With ''Idol'' beginning its stretch run -- and with five capable singers still in the competition -- I've been thinking about ways to make the show, and the singers, better. The show has had some good performances lately, but it's been short on goosebump-making. How to get that back? Here are a few comments.
Paris: Drop the mature act. You're a teenager. Play to that. Stop trying to be the worldly woman. As I said before, when you sing ''The Way We Were,'' you don't have much ''were'' to draw on. Admit that. Dress down. Sing bubbly. Think Stacy Lattislaw. There's a big teen audience out there, and it's not too late for you to become their icon.
Taylor: Have fun again. Of all the remaining contestants, you're the one who seems least happy to be on the show right now. They'll pan smiling faces, and you'll be the one with the scowl. Maybe it's because you know you've been coasting, trying to get by on shouts and goofy dance moves. Get in touch with the guy we liked when you first appeared -- the bluesy singer who enjoyed himself. Also, pick better material.
Katharine: Get a puppy. You're a very good singer. I thought you were one of the best this week. But the knock I keep hearing about you is that you're cold, even snobbish on the air. I don't see it, but I don't vote either. It's not enough at this point to sing well and show some skin; you have to be bring some personality to bear -- so the audience will still love you if you don't sing great. So get a cute dog. Cry on the air. Have a kid. All right, so there's not enough time for that. Borrow a kid.
Chris: Rock us like a hurricane. You've successfully shown that you have some mainstream-pop moves, and that you'll be able to perform a decent version of whatever horrible single you might stuck with if you win this thing. Now go back to being that deep-tracks rock guy who seemed so fresh when the show began.
Elliott: Find that monster performance. I know, that advice could apply to any of the remaining contestants, but I don't have much else for you. It's not that I think you're great. But I think you're very smart. And you've been especially smart at coming on as the gutsy underdog, the guy who looks so un-''Idol''-like but keeps hanging in there. There's no point in remaking yourself, and you're not far removed from your ''Idol'' roots. The only thing you need to do is convince us that you deserve that title -- and one big performance could get you there.
Naturally, I can't let the show go without some advice for the judges. Well, one judge. Paula: Shut up. As nutty as you have been in the past, this week topped all previous excess, to the point that it's not merely annoying to watch you. It's creepy. So put a sock in it. You've rarely said anything worth hearing, anyway.