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''Idol'' Tuesday

By RD Heldenfels Published: May 16, 2006

Here's tonight's podcast:

As for the notes, I started them before the podcast, only to see them eaten before they were saved. The following was written after the podcast, but includes pretty much everything I had written before hand -- along with a correction of one thing I said on the podcast. Here goes.

With three songs each, the ''Idol'' contestants covered decades of music -- some songs dating back to before their grandparents were born. But there was some good stuff to be found.

I thought Katharine was the performer of the night, but I wouldn't be surprised to see her voted off, either, although I suspected Elliott was in more trouble. The only shock: If Taylor, who's almost being carried around the show in a sedan chair at this point, was voted off. (I know, I promised not to make predictions. I was nudged into it on the podcast, so I might as well say the same thing here.)

First round: Songs chosen by Clive Davis, music mogul and identical twin of Yertle the Turtle. Order in this and each other round -- Elliott, Katharine, Taylor, set up tidily so Taylor can close the show. Clive assigns Elliott ''Open Arms'' by Journey, which on paper seems like a good choice.

(An aside: Everything should seem like a good choice tonight. CD sales and concert tickets are riding on the show at this point, and no one wants to make things too challenging for the singers.)

Elliott's good on the verse then falters in the chorus; he can't quite make those Steve Perry notes. Still, fairly good. B from me.

Katharine gets R. Kelly's ''I Believe I Can Fly.'' Every time she wants to get big, she screeches. Paula seems ready to say something really critical, then hesitates and turns it over to Randy. (Note: On tonight's podcast with Amy Gustafson, I thought this moment occurred after an Elliott performance. I was wrong, as I learned when I rechecked my DVR of the show after the podcast.) Randy blames song choice. Katharine notes that she did not pick the song. She gets a B minus for the song, and a pat on the back for the ''song choice'' rejoinder.

Clive hands Taylor a big gift: Springsteen's ''Dancing in the Dark.'' Can't remember if I've heard a Springsteen song on the show before. Taylor starts off well, then settles into mere competency. Part of the problem is the band, pallid compared to the textured Bruce original. He brings out Paula to dance with him in a moment that looks about as spontaneous as that Rebecca Romijn bit last week -- and another sign of how much the show is behind Taylor. For his song, though, I give him a B minus.

Second round: Judges pick songs. Paula, who has decided that Elliott is a ''funky white boy'' (her mantra for tonight), gives him ''What You Won't Do For Love'' by Bobby Caldwell. Strong start gets wobbly fast. Not so funky after all. C plus.

Simon assigns Katharine ''Over the Rainbow.'' She nails it big time, sweet and slow. A minus.

Taylor's gift from Randy is Joe Cocker's ''You Are So Beautiful.'' He doesn't nail it. I don't understand what he was trying when he drops his voice on ''to me,'' as if he has lost all ability to sing. Lots of weird grimaces, too. C.

Round Three: Contestant choices, or, If you have messed up everything so far, here is your chance to redeem yourself with something you know.

Elliott, for reasons that elude me, goes with Ray Charles's ''I Believe to My Soul,'' although he says he's doing it a la Donny Hathaway. There's a tricky lyric in it that people have to rewrite because it had Ray's name in it; Elliott's version mangles the line. Ho-hum performance, too. C.

Probably because she knew ''Over the Rainbow'' was her big moment, Katharine gets giddy with ''I Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues,'' an Ella Fitzgerald tune co-written by Duke Ellington. It's fun, and it does swing some, and it's a nice change from ''Rainbow.'' B plus.

People like Taylor associate ''Try A Little Tenderness'' with Otis Redding, and Otis does have a superb version. But it would have been funny if, after announcing the song, Taylor had replicated Bing Crosby's version from the '30s. Only Bing's rendition is kind of horrible. But when you're trying to redo Otis's, you will almost always end up in the shadows. C plus.

Katharine tops my card for the night, and Elliott has a slight edge over Taylor. We'll see how the vote looks.

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