Tuesday, March 14, 2006

3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12

No, these aren't lottery numbers. They're the first draft of a list of American Idol call-in numbers for, in order of appearance and by call-in number:

3 Elliott Yamin
4 Mandisa
7 Lisa Tucker
9 Katharine McPhee
10 Taylor Hicks
11 Paris Bennett
12 Chris Daughtry

This is when it gets more challenging. For the last three weeks, it was relatively easy. I'd just vote once for those people I didn't want to get voted off. In effect, voting against the ones I like least by voting for everyone except them. I could still do that, now that the Final 12 is here, but I feel like I should be more particular. That's why this first list is a draft: I'm trying to narrow it down to my favorite three, and then I'll cast votes. But I only have a little time.

First, let us all give props to the man behind tonight's theme -- Mr. Stevie Wonder. Love love love Stevie. Been a big fan for many years. My iPod is disproportionately Stevie-heavy, so I hear lots of him and that's just fine with me. At the beginning of the show, I predicted that the contestants would either do really well or not at all. I think I was close to the mark. Aren't I proud of myself?

Now, let's talk about who's not on my list. Ace "Yummy" Young tried hard but gave a weak, overly-rehearsed-looking rendition of "Do I Do." Bucky Covington gave, what I think was the best performance we've seen yet of everything they've shown him do this season. That said and despite his stylist-coerced new look, he is just not A.I. material. Kellie Pickler is really just as cute as a button, and her delivery tonight was even and clean but not noteworthy in the least. Kevin Covais warbled out "Part-Time Lover," a stunningly bad song for him. He continues to be stiff as a collar in a bath tub full of bleach, and cute banter and oh-so-pinchable cheeks aside, he has got to go. Melissa McGhee shows a glimmer of talent and a potentially edgy-in-a-cool-way voice every time she sings, but she hasn't yet hit it home.

Next step, let's talk about my choices. I think Elliott is cool. I may be overly influenced by his "Moody's Mood For Love," as his performance tonight wasn't stellar. Still he did a reasonably good job, and I'd like to see him at least a little longer in this competition. I think Mandisa is a natural talent. Her performance had eh spots and brilliant spots. There needs to be more of that brilliant. It was a tough call for me to put her on this list in the first place, judging solely by tonight's performances. That may make her an easy first elimination.

Lisa Tucker was the first person tonight, in my opinion, who really did the job. She combined her great voice with command of the song and obvious ability to perform. A strong contender. Katharine McPhee was nearly flawless. The first performance of the evening that gave me pause.

An aside. There are a couple tell-tale signs that indicate to me that any concerted attempt at the cognitive process to make a determination is pointless. The truly compelling performances cause one of three things to happen to me.

A. Chills, starting at my neck and most frequently extending across my back and down my arms. Room temperature has nothing to do with this.

B. Lump in throat, almost immediately followed by eyes welling up. Really good performances require tissues.

C. Tapping foot, dancing in chair, smiling uncontrollably. One might contend that the back-up band could be good enough to produce at least 2/3 of this effect, but it's the singer that pulls it all together.

Back to the examination of criteria.

Taylor Hicks. See Point C above. Tremendous. I've said it before, I'm not afraid to say it again, I'm just uplifted and happy watching him perform. For two and a half minutes, he makes my life better. How's that for a grand statement? Paris Bennett is another born performer. She did a tremendous job tonight, infusing her own style while being true to Stevie's song. Her sideways head slide thing got a little intense occasionally, but overall, she's a genuine talent.

Chris Daughtry. No, I don't think I'm jumping on the judges' bandwagon by saying he's great. Though I do agree with Simon's comment that he was able to put his own unique stamp on a song that already had two very distinct personalities. The only negative is that he had no idea "Higher Ground" was a Stevie Wonder song. OK, I know they're all young, but come on people. Stevie Wonder. Alas, I digress.

So which of the songs performed tonight has stuck in my head since the end of the show? "Livin' in the City" (performed by Taylor).

There is my commentary. I have 20 minutes to narrow this down to three votes so I can actually get them in. Here are my choices.

The Obvious: #10 Taylor Hicks
The Contender: #3 Elliott Yamin
The Dark Horse: #9 Katharine McPhee

Wow, I left Chris off the list. Why? A combination of reasons, I think. I'm rooting for the one that makes me happy and a couple potential-filled underdogs. Chris will be very safe with his votes from 20 million other viewers.

Now, if I had to guess who of the remaining nine will be voted off on tomorrow night's show, I'd say Kevin, Bucky, and Melissa are dangerously close. I don't know if Melissa has enough traction with the audience to hold on another week, unlike Kevin who probably will hold on longer than he should (and already has). Bucky's performance tonight might sway enough people to keep him on. It's a tough call.

Only time (about 21 hours) will tell.

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