Barry Manilow was the featured guest singer-celebrity on the night of March 21. Eleven finalists performed songs from the ’50s and this should have been right up my alley. Well, I am more a child of the protesting ’60s, but this decade will receive its time in due course and as the contest progresses.
At this point in the competition every American Idol finalist is a fine singer with the major differences being in genre, style, and nuanced vocals. Now until the day of reckoning the singers will be judged on how well they perform their chosen songs plus whatever special something the voting viewers see in the performers that hits their vibe.
On the chilly evening of March 21, the guest singer of the evening made a surprising announcement. For it was sweet Kelly Pickler who sang Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight” and Manilow announced, across the airwaves and to my everlasting surprise, that he had never heard of this song!
“I’m from New York, what do I know from country music?” is how Barry phrased it, at which point I almost fell out of my chair. No matter how young looking Barry appears … the man is older than me even! And yes country music is hardly his genre but he is a singer, a singer with a major repertoire and extensive catalogue. Patsy Cline’s famous song about a heart-broken woman walking the streets late at night as she nurses her broken heart is one of the all-time classic songs of the ages.
In fact, the announcement of Manilow’s presence to aid these youngsters in preparing their song performances from the ’50s was a surprise in yet another way. Manilow is a singer beloved by the females on the planet and almost as stridently disliked by the male contingent. Myself adores Manilow and his music while husband says he had to hold his nose to purchase a Manilow requested CD for this past Christmas. This demographic preference did show up later via one of the male finalists but more on this later.
For now, how did Miss Pickler do with Patsy Cline’s famous song?
Attired in a simple tank and pants accented by a gorgeous in-your-face belt, Pickler sang what had to be the best song pick for her by a country mile. Simon declared she did it “absolutely right”.
And yet Pickler doesn’t stand out in my mind and I’ve yet to envision her as a finalist in this thing.
Chris Daughtry, on the other hand, continually shows up in my winning radar although at first I dismissed him as a very unlikely winner. Which is why American Idol has this long lead-up to a final contender because performances get better, quirks are detected, vocal laziness is discerned. The singers are fleshed-out and Chris Daughtry fleshed right into a superstar before my very eyes these past weeks.
Chris, dressed in a black shirt, sang “I Walk the Line”, made famous by Johnny Cash. Daughtry embraced that song as if his own. There’s something about Daughtry’s performances that stand out. I considered Chris’ performance one of the top three of that evening, if not the best.
Mandisa led off the festivities on Barry Manilow night. She looked magnificent with a form-fitting black dress with artful cut-out shoulders. Mandisa sang Dinah Washington’s “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” and this was her song to perform.
Simon dubbed it a “blossoming, sexy performance.” Which it was and yet it wasn’t a performance that flowed up to my top three picks for the evening. More evidence that these young artists, now being tutelaged by celebrated singers, dressed by experienced stylists and taught by the best vocal coaches, are now in a league of their own.
Next up, Bucky Covington. Last week I was very impressed by Bucky’s performance, even with that ridiculous angelic hairstyle. Still I nurture a notion that a rocking country-western male singer could make 2006 his year for American Idol. Thus I tend to give Bucky some leeway, but his performance on Manilow night was not one of his best.
Bucky sang “Oh Boy,” a classic Buddy Holly tune. Covington did put his own twist on this ’50′s standby but his performance didn’t do it for me. Simon termed it a “karaoke performance” and I agree.
Katharine McPhee sang the Ella Fitzgerald classic “Come Rain or Come Shine”. Katharine is considered by many to be the most overlooked finalist in this season’s American Idol and this might be true. McPhee looked enchanting in her flowing dress that so typified her song choice. She gave a smashing performance and yet…still not ringing my bells.
McPhee told an interesting anecdote about Judge Simon. She said that when Simon’s girlfriend was interviewing him about this year’s American Idol that Simon completely forgot her name. Katharine’s annoyance was very evident. After her performance, Simon declared Katharine had “turned into a star”. Perhaps he wanted to make up to Katharine for forgetting her name.
Ah, little Miss Paris Bennett. A singer I’ve mentally dismissed many times as being too young, as being too cute, as being anything but a singing icon of American Idoldom. Yet each and every week, this small bundle of talent takes the stage and wows the world with the most magnificent of voices and the most joyous of performances. Paris sang “Fever” by Peggy Lee and even Manilow remarked he was shocked at the power of her voice.
This is not to mention the glorious fashion attire this miniature queen of song wore, a gold halter gown with a matching flower adorning carefully coiffed locks. The attempt, one assumes, was to give Paris an air of maturity. The attire and the song did just that. Randy said Paris “blew out the box”.
Paris makes my list of the top three performances of the evening handily.
One must tread softly around any critique of Taylor Hicks. For while the singer looks for all the world like a serious accountant released for a wild weekend on the town, his fans are many and fiercely loyal.
I simply don’t see this guy as winning this thing and his jerky robotic movements only reinforce that notion. “He’s only doing his happy interpretation of the music,” his legions of loyalists argue. Well sure, if dancing around with no rhyme, reason, or rhythm could be considered an interpretation perhaps Hicks should take it to the Museum of Modern Art.
As for Taylor’s performance on Manilow night, I thought the man sounded like he had a bad cold. That odd sharkskin suit only added to his accountant image. Judge Paula declared that watching Hicks was like watching an “exercise video.” Paula meant this in the best possible manner as is her wont. I agree with Paula but it’s not meant as a compliment on this end.
We’ll move onto my first predicted ouster as a result of the Manilow evening of performances. Lisa Tucker finished ominously in the bottom three last week. She looked cute as a ladybug in a colorful ménage of cropped pants topped with a red shirt covered with a blue jacket, a cool hip look that captured the retro look with a current day ambience. Tucker sang “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”, made famous by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. I thought Lisa’s voice faded at times. Simon declared she looked as if participating in a “high school musical” and for once, I think Simon nailed it.
I predict Lisa will be booted on elimination night.
Elliott Yamin was the male performer who reinforced my contention that males of the species do not like Barry Manilow. Indeed, Elliott told the host that before actually meeting songster Barry that he didn’t like Manilow music and inferred that he had a bit of derision for the man. Of course, a young singer like Elliott would likely not consider Manilow a singer to emulate. And of course, Yamin declared lustily that after meeting Barry he adored the man with a newfound respect. Well we’ll just assume this is the truth for now.
Yamin sang a song from the ’50s I’ve never heard of: “Teach Me Tonight” by Al Jarreau. Dressed in casual jeans topped by an unusual combination of a dress shirt and tie, Yamin performed very well for a song outside of his genre.
A guest from TV Guide was on Fox and Friends this morning and said that Elliott wrestles daily with diabetes and wears a permanent insulin pump. She also said that Yamin does not practice before his performances.
On to Kevin Covais, the young crooner with a marvelous voice accompanied by a “Fearless Fly” appearance. I think this fellow surely is waiting for the hammer to drop on him any day. Perhaps in this week’s elimination rounds if Lisa Tucker doesn’t beat him to it.
It was evident that Covais was appealing directly to his audience of nine and ten year-olds when he sat down for his song performance, dressed in a child-like T-shirt and casual jeans. In his pre-performance vignette, Covais appealed to his base of female youngster fans when he mentioned that he chose Nat King Cole’s “When I Fall In Love” as his song for the evening because he too has yet to experience true love and this song is his benchmark mood-maker for when that gleeful day will finally arrive.
Of course every dewy-eyed pre-teen in America then will watch Covais croon the tune and dream that Kevin Covais is singing directly to them.
Finally we arrive at Ace Young, my first nomination for winner back when there were thirty finalists or so. Last week, Ace was in the bottom three. This week, Ace sang “In the Still of the Night” by the Five Satins and, other than a strange facial sneer, his performance was unique and perfect.
So can Ace come back from bottom-three disgrace?
If nothing else, Ace’s ending of a strong falsetto note certainly gave him some attention that could be the turning point.
Dressed in a less-casual fashion than his previous attire, Ace Young in an electric blue shirt and hip look could still go all the way.
The Eliminations 3/22/06
Quick give me the number of Barry Manilow’s plastic surgeon. That medico is so good he should be cloned!
No matter his age, Barry sang a rendition of “Love Is a Many Splendid Thing”; before the eliminations. I still love Barry Manilow. Husband left the room.
Onto the bottom three then the would-be superstar eliminated.
The bottom three included: Kevin Covais, Lisa Tucker, Bucky Covington. I am not at all surprised.
After the commercial we learn that Kevin Covais was eliminated. The time has come.
Congrats to the top ten. The contest heats up.