Tuesday, May 16, 2006

it's now or never...

[Sorry, I couldn't help just one more Elvis reference...]

For whatever is said about the finale being crunch time, I've never really viewed it that way. To me, the last performance episode is simply the send-off to the series, followed by what we hope will be a rollicking good two-hour finale extravaganza. Actually the final performance episode is usually a snoozer of epic proportions, as the final two get saddled with original songs, written by Tamyra Gray (with help this year from Nick Lachey, and no I'm not kidding) about puppies and rainbows, and hopes and dreams and heaven and meadows filled with flowers and butterflies.

In general, blech.

Then they top it off with their own favorite performance from the season we're waving goodbye to.

So that's why the Final Three show, or the Clive Show, has usually been one of, if not the best of the season. Because it is do or die time for real. And taking two-thirds of the song choices away from the kids who will sing them adds an element of intrigue and strategy to the game as a whole.

This is going to be an interesting final three in contrast to the previous seasons, as we have two early-season favorites squaring off against the early longest-of-shots guy who's not only peaking but gaining incredible fan momentum.

It really is anybody's game, unlike in previous seasons when the only suspense of who was going to make it through was how was Ryan going to tell her. (Remember, all four third-place finishers have been women.)

Much of the buzz on tonight's episode centers not only on song selection, but on voter apathy, after the ouster of Chris Daughtry last week. There is speculation that the Katharine McPhee voters will just say uncle, as she is now perceived as the underdog after her appearance in the bottom two. There is further speculation that the Elliott Yamin voters will suffer a bout of overconfidence in their guy, after standing next to Taylor Hicks in the top two.

To both of those suggestions, I say hogwash.

These three camps are possibly as motivated (if not moreso) than any voting group in Idol history. None of them are going to let their kid down. Phone providers are setting up camp in the various hometowns, allowing for free texting. People are buying Cingular phones like mad. People (like me) have added text messaging packages to their existing Cingular accounts. (Remember, only Cingular customers can text vote - give a raise to the Cingular exec who brokered that deal.) People are downloading the
DialIdol software in anticipation of a long night of dialing and an even longer night next week. (FYI: I have used DialIdol since the beginning of the season. It's free, easy to use and fun to be able to watch the results come in as it's happening. And, because I conducted my own experiment, it's really no faster than hitting redial on my telephone, so it's not one of those "power voting techniques" that are subject to rejection. It just frees up your hands to text. Or, in my case, to write. And text.)

The voters to consider tonight, I think, can be divided into two camps: the displaced Daughtry gang and the casual voter/first-time viewer. And, as is usually the case after a publicized boot, there should be plenty of newbies, tuning in for the first time to see what all this fuss is about.

That's when song selection/performance is absolutely key. We won't see much of the hometown footage tonight, aside from the mayor/governor/only available governmental official's pronouncement of each of the judge's selections, so backstory really won't affect or sway new voters one way or the other. (The hometown stuff will probably be featured on tomorrow's one-hour results show.)

Taylor and Elliott appeared to be in a virtual deadheat among voters after last week's Elvis tribute. And Katharine appears to have some ground to make up. Those casual/first-time voters might very well base their decisions only on what they see on the stage. One wrong note Katharine or too many spastic dance moves Taylor, or a hesitant and nervous stage performance Elliott could very well cost a significant number of votes. And while the number of new voters may be insignificant in the grand scheme of 47.5 million gazillion trillion votes, when we're in the midst of the dog fight I think we have, if half a million newbies phone in just five votes each, we're talking 2.5 million votes in a contest where the spread is measured in tenths of a percentage. (By all accounts, this race could be closer than Clay/Ruben where the difference was less than 150,000 votes.)

And then there are the Chris fans. And, from what I've been able to gather in my daily jaunts through the sometimes-scary message board universe, the Chris fans can be further divided into three camps: the not-gonna-watch/vote gang, the sad-but-gonna-vote-the-best group and the infamous ABKers, ABTers and ABEers.

I blogged several weeks ago about voting motivation, because, honestly, that's what most fascinates me about this whole phenomenon. Like, generally, won't spur somebody to press the redial button until the finger goes numb, but love - or lurrrrrve - will. Fear does, which explains why so many contestants survive after pitiful performances. And so does anger.

Many of the Chris fans, not only angry at the eviction of their guy, are angry that Katharine, who arguably had by far the worst night of the four last week and should, by all rights, have been ousted, is still there to sing another day. And many (not all!) of them will be voting ABK. Anybody. But. Katharine. And there are those voters who plan to try to oust Taylor in the ABT movement, by power-voting Kat. I haven't seen much in the way of an "Oust Elliott" movement, but I'm certain there are those who are longing, as the comment thread indicated yesterday, for a Kat/Taylor finale. I really don't think these voting movements will make any more of a difference than the Vote For The Worst drive does, but again, in a photo finish, every factor is important.

And the "Save Elliott" movement is done. Many voters, as indicated in yesterday's comment thread, noted that they've always loved Taylor, but, because they knew he really didn't need their votes to move on, threw their support to Elliott because he needed the support to stay afloat. Elliott doesn't need saving anymore, despite what some of the pundits and betting sites are speculating. He has gone from a no-show in many of the online polls to the possible winner of the whole shebang. Those votes will now go back to Taylor (or, possibly, to Kat) because at this point, it's everybody for themselves.

Have I mentioned how much I am loving this?

The Soul Patrol is feeling the heat. Taylor has glided, untouched and by his own merits, throughout this competition, but now has a serious contender in Elliott. Despite one early appearance on the seal that woke up her fans, Katharine has had much of the same, an avid voting group, but not one which felt too much pressure until last week. Now their girl is in the most danger, and they're gonna come out with claws drawn. They have to.

The Elliott voters, on the other hand, know what it feels like to claw their way through. This is the group who just hoped to get their guy in the final 12, then, with that accomplished, clawed some more to get him into the 10 so that he could make the tour, probably not thinking that final six was even possible. And then they fought to get him into the five, so that he could sing twice. And now that the finale's within reach, they've become a force to be recognized and reckoned with.

Yeah, it is anybody's game, on talent alone, because each of them has shown moments of brilliance. The problem is that two of them are at the top of their game, coming off superb performances and, no doubt, a surge of confidence. The other has struggled over the past two weeks, turning in three poorly-received performances out of her last four. Her confidence is key, and if last week's results show was any indication, could be at its low-ebb.

Simon has given Katharine a challenging task with his choice of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It's one of his favorite tunes, and I think he's thrown down the gauntlet. If she can resist the urge to Mariah-ize the song and keeps the inappropriate smiling to the camera at the end of every line to zilch, the complete opposite of what she did to that poor Elvis ballad, she just may pick up enough casual viewers to make this a contest. I wouldn't want to be Katharine tonight, because since Simon nearly broke his leg jumping off her bandwagon last week, she's going to have to be better than good. And after the last two weeks, I just don't see that happening.

Katharine will become the fifth female third-place finisher, and next week it will be the crooner v. the showman in the last performance episode of the fifth season.

That's how I think it will play out.

Your turn.

23 Comments:

Blogger JR said...

OK, ok...I know Katharine is going home tomorrow night. You don't have to rub it in.

10:59 AM, May 16, 2006  
Anonymous maggie said...

Jennifer you're making me anxious. LOLLLLLLLLL. I can't make any predictions because I am biased. I'm leaving it up to the glory of the perfomances and I think the winner will be obvious! :cough ELLIOTT cough:

11:13 AM, May 16, 2006  
Blogger lorguru said...

I dunno...
I dunno...
I dunno...
I do think it will depend on tonight's performance. I think Taylor is almost guaranteed his spot in the final two (and I think he will probably win the whole thing). But if Kat does well tonight, it could be a close one between her and Elliot.

11:19 AM, May 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kat/Elliott, hopefully.

What is with Clive's song choice for Taylor? Doesn't seem like the type of song to be singing at this stage of the game. I don't get it.

Taylor will win because from the very first day Simon put him through he expressed his doubts and everyone loves to prove Simon wrong.

What's the point in having this show, if Clive is going to sign the runner up with a record deal???????????? May as well give Bucky one!

11:48 AM, May 16, 2006  
Blogger jennifer said...

Well...the runner-up has always gotten a contract, for fewer years than the winner, and usually they put out a crap one. Clay is the exception to that rule, although his was crap just like all the others, it debuted at #1 on the strength of his fans.

They will both probably release singles of the original song one week apart too, so we can all argue who was REALLY the winner on the basis of record sales.

11:52 AM, May 16, 2006  
Blogger jennifer said...

And actually, I expect a contract with third, fourth and fifth this year too.

Maybe the only one left out will be Kev. Awwww.

11:54 AM, May 16, 2006  
Blogger JR said...

Someone may reach back and try to develop Gedeon. Wouldn't that be a hoot!!!

11:57 AM, May 16, 2006  
Blogger tracyintpa said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:35 PM, May 16, 2006  
Blogger tracyintpa said...

I am N E R V O U S beyond belief! Can't wait for tonight, and I think its a very tight 3 way race and it could be either of the three of them in the final two. I just want to see Taylor have a "blow the roof off the place" kind of night and advance one more time.

And, poor Gedeon, he got robbed.. he should have been in the top 12. He is a great talent. Better than little Kevin.

12:35 PM, May 16, 2006  
Blogger tracyintpa said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:35 PM, May 16, 2006  
Anonymous Johanna said...

I only disagree on one thing - the finale is a "crunch time" of sorts, even though it is a festival of awful, cheesy "original" songs.

The thing is, if you go on the basis of the final three episode in Season 4, then it was truly "Bo Bice night." Carrie did a great take on Crying, but Bo did one of his best performances ever on "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and then a magical moment with "Within A Dream", which many have rated as one of the top 2-3 moments in Idol history (one list has it second only to Fantasia's Summertime!) HOWEVER, what did that gain him other than a pass to the finals? Very little. The following week, he was saddled with awful songs that didn't fit his voice, while Carrie (even though the songs were just as awful) got to sing ballads, with which she was always successful, and BOOM! A Carrie win.

This is what has me worried about Taylor. We've all seen what happens to him when he is forced to sing a song he doesn't connect with (ie Country Roads, Just Once). Both Elliott and Katharine are much better equipped to sing the schmoopy ballads than Taylor, and it may be his downfall in the finale. In many ways, I would have rather had him square off against Chris. While Chris was considered the front-runner over Taylor, at least they would have been equally ill-equipped to sing "A moment where I believe in a heaven without wings"....

12:35 PM, May 16, 2006  
Anonymous Johanna said...

I only disagree on one thing - the finale is a "crunch time" of sorts, even though it is a festival of awful, cheesy "original" songs.

The thing is, if you go on the basis of the final three episode in Season 4, then it was truly "Bo Bice night." Carrie did a great take on Crying, but Bo did one of his best performances ever on "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and then a magical moment with "Within A Dream", which many have rated as one of the top 2-3 moments in Idol history (one list has it second only to Fantasia's Summertime!) HOWEVER, what did that gain him other than a pass to the finals? Very little. The following week, he was saddled with awful songs that didn't fit his voice, while Carrie (even though the songs were just as awful) got to sing ballads, with which she was always successful, and BOOM! A Carrie win.

This is what has me worried about Taylor. We've all seen what happens to him when he is forced to sing a song he doesn't connect with (ie Country Roads, Just Once). Both Elliott and Katharine are much better equipped to sing the schmoopy ballads than Taylor, and it may be his downfall in the finale. In many ways, I would have rather had him square off against Chris. While Chris was considered the front-runner over Taylor, at least they would have been equally ill-equipped to sing "A moment where I believe in a heaven without wings"....

12:35 PM, May 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arguably, Gideon was one of the more talented of the entire bunch. Naturally polished, too, just ahead of his time. Remember, he would have been nearly the youngest, too.

12:43 PM, May 16, 2006  
Blogger jennifer said...

Plus Gideon had a backstory that could bring people to tears, but they were too busy teaching us about Pickler to care.

12:56 PM, May 16, 2006  
Blogger jennifer said...

"schmoopy" <- My new favorite word.

What I meant by "crunch time" is that, as opposed to the Super Bowl, the final performance night, mainly because of the craptastic music they both have to sing (and you're totally right about last year), plus bringing back an oldie, kind of lends itself to an air of "you either win or you don't." BUT! They have to go through the fire of Three Night to even have the chance, so I've always felt more pressure for the kids on Clive Night than on the last one. Because if you don't bring it, you'll be wearing yellow Brady Bunch outfits next week.

Of course the final night is a pressure cooker for them, but somehow the end of the competition brings somewhat of a release of tension.

1:02 PM, May 16, 2006  
Blogger laura said...

"Puppies and rainbows" ... "Mariah-ize" I <3 you and your blog...hilarious! I completely agree with everything you say. :)

1:17 PM, May 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

man, if Gideon had made it, it might be a 3 man 3some tonight. He got screwed for sure, and Clive should really think of hooking him up (or better yet, change the rules and allow him into the final 24 again next year and let us vote him into the 12 so he can have his chance to shine. I can understand not letting the top 10 return, maybe even the 12, but ones who were cut like Gideon should be allowed to try again. Just think how much harder Simon would be on them to have improved from the year before, there's be some 'goooood' tv in that :)

JJ

2:14 PM, May 16, 2006  
Blogger jennifer said...

That would be a good idea: An Idol competition of just rejected semi-finalists, with no guaranteed recording contract, but maybe a cash award. And you're right; it would satisfy a bit of our withdrawal craving and wouldn't require those stupid auditions.

2:27 PM, May 16, 2006  
Anonymous gavintiegirl said...

I wish I could convince the entire state of Florida to vote for Elliott! I am going to dial my arse off tonight.

2:46 PM, May 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh thanks!! Thanks a lot!!! >:0 Now, I cannot get Carrie's 'Want to be Inside Your Heaven' out of my dang head!!! Smoozey is right! Yuck! Johanna...your certainly right about Chris and Taylor can you imagine them singing these corney ballads??? ROFLMAO! -Jenna

3:22 PM, May 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is starting to unfold like an election. The winner will be hard to predict. If Elliott goes instead of Katherine, she will get his votes and vice versa. It seems the Taylor fans are so rabid that they're alienating both camps and aren't likely to pick up more votes. Bad politics. I heard that Karl Rove was running their campaign. (kidding)

3:33 PM, May 16, 2006  
Blogger jennifer said...

That's funny, because I would predict that if Elliott goes, most of his fans will go to Taylor. Maybe I'm wrong, but those two have the closest styles. I love both of them.

And this is very much reminiscent of a political campaign, in the early, primary stages anyway, leading up to the big Tuesday. See? They do things on Tuesdays too! :D

3:38 PM, May 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a feeling that it will be Elliott who will go home. He just might fold under the pressure!

6:39 PM, May 16, 2006  

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