We are down to the final three and probably the best song format of the season; one song is a judge's choice, one song is producer/living legend Clive Davis' choice, and one song that the contestant chooses. Three songs for three singers. It's been an interesting, if not quite satisfying season. There have been no consistent standout performers. It has been a contest of “who was the worst this week?”. There have been the usual surprises of early elimination starting with Mandisa and ending last week with Chris. People have cried foul on the lack of equal coverage, foul on the judging, and foul on the vote counting so it's about time to wrap this thing up. It's been a full season. Ryan is going all the way with the beard. Usually it's an upcoming movie part used an as excuse, but for Ryan, it's just a beard. Ryan is wearing a wide white striped tie with a white shirt under a black jacket with wide lapel. Who knows fashion?
Clive is choosing first and for Elliott he has chosen “Open Arms” from Journey. Clive wanted to hear Elliott sing a more rock song. I'll admit I never loved this song. I don't like icky love songs and didn't like Journey (sorry dawgs), so for me it was one of those songs that I immediately changed the radio channel if it came on. Elliott did his usual excellent but somehow still uninspiring job. He sings excellently, but he is stiff as a board. Maybe a shot of Paula's Recipe would help. I'd be willing to try it once. It is time to let it all hang out, yet everyone is dressing like it's prom. They need a dose of hip and loose.
Clive chose “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly because he wants Katharine to make it her own and not sing it like anyone else. He wants her to find her own unique sound. Katharine's biggest fault that I see is her sometimes false, pageant-like approach to performing. She knows some vocal tricks but she doesn't always use them to her best advantage. At times she confuses emotion with loudness, but don't we all. Randy says it's the wrong song for her. Simon defends her for once and Ryan calls Randy disrespectful for dissing the song choice that Clive made.
Taylor is singing Bruce Springsteen's “Dancing in the Dark”. Taylor is easier to listen to than watch. His dancing is frightening and he makes parts of singing almost look painful, but this song fits his tone and range. He sounds a lot like The Boss and doesn't necessarily make it his own, but he entertains and puts more emotion into his singing than both the others together. This is where Taylor excels over the other two. It's not just singing the words right and on key. It is conveying emotion and Taylor does this far better than Elliott or Katharine. Who among them would you want to entertain at your party? Who would guarantee a good time? It's a harder choice this year simply because the best singer is not the best entertainer and vice versa.
The next triad will consist of the judge's choice of songs. Paula chose “What You Won't Do for Love” by Bobby Caldwell for Elliott. She and Simon are having a scuffle at the desk. You'd think they'd act like the third graders they are, but no...they are acting like pre-schoolers pinching under the table. This might have been the best choice of song for contestant we'll see tonight. It is right up Elliott's alley and he sings it just like you'd hope. The judges blather on, but it was good. Not amazing, but really good.
Simon chose “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for Katharine. You'd almost think he was trying to sabotage her with an over-used tune, but her a cappella intro worked to make you wonder just what song this might be. It's another sitting on the floor performance and somehow it works to keep Katharine grounded in the song. She actually makes it interesting and we get to hear her pretty vocal qualities instead of her vocal tricks. Who knew? We've heard it too rarely this season, but finally we get to hear a nice, not oversung song. She finishes it perfectly, softly, and hits the high note. The judges rave on and on. Simon says it was the best vocal of the season and he is probably right.
Randy's choice for Taylor is “You Are So Beautiful” most familiarly sung by Joe Cocker. It's a good song but maybe one of the most overplayed songs ever on radio. Taylor is starting off slow and looking like he is in pain instead of in love. I nearly fell asleep in the first verse, but he picked it up and sang it with emotion that seemed real. It was a lot like Joe Cocker's version, although Taylor has a falsetto that Joe never did. It's a good song and good fit for Taylor's style and once again all the judges are oozing the happy juice. They must have taken a double dose and given Simon a triple.
Finally we are going to hear the contestant's choices. Elliott's choice is “I Believe To My Soul” by Ray Charles. It's a jazzy, soulful song and I think that the song might be a little bigger than Elliott's voice. It's OK, but a bit repetitive and Elliott doesn't have that many tricks in his bag. I'm not going to choose Elliott as my favorite tonight based on that song. What Simon says it true. Elliott is a great singer, but he is not exciting enough to be an Idol. He could have a good future in jazz, but I'm not sure if Pop music is his field.
Katharine's choice is “I Ain't Got Nothing But the Blues”. It is enough of a showtune to suit Katharine's style to a tee. She is singing like she wants to win or at least be here next week and giving it all she has. It's OK, but at times she is overplaying it. It's her worst fault. She has the talent and the voice and with enough experience Katharine could sell some records. I think she might be happiest on Broadway but what do I know? She might hate city life. Still, she's a great singer with a bright future in whatever field she chooses.
Taylor has chosen “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding. I like the Three Dog Night version too. He is fittingly singing it for the Soul Patrol. Taylor has more soul than any other Idol contestant we've ever seen. He may not be the best singer, but he has more spark and connection with his audience than any prior contestant. What else can you say? What does it take to win American Idol this year?
The contest tonight is probably for second place between Elliott and Katharine. Do you want blue-eyed soul or umm, more blue-eyed soul? And whoever wins that is going up against another, umm blue-eyed soul soul singer. The American Idol this year might be the best performer instead of the best singer and that might be a good lesson for all involved. One more week and it is all over. Someone is going to be an Idol, like it or not. The best part is nothing has turned out like anyone predicted. Overall, the season seemed to be plagued by blandness more than any other problem. I can't remember getting goose bumps or chills at any time, although Paula claimed to several times. There were weeks when Paula was more interesting than what was going on on-stage. Send me your favorite memories of this season including your favorite attire that Ryan and the contestants wore and we'll publish them after the finale. Vote now or don't complain tomorrow when your favorite is sent home in third place.