Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I'm sorry, but here's another "American Idol" post (I know, I'm embarrassing myself)

It has all come down to this.

Katharine McPhee and Taylor Hicks. The fox and the hound dog. Leather and lace. Mano a womano on “American Idol.”

I avoided writing about “American Idol” in this space as much as possible this season because, honestly, I probably could have written something “Idol” related every week. And my love of this show already is embarrassing enough without advertising it over and over again. What can I say? I stand proudly among the little girls and old ladies that have made the show an institution.

Even detractors have to give credit where credit is due: “American Idol” perfected its insanely successful formula this season, the series’ fifth. They got rid of the celebrity judges, the useless flashback episodes, the silly group performances numbers stolen from “Up With People,” and brought likable variety show cheese, ruthless show biz machinations and (most importantly) the cruel genius of Simon Cowell to the forefront.

Call it dumb, shallow or a strike against good music, but “American Idol” is riveting television. If it hooked you in early, there was no way you were going to bail before Wednesday’s finale.

This is easily the most compelling, unpredictable and hardest fought “Idol” to date. Who would have predicted virtual lock Chris Daughtry getting the boot? (The look on his face will go down as one of the year’s classic TV moments.) And what’s with Paula Abdul’s crazy crying jags? Don’t get me started on Ryan Seacrest, one of the biggest dorks on the planet, who tortures the cool-kid contestants by lording the results of their heads before spitting them out with Tourette’s-like tact.

Now it’s down to McPhee and Hicks in the most anticipated face-off since Moses and the Red Sea. (Perhaps I’m exaggerating.) The former always was destined for the final round. McPhee’s voice is impressive in a non-distinct, pleasingly bland way, which makes her a lock for the pop charts. I’m also a little in love with her. She had me at “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.”

The latter is another matter. I liked Hicks right away because he seemed so odd. The prematurely gray mane, the goofy self-hugging move he always did when the cameras were on, his terrible, terrible dancing (Cowell compared him to a drunken father at a wedding more than once), there was no way this guy was going the distance.
I’m still shocked he made this far. The man deserves a karoake trophy, not a shot at the “American Idol” crown. Seriously, did you see his rendition of “Try a Little Tenderness”? Pump me full of half-price pitchers of Miller Lite during happy hour and maybe I’ll think that was good. Otherwise, Hicks killed Otis Redding a second time.

Nevertheless, there’s no doubt Hicks will beat McPhee Wednesday night. His “Soul Patrol” posse follows him like Koresh with the Branch Davidians. And Randy, Paula and Simon have tipped the scales by being (unfairly) tough on the more emotionally distant Kat the last several weeks.

I have no idea what kind of record Hicks will make. But if he’s looking for career advice, here’s my tip: Grow a salt and pepper beard and do a cover of “What a Fool Believes.” Like “American Idol,” it’s an idea so corny and obvious it just might work.

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