Elvis Has Entered the Building…
Top 4 Performances – Recap
Priscilla Presley greeted the idols in front of Graceland. Wow, that woman has had a ton of work on her face. She claimed that if Elvis were alive, he’d be a supportive fan of the show. Legend has it that Elvis auditioned for the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, the 50’s version of American Idol, and was turned away. Damn, no tour of the house? Maybe tomorrow? I hope so. I want to see the Jungle Room!
Svengali, Tommy Mottola coached the kids. His advice was competent, but I was too busy thinking about how skeery he is to pay much attention to what he said.
Taylor Hicks – “Jailhouse Rock” – I know, I know. I should just trust Taylor and his instincts, right? I wasn’t very pleased when I heard he was singing “Jailhouse Rock.” I really thought there was huge potential for this to turn into a mediocre imitation–because this song is an iconic Elvis song. The performance from the film is a great classic. And for any singer to attempt to perform it is to invite comparisons to the original version. More than likely those comparisons will be negative. But Taylor, damn, he really pulled this off. What he had first of all, was a really fantastic bluesy, soulful vocal. Secondly, he wisely made sure those vocals were always in front of the dance moves. He danced, but he wasn’t all over the place. The movement was choreographed so that it was entertaining, but not distracting. Simon’s critique was hilarious. Does he have that crap on some tiny tape recorder somewhere? I think he presses a button, and out comes tired, rote critiques like, “In the real world, that was a terrible impersonation of Elvis Presley. The dancing was hideous….it was just karaoke with a capital K.” Again, Taylor was laughing, and so was the audience. And did you see Nigel in the audience with that great big grin on his face? Heh. By the way, that burgundy suit was FAB.
Chris Daughtry – “Suspicious Minds” – Chris picked a great, great Elvis classic here. This was a perfect song for his style and his vocal range. Chris does really well on tunes that require intensity and passion. I never totally bought into the idea that his eyes look dead when he sings. The glaring is more a bi-product of the fact that he’s a very serious, intense performer. And again, I think this fits perfectly with his alt-rock persona. But it only works when he picks the right song. And he did that here, where he captured the urgency and emotion of the song extremely well. His vocals sounded clear–the goatie vibrato was kept to a minimum. And his phrasing was awesome. He worked the stage really well. This was one of my favorite Chris performances of the season. If only he’d left the sunglasses in the dressing room. Heh. Randy wasn’t crazy about the song. But Simon said, “That worked.” And I think it did, too.
Elliott Yamin – “If I Can Dream” – During Elliott’s clip, I was a little leery, because he was shown forgetting his lyrics and singing badly. But on second look, I realized that the producers were once again presenting Elliott as Cinderella–the singer who begins as a diamond in the rough, works hard, and emerges as a polished performer. Just when I think TPTB are trying to get rid of him, they turn around and support him. And I think they support him, because his is a great backstory that’s too juicy to pass up. Having said that, I didn’t think this performance was one of Elliott’s best. It was a really weird arrangement, and I thought he started off really hesitantly–he looked nervous and uncomfortable at first. He also had a hard time controlling his vibrato throughout the song. But, there were some really wonderful moments here–especially when he went for the big notes. The middle of the song, once he got a handle on it, was fantastic. Once again, Elliott chose a really difficult song to sing and with only a few hitches–he pulled it off. Raves from the judges. Simon said “that was the best performance so far.”
Katharine McPhee – “Hound Dog/All Shook Up” – This was not a good song choice for Katharine. I’ve said this before, but I think Katharine really shines on the standards, and on ballads that don’t require her to belt out the top notes. When she goes for blues, soul or rock, songs–she sorta sucks the life out of them. Her performance was the Broadway, cabaret version of Elvis. If this were Elvis! The Musical! I might have jumped on board, but since it wasn’t, this really fell flat for me. What’s more, when the song morphed into “All Shook Up, ” she just lost it. She missed a few notes, and literally missed some lyrics. And there were a couple of high notes that were really off. Randy called her on the lyric she missed, and then both Randy and Paula harped on it. Simon said it looked like a “desperate, manic audition…it was manic, it was shrieky…it wasn’t a great performance over all.” No pimping for Katharine. And that surprised me.
Nikko Smith in the House! Whee!
Taylor Hicks – “In the Ghetto” – Honestly, I always found this song rather maudlin and a bit patronizing. But Taylor’s personal, heartfelt spin on this tune just zapped out all the cheesy undertones. He proved again that he’s got the goods. While Taylor’s vocals may not be technically perfect, his phrasing is incredible. I’ve listened to this song a few times already, and I marvel how he takes pauses in just the right places, or punches up a word or a phrase perfectly. And that little falsetto “whoohoo hoo” in the middle was one of those perfect Taylor touches. I didn’t think of Elvis once while he was singing this. It was the perfect song choice for him this week, and proved that he knows how to choose songs that show off his vocal ability. The judges loved it. Simon said, “Taylor, what you have just done, you have just sung your way into the semi-finals, young man.”
Chris Daughtry – “A Little Less Conversation” – I said above that Chris does really well with songs that require passion and intensity. Chris doesn’t smile much when he sings. He’s a very serious guy. And if this was an attempt at lightening his act up a bit, it didn’t work. This was not a good song choice for Chris. He was unable to bring the fun and the flirt that this song requires. Actually, this song would have been a really good choice for Katharine, who I believe could have made it fun and flirty. While Chris’s vocals were good, he glared and stomped his way through a tune that needed a much lighter approach. His vocal was practically monotone and the result was a dull performance. Really, a smile would have helped a lot. But that’s not Chris’s style. The scream at the end seemed completely out of place. To be totally honest with y’all, I much preferred Jon Peter Lewis’s performance of this song back in Season 3. Now, that was fun. JPL–the original dancing idol. Heh. Randy and Paula really liked it, but Simon said, “Up until the end, it was quite a flat performance, really…it wasn’t like you.” I agree.
Elliott Yamin – “Trouble” – Elliott is EVIL y’all! Hee. Earlier today, I was having a hard time envisioning sweet Elliott pulling off this tune, but he did it! In fact, I liked this performance better than his first. He seemed more relaxed and comfortable in his skin on this number. Elliott has some great R&B chops, and man they were on display here. This tune was very raw, very hot. The band looked like they were having a blast. The only quibble I have, is that he needed to work the stage more. But otherwise, Elliott pulled out all the stops–I saw no tentativeness or hesitation. I agree with Simon–Elliott may have won himself a spot in the semi-finals. Oh, and that jeans and blazer combo was hawt. Elliott’s looking real good these days. Randy said, “that was your best performance ever.” No, Randy that would be Moody’s Mood for Love. Paula, who thought his first song was his best performance evah, quickly changed her mind. She’s such a flake. Simon said, “You’ve come out fighting, you’re showing personality, you deserve to go through to the next round.” How’s that for some pimping?
Katharine McPhee – “Can’t Help Falling in Love” – This should have been a good performance for Katharine, but it wasn’t. I think the arrangement killed her. She should have approached this the way she approached Whitney’s “I Have Nothing” a few weeks ago–without the runs and the glory notes. Because those kill her. But then, Katharine got nailed for not dressing up that Whitney song, didn’t she? Here, she starts off well enough–the first two lines were very nice. But starting with “Like the river flows…” the song went wrong, because she went for the big notes and her vocals went screechy and out of tune. After that it was all downhill. When the song changed key, she went totally flat. It was a mess. Elvis’s version of this song is breathtaking, and there’s no shouting, no glory notes and no vocal tricks. A more understated arrangement of this song would have served her so much better. And that outfit was the fugly. Gah, do the stylists hate her? Simon said, “This hasn’t been one of your best nights…It was so over the top, it was just too much.”
Based on performance–Katharine, who had two less than stellar performances–should go. But will she? The judges surprisingly pimped Elliott a lot tonight. Will that help bring him the casual vote? I think Chris and Taylor will be fine this week. But at this stage of the game, anything could happen.
Elliott was the surprise tonight. Not only did he perform well, but the judges were incredibly supportive. Outside of Idol, the judges and the producers barely acknowledge his existence. Are we being set up for some sort of Shocking! Boot!? We’ll find out tomorrow night…
We may be on our way to an all-male final three. I could get down with that…