It's finally here. Hollywood's finest got dolled up for the event (well Mandy Moore and Ben Stiller got camera time). America's favorite guilty pleasure has reached its culmination point and it's time for the country to crown the new idol. Well, it's been quite a road, hasn't it? A grueling and over-extended Audition process, the diluted Hollywood rounds, and the pointless 3 day February Sweeps Semi-Finals, and (most shocking) 41 BLOGS from yours truly! God knows I'm excited to get this over with! But at the same time, I am also a bit sad that amateur hour is coming to a close for 2006. No fear, the 2 hours of off-key concert'ing Wednesday Night will be sure to have me prepared to do without Idol for 7 months and change!
Last year I took a stroll down Memory Lane in our Finale write-up. So, let's do it again!
- Season 1 - Kelly Clarkson vs Justin Guarini - no Brainer....there were 2 talented people in season 1 and Justin wasn't one of them. Kelly goes on to 2 multi-platinum albums (latest sold over 10 million worldwide) , 2 grammy's, and many other awards to add to her trophy shelf. Still the most successful Idol to date. (and my personal fave!) BTW...She's performing with Rascal Flatts on the Country Music Awards tonight (Tuesday) and her Ford commercial is on the TV as I write this! (I'm proofreading after she performed....she looked hideous and the performance wasn't so good. It means NOTHING!!!)
- Season 2 - Ruben Studdard vs Clay Aiken - probably still the closest season to date. One could argue season 4 was a close one, but I think the idol producers already had their winner pegged from the beginning. A lot of controversy surrounded the votes on season 2 since they were less than 100,000 votes apart out of the millions that voted. Clay Aiken is still outselling Ruben even though Ruben cashed in with his successful single "Sorry 2004" a couple years back. But his 2nd album fell short in sales when he was unable to promote it due to health issues. Clay is probably working on his next album these days...and the claymates will support him forever. (I am not one of them!)
- Season 3 - Fantasia BORINGo vs Diana Bubblegum DeGarmo - Ugh...I've made no secret about the fact that I HATED season 3. There were absolutely NO redeeming qualities of the season. (nope...not even laughing at Jon Stevens!) And if they hadn't changed the rules in season 4, the Idol ship may have sunk. Fantasia is quite possibly the worst role model that America can have. She was a teenage mother who has never learned to read! Yet, there she was singing her way to Idol gold. And God was she annoying. And I guess she's doing well these days, but I sure has heck haven't heard any of her tunes besides Tamyra Gray's "I Believe" (the other talented season 1 contestant)
- Season 4 - Carrie Underwood vs Bo Bice - My 2nd favorite season. This was the year AI established itself as a force to be reckoned with from now until the foreseeable future. It has now become a part America's culture. And Carrie was the perfect girl to root for during this transition. The rules changed...they tweaked a slowly fading machine....instead of 4 weeks of semi-finals and 32 finalists....they went to 3 weeks of narrowing down the final 24. The new rules forced a top 12 of 6 guys and 6 girls. And they thankfully raised the entry age to 28 (at time of auditions...Taylor is 29 now afterall). So there were 2 great performers that made it to the finals in season 4....and it was a tough call going with Carrie last year for my pick, but the finals seemed to be "tailored" for her to win it all. Bo is still doing well with his single "The Real Thing" and Carrie has gone triple platinum with her debut album Some Hearts, which I've already admitted to owning. She also has won 2 Country Music Awards since I've been watching tonight. (And yes...she thanked American Idol. I don't care if Kelly didn't!)
So what does this prove? It proves that American Idol, like it or not, has become a major influence on what our country and the world will be listening to for years to come. And I am totally on board with the Cash Cow that it has become! Season 5 was the first season where there were very few contestants to dislike (although we still had Paris, didn't we?). However, at the same time, there weren't many contestants with the same vocal power of the winners of the past. But still there were great storylines. The Pickler Saga, The Grey Haired Wonder, Katharine coming into her own, Elliot transforming from a Fawn to almost passing as a human, Chris having an obscene affair with a mic stand, Kevin Covais making a fool of himself and guaranteeing a life of chastity for himself for many years to come, and of course....the drama between the judges and our host. Has there ever been more drama with these crazy mainstays? It got to the point of utter annoyance this year, but I still found myself glued to that TV watching the saga unfold.
So a lot of talent this year, and it was hard to see how everything was going to go down. Taylor Hicks was a personal favorite of mine right from the start. Especially when Simon just didn't understand him. He had that love for music that just surrounded his presence in the audition room. I knew there was something special about him. But never in a million years did I think that my liking the guy would be shared my everyone else across the country. All of us united in proving Simon wrong....Taylor went from underdog to "The guy to beat." Even when this guy had an off week....he was still untouchable. The man never hit the bottom 3 (always a good sign since Kelly and Carrie didn't either), and always topped dialidol.com (which has proven itself pretty accurate this year).
Katharine was a favorite of many way back when as well. But we knew that she would have to edge out some stiff competition to get to the final 3, let alone final 2. Once she kicked Chris to the curb during the final 4 week, she had paved her way to the finals. She's got one hell of a voice and has had some of the best performances on idol this year. She and Taylor have had quite a few bumpy performances over the weeks, but both of them were able to rebound when it counted...and that's how we are where we are. Who was able to keep up the momentum for one more week? We'll find out soon enough.
In the meantime, we can break it down ourselves! If you read the Season 4 finale write-up, you will know I like to write up this one a bit differently. We will score them up song by song and then issue the final verdict! You guys know the rules, sing well, perform well, and America will love you...now let's get it on!!!
Randy: It's ON tonight!
Paula: Hopefully they are IN good voice! (Seriously, Paula? 2 weeks in a row?)
Simon: Pray the other one forgets their words
Favorite Previous Round Performance #1
"Black Horse and the Cherry Tree"
Was it disturbing that the McPhans and the Kat Pack took up a collection to send her 1000 roses tonight? Hells Yeah it was! But how was her performance? Well, I think Katharine standing this time around (instead of singing from her knees) may have hurt her a bit. But I still thought she sounded well. The crazy box drummers returned to employment for one more night. One even got some lovin from Kat's posterior while she pranced around the stage. So, it was a decent performance from Katharine, but I think her original performance was better. Here's what the judges thought.
Randy: Yo Yo Yo, so Check it out. You're finally having fun. Better than first time! (ugh Randy! Get your ears cleaned!)
Paula: Fun. More of you, Better of you to come. (??? Sometimes it's better to say no words at all Paula)
Simon: Good with a small "g." Occasion tonight is bigger than that song. I call it a warm-up.
"Living For the City"
Wow. Besides that ridiculous Velvet Jacket he was sporting, did Taylor come tonight to play? Hells yeah he did! I recall him doing this song during Stevie Wonder week, but it seemed like he brought his game to a whole other level this time around. He just rocked it out. A few disappearing lower register notes, but I don't think he was really trying to hit them. He just let the background vocals do their thing as he danced his way into America's living rooms. Good Stuff.
Randy: Yo Yo Yo, so Check it out, Right? I was worried when you picked Stevie but you don't care! You made it your own. We have a hot one right here America!
Paula: We Match! Your jacket looks like blueberries and I AM Blueberries!!! I got your dance down! (yes...blueberries were not mentioned, but I love my ongoing pointless joke! leave me alone!)
Simon: The Audience hated you! (ba dum ching!) Great Start. Smart Song Choice, Worst Jacket I've ever seen in my life (agreed!)
Round 1: Katharine 0 - Taylor 1
Favorite Previous Round Performance #2
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
So Kat went with both previous performances where she sang from the floor. For this 2nd number, she stayed on the floor. And boy was she excited that she was singing in the right key (with the ear monitor malfunctions and all). I'm sure this song will be a B-side on her inevitable Idol Single release (all of the final 2 contestants have released singles). It was a good performance, but I don't think it was quite as good as her jaw dropping rendition last week. But it is the song to look at if you want to see what genre Katharine excels at.
Randy: Yo Yo Yo so Check it out! For me? Yo Yo. Same song again and you worked it out again!!
Paula: God Given Talent. You are Possessed! And all the fathers are crying! (I don't make this stuff up!)
Simon: In Round 1 you were slaughtered. But you've come back with your best performance of the competition.
I thought Taylor performed the Elton John classic with more conviction (thanks for the word, Paula) than when he last sang it during the semi-finals. I remember back then hearing pitch problems all over the place and the judges praising him for his performance. I also remember disregarding the pitch problems in favor of his love for music, which still shines in this guy. But now he's got a confidence of 30 million people watching him from week to week, and he sang that thing like he wrote it himself (he looks old enough to have written it!). Still, probably his weakest performance of the night. But even the weakest was really good.
Randy: Taylor Hicks (wow..that was new Randy!). So Check it Baby! (ugh) Nice song. To be honest it was a little pitchy for me (HUH???)
Paula: What may be pitchy to you is the essence of what Taylor is (...)
Simon: That doesn't make any sense Paula! (agreed) Katharine wins 2nd round.
I guess I'll agree with Simon on this one. Even though I love the Elton tune, it's tough to argue when Katharine rips out the song that dropped jaws across America last week.
Round 2: Katharine 1 - Taylor 1
Awful Cheesy Idol Songs
Okay...it's May. You know what that means, we are introduced to at LEAST 2 songs made purely of home grown CHEESE. I'm talking about leaving the milk in the fridge months after its expiration date and then opening the fridge, and broadcasting what's inside for all of America to see, smell and hear (oh yes..you can HEAR cheese!). And American Idol did not let us down this year! Enter "MY DESTINY." Katharine begins to sing with a crazy back-lighting. Was this an attempt at an illusion to make us think that this song was actually COOL? I was almost worried that they wouldn't bring out the crazy Idol Finale Choir this year when we were almost done Kat's song....but my fears subsided when DESTINY took a dramatic swing, the crazy choir came out, and Kat fell back into her off-key singing. Now, we know the contestants are already handicapped with these tunes due to their awfulness, but you have to find a way to shine with these songs and make them your own. Kat kinda just seemed like she was happy to make it that far. She wasn't convincing us that it was her "destiny" to win the crown. And that final note? Talk about Anti-Climatic and Ear piercing. I've been a Katharine fan since early on, but this isn't the final impression you want to leave on America. JUDGES, what do YOU say?
Randy: So I'm keepin it real 1.) You look amazing (ouch) 2.) You Sounded really Good 3.) I did NOT love the song.
Paula: That's not your fault! You are brilliant! (constructive!)
Simon: I am sorry. You went from Brilliant to "quite good" in one song. America if you want to vote for Katharine tonight, remember the 2nd song.
Simon went on to say how much potential Katharine has. And he's right. Even if she doesn't come home with the crown, she should be just fine.
"Do I Make You Proud?"
Okay, so maybe this wasn't the WHOLE Milk left in the fridge. Just the LOW-Fat milk. It wasn't as painful of a song to endure. But it just showed how much of a treat it is to watch Taylor bring a song to life. He may have not been the best singer in the competition (even though he's pretty darn good) he was able to sing each song convincingly and emotionally. Taylor probably hated the song he was singing, but he sucked it up and performed the hell out of it. He knows what road is before him after he gets past this single. Taylor sealed the deal with this showmanship. If you don't believe me, listen to the pack of screaming fans jammed in the Kodak theater and the judges' reactions.
Randy: Yo Yo So Check it out! Slightly better song. But YOU know who Taylor Hicks is and you made it your own dawg!!!
Paula: You were better than the song! I love you! I love Blueberries! I love pancakes! I love Blueberry Pancakes!
Simon: Assuming I was right that the show was tied, then you have just won American Idol.
Round 3: Katharine 1 - Taylor 2
It is now we must remind America that Simon had initially passed on Taylor Hicks, which brought us to this point in the first place. The raging Soul Patrol fanbase has stuck with Taylor through it all. And with that, there's not much more to say. Once Chris was booted out of the competition, it seemed cut and dry to me who was going to win Idol. We have just been going through the motions the past week. So, let's do it!
Elimination Pick: Katharine McPhee
WINNER OF AMERICAN IDOL 2006: TAYLOR HICKS
Like I said, love him or hate him, when you think back on Season 5 of American Idol you will remember "THAT GUY WITH THE GREY HAIR." Taylor is not just a performer, he lives and breathes music and people have recognized that. Never in a million years did the Soul Patrol think that Taylor would make it this far, but as the weeks went by it became more and more possible (obviously). He came out strong, fizzled in the middle, but rebounded BIG time. And in a season with no clear favorite, he has earned the title. Now let's just see if America agrees with me and the judges.
Well that's it kids. I went all out tonight with the blog (since I had the time), you can be sure that tomorrow's recap will be quite short. The excitement is in the suspense. After the winner is crowned, there won't be much to talk about. And let's not kid ourselves. Lost is 2 hours tomorrow night too! I'm splitting my time!
I'll save my BIG goodbyes for tomorrow, but it has been a fun ride. And I hope you all have enjoyed the 40+ write-ups that have come your way this season. I never see any comments so I can only assume there are people reading this! (besides the little side emails I get)
Let's have one more goal before this season ends. If you have read and enjoyed these blogs this past season, click on comments, and POST something! I dare you! Can we get 10 comments? That's my dream! (I dream small these days). And if you, dare I say it, disagree with my Taylor pick....go ahead and prove me wrong! Some of you tried to convince me my Carrie pick was bad last year (Oh yes...I remember!). That was different though, it was a tight race. This is all but a sure thing at this point, but comment anyway! I'll admit it, I'm shameless when it comes to my ego!
Okay, tomorrow night, 2 hours of pointless interviews with the hometown crowds, cameos from previous idol contestants, the top 10 or 12 of season 5 return for a summer concert preview, Paula will say something that will prove she is drunk yet again, and then during the final 8 minutes of the show the crown of American Idol will be passed! ENJOY the show, and I'll see you here after the results!