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''American Idol'' (With Podcast Info)

By RD Heldenfels Published: May 9, 2006

Here's the link to the latest podcast:

And here are the notes I wrote before and after podcasting, with one line added near the end...

My podcasting buddy Amy Carlson Gustafson has spent more than a few weeks declaring herself bored. Tonight, I was.

Maybe it's that I brought a love of Elvis Presley to the table -- lots of his songs in my music collection, biographies on my bookshelf, the special-edition DVD of the 1968 special.  I was hoping that the contestants would use his catalog well. (See my previous post, ''When Elvis Met Simon (Sort Of).'' And, well, they didn't. On a night when someone really could have closed the deal with the audience, could have been head and shoulders above the others, they all faltered along the way. I mean, no one was a D or an F, but at this stage of ''Idol,'' and with decent singers all around, I wouldn't have expected anyone to get less than a C.

And so to the report card:

Taylor led off with ''Jailhouse Rock,'' and it was just OK. Decent energy, monotonous vocal and his hunched-over dancing didn't really work. Doesn't matter if Paula is especially crazed during his performance; Paula is crazed through much of the night. C.

I really anticipated Chris, especially when I learned he was doing ''Suspicious Minds,'' which seemed like the perfect song for him -- especially if he gave it a dark, brooding arrangement similar to ''I Walk the Line.'' But no. He just sang the song. Later in the show, he mentioned being faithful to Elvis. He should have been faithful to Chris. Better vocal than Taylor's, though, so he gets a C plus.

Elliott was at least nervy, taking on ''If I Can Dream,'' Elvis's climactic performance in the 1968 special. But there was a lot of quaver in his voice at the beginning, and he had trouble with the high notes. C minus.

That left Katharine to close out the first half...

I'm off to podcast. Back later. ...

And we're back! Katharine's ''Hound Dog''/''All Shook Up'' medley was cute looking but didn't make me want to hear it again. And, of course, she muffed the lyric. But I thought the vocal was worth a C plus, and a slightly better C plus than I gave Chris.

Second half: Taylor's ''In the Ghetto'' surprised me. It's not my favorite Elvis song, but he did some good things with it -- especially when he dropped into spoken voice on the word ''turns.'' I ended up giving it a B, which turned out to be the highest mark for any performance tonight.

I have to credit Amy Gustafson with one of the best podcast lines of the night, about Chris's ''A Little Less Conversation.'' She said: ''A little less mikestand.'' I thought most of the performance was just blah, although he amped it up some at the end. C plus, with the ending giving him the plus.

When Elvis says, ''If you're looking for trouble,'' it's credible because he sounds and looks like someone who could be big trouble. When Elliott does the same thing, uh, not the same effect. Another bold choice -- showing that Elliott knows that he's in trouble with voters, whether he's looking for it or not -- and his vocal was adequate enough that I gave it a C plus. But the lack of authority still bothers me, and I probably should have marked him lower.

Katharine closed with ''Can't Help Falling in Love.'' This should have been the big moment of the night. This should have been something for the all-time ''Idol'' highlight reel, and the production they built around the number sure made it look as if they expected her to nail it. But with a chance both to close the show and seal a pact with the audience, she couldn't quite pull it off. B minus.

I'm not sure where that leaves me in average grades for the night, since there was so much ''ehhh'' built into my reaction to the show, and not one performance I felt really passionate about. I don't like to make predictions, either, but it feels like Elliott's time to go -- although an uneasy little corner of my mind says that Chris may have put himself in jeopardy, too. Could be wrong. (As you can see in the comments section, an Elliott fan has already disagreed.) Have been before. We'll see tomorrow night.

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