Sultry Katharine McPhee and soulful Taylor Hicks go for the title
What was E.T. saying last week? "EL-LI-OTT ... GO HOME." And then there were two: gorgeous, talented but reserved and nervous Katharine McPhee, and Taylor Hicks, who is either Captain of the Soul Patrol or King of the Karaoke Spazz Attacks, depending on your point of view.
Final sing-off: 7 to 8 tonight on KHON/Fox. Finalists Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee will perform songs they have performed previously on "Idol."
Results show: 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow, in a broadcast to feature the Top 12 finalists and a performance by last season's winner, Carrie Underwood.
Whew. Seems like just yesterday there were 24 tyros trundled out on a Hollywood stage to compete in "American Idol," and they went down as if scythed the first couple of months. By the time it got to half a dozen, it was hard to pick a favorite, they were all so talented -- and differently talented.
Tonight is the showdown. Tomorrow, we find out whom American has anointed an Idol. And since it's an election year, we tend to examine the voting more closely. Interestingly, the finalists broke down among regional lines -- the now-departed Elliott Yamin is from the Northeast, Taylor is from the South and Katharine is from the West. With the huge bloc of Northeastern voters released by Elliott's departure, which way will they swing? West or South? Do we need an electoral college? At least there are no hanging chads to deal with.
Of the final three, Elliott seemed to benefit the most from the exposure, beginning as a guy you wouldn't hire to clean your chimney and arcing into a stage-savvy, polished performer. See how easy it was? You can do it, too.
We'll also find out tomorrow night who among voters in the Star-Bulletin's "Idol Pursuits" contest picked the winner. We can say that our readers -- polled when 10 singers remained -- largely picked Katharine, Mandisa Hundley and -- by a comfortable margin -- Chris Daughtry, as the most likely to finish in the Top 3. But Mandisa was sent packing, and Chris paused only to pick his jaw up off the floor when he was banished.
Season two contestant Josh Strickland plays Tarzan to Jenn Gambatese's Jane in "Tarzan," a musical based on the Disney animated film, on Broadway.
We will say that the only contestant NOT picked to win by any Star-Bulletin readers was Bucky. Most voters didn't even want him working on their car. But all the other contestants were picked as the potential next Idol.
But Chris and Mandisa skewed the results so mightily that only a bare handful of ballots remain that name either Katharine or Taylor as the winner. And no one -- no one! -- predicted the final three, in any order whatsoever. It goes to show: This year's "Idol" was pretty much a level playing field.
"Katharine's the whole package -- up-the-wazoo talent, beautiful, amazingly pure voice," opined Erin Shimabukuro. "And she's sweet and likable. How can you ask for anything more? She has all the factors. Technically one of the best. And she definitely has the look."
"I love seeing how far the talented people of the United States can go," said Dorene Yakime. "I was very taken with Katharine from the moment I saw her, even in the tryouts."
Kalei Kaleiwahea also has McPheever. "Oh, she's great. It's a shock that Taylor is still in there when so many good singers got cut. Even if she doesn't win, I predict she'll get a record deal, because she has it all. I ask my friends every week who's in and who's out, and Katharine has been hanging in there. I'm pulling for her."
She voted for Katharine in the Star-Bulletin contest, but Carmen Ayakawa has changed her mind. "I now like Taylor more. He's such an entertainer and he's more appealing every week. This has been one of the best, most excellent seasons of 'American Idol' ever. Such talent!"
We didn't reach Glen Artienda, but his voice mail gave us a clue how he's voting -- the downloaded voice of Katharine McPhee answers his calls.
Where are they now?
As the fifth season of "American Idol" winds to a close, here is where we find the previous winners:
Kelly Clarkson: The 24-year-old spiced up her girl-next-door image -- and distanced herself from "Idol" -- to become a major star, nabbing two Grammys this year for best pop vocal album for "Breakaway" and female pop vocal performance for the song "Since U Been Gone."
Ruben Studdard: The big-voiced soul singer dubbed the Velvet Teddy Bear is, so far, the winner with the slightest payoff. His two discs -- "Soulful" and the gospel-flavored "I Need an Angel" -- chalked up solid sales but lacked the buzz of the records by his female counterparts.
Fantasia Barrino: The Grammy-nominated Barrino -- a 21-year-old single mom and high school dropout from North Carolina -- sold nearly 2 million copies of her 2004 album, "Free Yourself." And she'll star as herself in an upcoming Lifetime movie, "Life Is Not a Fairy Tale: The Fantasia Barrino Story."
Carrie Underwood: The 23-year-old blond, blue-eyed country crooner from Checotah, Okla., has sold about 3 million copies of her 2005 disc, "Some Hearts," the fastest-selling debut of any "Idol" champ. Tom Corson, executive vice president of J Records, which signs the show's singers, predicts Underwood will become the "next Faith Hill or Shania Twain."
Many of the "American Idol" weekly castaways have also landed sweet gigs in music, movies and the stage:
Clay Aiken: He finished No. 2 to Ruben Studdard in Season 2 yet sold nearly 4 million copies, combined, of his records "Measure of a Man" and "Merry Christmas with Love."
"I think in a way it actually was an advantage for him to be the runner-up," said Geoff Mayfield, senior analyst for Billboard magazine. "I think that there was already a devotion (between him) and the people that were voting for him. And when he didn't win, it was like, 'Well, we'll show THEM.'"
Diana DeGarmo: The Season 3 runner-up to Fantasia Barrino sold a modest 164,000 copies of her 2004 debut, "Blue Skies." But the 19-year-old has just completed a run on Broadway in the musical "Hairspray" and has joined the national tour of "Brooklyn: The Musical."
Bo Bice: The rocker, who finished second last season to Carrie Underwood, saw lower-than-expected sales for his "The Real Thing."
Justin Guarini: The runner-up in the first season has had the least success. His self-titled record flat-out bombed.
Jennifer Hudson: The Season 3 contestant beat out Barrino to star opposite Beyoncé Knowles and Jamie Foxx in the upcoming movie musical "Dreamgirls."
Josh Strickland: The Season 2 contestant has the title role in Disney's Broadway musical "Tarzan," which opened last week to mixed reviews.
Frenchie Davis: Bounced back from being disqualified (when it was revealed that she'd appeared on an adult Web site) in 2003 to win a role in the musical "Rent."
Tamyra Gray: A favorite from the first season, she was featured in the musical "Bombay Dreams" in 2004.
Kimberly Caldwell: A second-season finalist, she now interviews "Idol" contestants as correspondent for the TV Guide Channel.
Source: Associated Press