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Round of 11: The 50s - March 21

Tell me, doctor, where are we going this time? Is it the 50s? Or 1999?

If it's 8:00p on Tuesday at Television City in Hollywood, then I'm pretty sure it's the 50s. Eleven singers will do some time-traveling, but for one, time will be up tomorrow night. Let's start this 50s party! Randy wants to see that it may be a little easier, but "I think it's still going to be tough." Paula thinks that they're stellar tonight. Simon doesn't think it's too early to pick a winner. As he has already picked three.

Barry Manilow returns to assist the Idols in this endeavor. If you haven't heard of "Mandy," "Copacabana", "Bandstand Boogie", "Looks Like We've Made It", "I Write the Songs", and "Can't Smile Without You," then you're musically corrupted. But why Barry? Let's put things in their proper prospective. Barry has a tribute CD of 50s tunes that was number one a while back. "They were writing really crafted lyrics."  The Idols flew to Vegas to learn from the legend this past week.

First up, Mandisa takes the stage with "I Don't Hurt Anymore" by Dinah Washington from 1954.  Will she get a big opening note? She's first, so the onus is on her to start or finish big. "She can sing from bottom to top without any trouble," Barry says, already a fan.

What they say: Randy: "Wow, I'm really speechless right now. What a classy, great, amazing way to start the night." She set the mark. Paula is taken back, saying that she's a thoroughbred. Simon says that she's blossoming, calling the performance "very sexy".

What we say: She performs like a harlot, and it's a good thing. Because this is definitely a harlot's song. And it's perfect for Mandisa to perform. A couple of notes were a bit questionable, but still, it's easy to see why she's one of the ones to beat.

How will Bucky Covington head to the 50s? He's doing 1957's "Oh Boy!" by Buddy Holly... Albeit in a different arrangement.

What they say: Randy thought it was a good song choice, and he liked the pistol whip gun move, although he didn't really like the vocal. Paula thought he had fun. Simon called it "nothing more than a pointless karaoke performance." "It was what I call a so-what performance.

What we say: Contrary to what Randy said... students... this is what we call a bad song choice. Kudos to Bucky for trying to make the best of a bad situation, but the song, the arrangement, and everything in between just don't work. Simon got this one right here.

Peggy Lee. '58. "Fever." Paris Bennett. "Peggy Lee was cool, but you're not cool. You're hot," Barry says of our baby with depth and power. And would you believe that Constantine Maroulis and Ryan Cabrera are watching? Didn't even know they were close....

What they say: Randy thought it started shaky, but by the middle, he remembered why they love her. "You blew it out the box." Paula thought she dressed the part and sang impeccably. Simon says, "This is what you do best." 

What we say: Somewhere there's a model wondering where her gold dress from last night is. But aside from the calculated fashion risk, she starts out soft and mellow... but that's not here, and you can tell from the shakes. Once she lets Paris take over, that's when the vocal gets interesting.

After Ryan gives young Sammy a hosting lesson, Chris Daughtry comes out with "I Walk the Line" by Johnny Cash from 1957... Dude... don't mess this up. "The lyrics have a lot of relevance to me." But he's going to try something very different... Tonight, it's going to be rocking... Chris as the man in black. Watch.

What they say: Randy cites the audience. "I don't know if it was the best vocal, but you took a song everyone knows and made it fit exactly who you are. Dude, you ready!" Paula can't wait to hear what's next. "You grow and you grow each week." Simon agrees with Randy. "There was an enormous difference between what you did then and what Bucky did with 'Oh Boy!'. I think you are the first artist on this show who's actually refused to compromise. And for that... Round of applause."

What we say: In a class by itself. Mandisa, it looks like you've been dethroned. But you're still good, too.

There's Constantine and the other Ryan again. Little downtime with Katharine McPhee for a bit. She remembers an interview with Simon from Terry (his girlfriend), where he doesn't know who she is. Will she make him remember with Ella Fitzgerald's "Come Rain or Come Shine"? (1956)

What they say: It wasn't Randy's favorite again, but it was really strong, and she "worked it out." Paula thinks that Katharine's going to be one of the contenders. Simon: "I think tonight... you turned into a star. It was like watching a seasoned performer. Loved it."

What we say: ... you cheeky little siren, you. You made the song your own, you played with it, you hunted it down, and you shot with your weapons of destruction. Another hot one, indeed, for another calculated risk, although I wish the ending was a bit tighter.

On deck, Taylor Hicks, who wants to make an entrance with Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" from 1957. Taylor wants to be more than a singer. He wants to be a performer.

What they say: Randy thought that he had a good time, but the song wasn't that challenging for him, even though he enjoyed it. Paula thinks it's an exercise video. "You're fantastic. You broke the mold." Simon respectfully disagrees. "If this was the first time you've seen the performance, you'd have thought it was complete mess."

What we say: Nice rhythmic sound for our man Taylor, and it suits him, but it's a bit sharp at times. Still, it's enough to get him through to next week. Although in that suit and on the catwalk, it looks like he's a preacher. That's a bit... weird.

Lisa Tucker's with Ryan at the Coca-Cola booth. What happens to avoid the bottom three again? "I just try to do my best. I feel like I have been. What else can I do?" She sings a song she knew she wanted to do "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" from Frankie Taylor, a 1956 joint.

What they say: Randy thought it was a good performance, but not a blowout. "Got good at the end." Paula thought she got back to the youthfulness. "You're 16 years old, and you are a powerhouse." Simon thought it was an okay performance as well, but he thought he was in a high-school musical audience.

What we say: It wasn't good. It wasn't bad. It was just... there. I mean, Lisa had to do more than what she did to avoid the radar of being eliminated... and she just didn't. I mean, she's a good singer, but what I call an "obvious" performer. But because she was in trouble last week, and her base will vote for her, she needn't worry... YET.

As Matt Rogers was "Big Sexy", we get "Little Sexy" this year in Kevin Covais, up next. He picks "When I Fall In Love" from Nat "King" Cole from 1956. "As a 16-year-old, I have yet to experience true love."

Like hell.

What they say: Randy loves this song... "You did a pretty good job of it. I see me in you." Paula thought that it took a lot of courage to start sitting next to Simon. Meanwhile... "I like you... You're like a man, you take it well. I'm not going to say it was the best vocal, because it wasn't. But you know your audience, and they will love that."

What we say: It's school-boy show choir sappy. A few bum notes, and it's not as "innocent" sounding as you'd really like. It's really exciting when it doesn't need to be. Songs like this, you just sing the melody. He tried to do something something to it and it didn't really work. And you know you're in trouble when Jasmine Trias (also in the hizzle) is giving you props.

Who wants some Elliott Yamin? He thought this week was amazing, even though he wasn't that fond of Barry's work. He sings "Teach Me Tonight" from 1955... which Barry sung for his album. Elliott needs to "tell the story" as I would put it, as opposed to just singing the song.

What they say: Randy calls it the toughest song of the night... "You worked it out."  Paula called it fantastic. "You are needed in this competition." Simon called the singing fantastic.

What we say: Chairman's Singing Rule #35: don't just sing the song... tell the story. Thank you, Dan Huff. Elliott... you pass. Now you just need to polish your pitches.

Dude, it must be alumni night on Idol or something... Anyway, Kellie Pickler's next, as she sings Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight", as her grandfather chose. Barry thought it was good, and this is a dude from Brooklyn judging...

What they say: Randy thought the song choice was dead on. Kellie's mic dies. Probably a good thing, since she doesn't know when to shut the hell up. Paula calls her a tigress. Simon says she's back doing what she does best, being ballsy. "Welcome back."

What we say: Song choice gets an A. Performance gets an A-minus (hampered by portions of desperation... and clogging), vocal gets a C-plus, thanks to a bland beginning.

There's Sammy again. And we close the show with Mr. Ace Young, singing The Five Satins' "In the Still of the Night". Here's the thing that worries me. It is a group song... and you're singing it by yourself. ... Well, more in the post-mortem here... First, Ace urbanizes it.

What they say: Randy: "Ace is back tonight. You brought something fresh and new to a classic song." Paula: "There are 34 signs that say 'Ace will you marry me'?" Paula called it amazing. Simon didn't think it was the best tonight, but it was a hell of a lot better than last week.

What we say: Another calculated risk. Ace knows what he is, Ace knows what he wants to do, we know Ace will more than likely snare the votes he missed last week. Still, the performance reminds me of Daryl Hall-lite. We've all heard Ace sing a whole song superlatively. Not just the last few bars. I'm still waiting on that next big .... wait, falsetto... Okay, he's alright. Not great, but good enough to last on merit.

And with that, we return to 2006 with this...

"Where we're going, we don't need roads": Mandisa, Chris, Katharine, Elliott
"Let's see if you bastards can do 90": Paris, Taylor, Lisa, Kellie, Ace
OUTATIME: Bucky, Kevin

Now we put the DeLorean in park until Wednesday, when Gordon, Jason, Anthony, and Aldo do that roundtable thing. Local news, next. Results in 22. See ya then!


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