Top 3 Results – Recap
Tonight’s show stretched into an hour. Videos from the contestants home town visits are featured and they each perform their cut from the American Idols Season 5 Encores CD.
Ace Young and Kellie Pickler are in the audience.
Ryan tells the audience that 50 million votes were cast–breaking the record yet again for a non-finale results show. He also mentions that the vote totals were very very close.
The kids are put through what must have been hours of make up to look like senior-citizens. They sing a hip-hop version of the standard, “Young at Heart”. It’s very bizarre, yet funny. Ryan says, “I didn’t know Simon was having a party.”
Now for some Synergy
There’s a short clip of the kids meeting Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn backstage. They both star in the new Twentieth Century Fox feature, “The Last Stand”! The Idols each get an advance DVD to watch in their “spare time”. Yeah right! Each utters a little promotional slogan for the film. Says Elliott, “X-men 3, baby!”
Next are the hometown videos and performances.
First up is Taylor Hicks. He’s featured visiting local media, performing at a local mall and meeting the Governor. Taylor appears to be a Rock Star in Birmingham. It’s like he’s already won the crown. Afterward, we are treated to a reprise of “Taking it to The Streets” and it’s just awesome. Taylor motions for Katharine and Elliott to join him on the Idol stage and they all dance. It’s like one big party.
Next is Katharine McPhee. She lives in Sherman Oaks, a suburb of LA that lies “over the hill” as they say–in the Valley. Heh. Katharine is a Valley Girl! Her homecoming is quite different than Taylor’s. First of all, she never left home in the first place. And second of all, jaded LA could care less about some Idol hopeful who is taping a video package. She doesn’t even get to meet Arnold! She has to settle for the Mayor of LA. In order to create some excitement, the entire “homecoming” takes place as a pep rally at her high school. The kids seem really excited. Especially a few of the boys. Heh. Kat also gets to take a helicopter ride and meet Kevin and Bean. She reprises her tune “Think” and she’s extremely animated. She kicks off her shoes and dances around the catwalk.
Elliott Yamin is last. Funny thing. As I watch his video package, it feels like his farewell video. Elliott goes back home and is humbly overwhelmed with emotion as he meets the Governor, his fans and his ex-coworkers. He movingly sings the song “Home” for his hometown crowd. In one shot, Elliott and his mom are waving to fans during the homecoming parade, and mom is crying–she’s just completely overcome. The music swells and the entire package turns into a Spielberg movie: The scrappy underdog–the humble kid who didn’t finish high school and drifted aimlessly from job to job–has found his place in the world and comes back home a hero. Sniff. Elliott’s video is saved for last. Suddenly, I know that he is going home. Back to Ryan. Elliott is crying. Paula is crying. His mom is crying. I’m nearly crying. And I’m not the type.
He recovers to reprise his fabulous “Moody’s Mood for Love” and he sounds terrific. I remember the first time he blew me away back in the semi’s. As Randy says, “This kid can blow.“
Useless Filler or Just a Little Self-Promotion
The kids present Clive Davis with some sort of award. It’s basically an excuse for the producers to crow, “OMG, American Idol has launched STARZ! We’re Playahs Baby!”
Thankfully, this goes by really fast. Ryan presents the vote total stats on the big screen:
At this point, all three contestants look like they’re about to pee their pants.
Ryan reveals the name behind the lowest percentage. It is Elliott Yamin. Elliott’s not shocked. He tells the crowd that he’s truly blessed. Ryan introduces his mom. Elliott says he’s blessed to have been able to “experience this with her and my brother…and everyone else in my family.” Ryan attempts to force a moment by asking her to tell Elliott she loves him. She does.
Elliott’s goodbye package is sweet. Elliott singing “A Song For You” is edited together from his Boston audition, his a cappella Hollywood audition, and his appearance at a baseball game in Richmond. Elliott tells us, “I was lost for so long…and I was thinking about how long it took me to get to this point. It hasn’t been easy. I feel like I’m doing what I was born to do. And I’ve always known that, it’s just that I just didn’t know how to get here…”
Elliott has the best backstory, absolutely. Underachievers of the world, unite.
He sings out the show beautifully with “I Believe to My Soul”.
My first glimpse of Elliott was during the Boston preview at the very end of the Austin audition episode. If ya blinked, you missed the few seconds of Elliott’s soulful crooning featured in the clip. His audition was never shown in the Boston episode. The second time was during the Hollywood rounds and the infamous group sing with half of the Brittenum twins. That’s when a calm, confident and well rested Elliott blew the rest of his group out of the water by singing “The Shoop Shoop Song” soulfully, tunefully and with every word intact. Couldn’t say half that much for his whiny group mates. At that time, Elliott impressed me with his quiet humility and work ethic. And that impression would stay with me for the rest of the competition.
He was chosen for the Top 24, and at that time, it was a toss up whether he could beat early favorites like Sway (one of his tuneless group-mates in Hollywood) or Patrick Hall. Despite the fact that Elliott impressed during the Top 24, singing Stevie Wonder’s “If You Really Love Me”, he had never been pimped, had no discernible backstory, and wasn’t conventionally handsome. Back then, Simon said he was “potentially the best male vocalist the competition has ever seen.” At the time, I observed that he was being cast as the “rough diamond” who would grow during the competition. I was right.
But it was the following week, when he navigated the tricky jazz rhythms of “Moody’s Mood for Love” with ease, that it appeared the unassuming kid from Richmond, Va absolutely deserved a spot in the Top 12.
After he advanced to the finals, it still seemed an uphill battle for Elliott despite his obvious gifts. Most polls at the time had him pegged as a middle packer–eliminated around 9-6th place. But Elliott held his own, delivering good performance after good performance. And importantly, Elliott, more than the others–blossomed during the competition, right before our eyes. That was a pleasure to watch, and a potential story arc that was too good for the producers to pass up. They promoted the E-train at critical moments to make sure the tour didn’t stop.
Once the stylists got a hold of him, they encouraged him to grow out his hair and dressed him in some spiffy duds. He grew a goatee. And the ugly duckling suddenly took on a new look–like the coolest 50’s hipster you’d ever seen. He was handsome even.
Eventually we learned that Elliott’s prior experience consisted of singing at a local karaoke bar. And that his own family, including his mother–a singer herself–had only recently learned he could sing! The inexperienced Elliott, who was 90% deaf in one ear nearly always sang in tune, and nearly always chose songs that were vocally challenging. And he nearly always sang them well.
Elliott most definitely had the vocal chops, but his lack of performing experience showed, as he sometimes appeared awkward and nervous up on the Idol stage, especially next to some of the more seasoned performers. But even here, his confidence grew as the weeks went by. And Elliott survived–due to his consistently improving performances and his growing fan base. He exceeded expectations, making it to 3rd place, outlasting early favorites like Ace Young, Mandisa, Paris Bennett, Kellie Pickler and–gasp– Chris Daughtry. During the semis and the early stages of the finals, it was hard to imagine Elliott Yamin outlasting Ace Young and Chris Daughtry–both favored to win at different points of the competition.
And I dare say, he came close to advancing past Katharine McPhee. But that’s hard to tell–as the phones seemed to be so jammed last night, that all three contestants ended up in a statistical dead heat.
The E-train is the little engine that could.
Personally, looking back at his performances–while not the best performer of the bunch–I think Elliott is the best male vocalist. Now, vocal prowess isn’t everything. Elliott has a lot to learn from stage pros like Katharine and Taylor who have the complete package–great vocals and performing skills. But Elliott is still travelling on that learning curve. He’s going to continue to improve. I see only good things in the future for him.