the question is–how successfully can the contestant sell this dreck?  Unfortunately for Katharine, the song was not in her comfort zone–a power ballad that had Katharine losing the melody as soon as she went for the high notes. As always. Even the choir didn’t help.  The judges were kind.  After Randy complemented her look (code for “you sucked”) he said “I didn’t like the song, but I liked you.”  Paula said “That isn’t your fault.”  As Simon began to speak, Katharine looked scared to death.  But he was kind too. “I’m sorry Katharine, but you went from brilliant to quite good in one song….everyone who wants to vote for Kat vote and remember the second song.”

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Taylor Hicks – “Do I Make You Proud” written by Tracy Ackerman, Andrew Watkins and Paul Wilson –  Taylor’s coronation song was slightly less horrifying, but still a power ballad, still filled with the same trite phrases.  Props to Taylor for making something out of it, though he didn’t have much to start with.  At least for Taylor, unlike Katharine, he had an arrangement he could work with, even if on principal the song was all wrong for him.  He could at least sound decent singing it.  Ok, except that he totally missed the note when the key changed. But still, he managed to Taylor-up the song enough so that it didn’t sound completely alien.  I’m sad this is going to be his first single, and I fear for what else the producers are going to force him to sing when he makes his album.  I think I’ll go listen to my pre-idol Taylor mp3s now.  Randy was all you-made-it-your-own dawg.  Paula said, “You’re better than the song”  That’s the understatement of the season.  And Simon simply said, “You’ve just won American Idol.”  And so he will.

Katharine’s coronation song did her no favors.  She didn’t, and couldn’t choose the song, but with a toned down arrangement, she would have fared better.

Based on tonight’s performances, Taylor won.   I think, at this point, that’s a prediction that’s safe to make.