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Get down to the

Get down to the


Simply singing is for the unimaginative. This week it's all about Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee flopping around on the floor.

So is everyone on board with the idea that this is now no longer a talent competition? Because it ain't. All five left have their strengths and their flaws. It's going to come down to demographics, cell-phone calling plans, the forbidden fruit of pitch-correction technology, sparkly outfits, flop-sweat, and whether or not Prince finally shows up. If he does that, then the earth will fall into the sun and this show won't matter anymore. And by "matter," I mean...

I don't know what I mean.

This week's Marilu Henner is season 4 contestant Anthony Federov. Cut to him applauding in the audience. You remember him, right? He was the guy who couldn't sing. Yes, it's a big alumni organization. It's not like his can't-sing qualities were much different from those of, oh, say, John Stevens. But still, he's here tonight, so he counts as a celebrity.

Seacrest introduces the judges. Nothing special tonight, re: the guys. But Paula's got on her Wacky-Weave and more jewelry than Randy. Which is a lot. Then Seacrest says that the contestants will be singing two songs each; the first will be from the year they were born. So that means Hicks is doing "Alexander's Ragtime Band."

Elliott's up first with George Benson's "On Broadway" from 1978. Now, Elliott my son, why did you pick this one? Yes, it was a hit. But there were lots of them that year. Yes, it's a chance to show off your crazy vocal gymnastic ability. But you can do that any time. Do these kids not yet know that when you end up in the top five you have to go for the jugular every single time? You have to make people leap to their feet with excitement or cry like they just lost their beloved pet dog. You have to pick songs that make people melt and swoon, "Oh, I LOVE that song!" And guess what? "On Broadway" isn't one of them. Cut to Ace in the audience giving Elliott the Ace-Smile. It's the one he gets every time he looks in the mirror and sees himself staring back. He goes, Holy shit, I just remembered for the 47,000th time how damn good looking I am. Everyone else's life must suck. When Elliott finishes, Seacrest calls him "Yamin the Machine." Isn't it a little late to be inventing nicknames for people, Seacrest? It's May sweeps already. This show is over in three more weeks. Randy's been working on his own catchphrases for years now and they still haven't taken. What makes you think you're going to just whip out "Yamin the Machine" and make it stick? You're not that magical. Yet.

Commercial time: Here's one for Mac. According to the ad, my choices in life all boil down to being a dweeb in a suit with an iPod I use to listen to my "slow jams" or a smug, techno-precocious college freshman with greasy hair and a hoodie. There is no middle ground. You will be hip or you will die from the mocking laughter of others. And now back to our program...

Two women in the audience are holding a sign that reads, "Ryan...We'll Be Your Desperate Housewives!" So topical, these ladies. Teri Hatcher was just on Oprah yesterday spilling it about her three dates with Seacrest. According to her, an hour after the Us Weekly-splattered pictures of them kissing were snapped, he called her and said, "I can't do this with you," and she hasn't heard from him since. I think I believe that. This guy has, like, nine jobs. How would he have time for a relationship that wasn't rented by the hour? Not that I'm saying he does that sort of thing. Rent people, that is. I don't even have any awesome rumors about that. Because if I did, I'd share them.

Just like Elliott's personality reel, Paris's is full of adorable baby pictures. Make that insanely adorable baby pictures. So innocent, so happy. She's grown three whole feet since then. And now she's going to sing "Kiss," a song with lyrics about needing "your body baby, from dusk to dawn" and how you "don't need experience to turn me out." But more disconcerting than having to think about sweet little Paris being turned out from dusk to dawn is the fact that "Kiss" is a novelty song that does her no favors. It ain't a sangin' song. So she can do the Beyonce booty shake all day long, but it's not going to win people over to her voice. She may have sealed her doom with this. I'll be sad if she goes, but it's got to be somebody. Simon calls it "screechy and annoying," and I agree. Dang.

It's Daughtry versus Styx. He's doing "Renegade" from 1979. "And of course he picks the worst song of 1979," says my partner, mouth full of ice cream and sitting next to me on the couch. "Wrong," I say, "He's finally chosen something not-sucky. 'Renegade' is the shit and is, in fact, Styx's finest moment." "You're high. I hate that song. Styx had other, better songs." "Name one." ... ... "OK, I don't know." This is how you win domestic disputes. Throw down and make them back up their assertions with solid evidence. You will emerge triumphant almost all the time. As for Daughtry, he has rocked sufficiently if not interestingly. He did the carry-the-mike-stand-around thing. Why is it that only the alpha males do that? Is it some kind of penis gesture? It has to be, right? Get me Camille Paglia. I need this explained. The women never do it. Sweet, emotionally sensitive Elliott doesn't do it. Clay never did it.

McPhee is wearing the coolest chocolate-brown dress ever. It's wrapped in black straps. It's got a boob belt. Not that those things can be tamed. But still, it's a boob belt. She sings "Against All Odds" from 1984 and she stinks up the place with it. Like almost every note out of her mouth is the wrong choice. I hit the eight-second repeat button on TiVo several times to hear her strangle the line "Take a loooooooook at me now" as though she's choking on a blueberry muffin. "I'd rather listen to the Ann Reinking version from the 1985 Oscars," says my partner.

And that right there was your moment of Super-Gay for this recap.

Taylor saves the first half of the show with 1976's "Play That Funky Music." Nothing about the following few moments disappoints. First of all, he's wearing hideous clothes that are clearly not the work of a stylist. Not that stylists don't pick out hideous clothes all the time. But this feels like a Hicks-selected ensemble. Stupid pants. Vomit-y shirt. He could have his own line like Arnold Palmer or Mary-Kate and Ashley. It'd be called "Fuck You I'm Taylor Hicks and I Wear Ugly Shirts." It could be FUBU for white gorks. But let's talk about the singing. First he yells "GET UP!" and "AYEEEEE YEAH!" and does his soon-to-be-trademarked Awful Dancing. When he gets to the part of the song where it goes, "Lay down the boogie," he's wildly pointing out to the audience and then back to himself, and I have to go watch it again slowly a couple of times to see if I can figure out what he's trying to really "say" to America. After two viewings I realize that when he sings the word "boogie" he's pointing to himself. So Taylor Hicks is The Boogie. Why is he The Boogie? How do I become The Boogie too?

Then he keeps running around, wriggling and hunching and hip-swiveling and freaking out. This is good. Oh, it's so good. I'm hoping he Flashdance-leaps through the air and lands on the judges' table and starts humping Randy's leg. He fails me on this wish but still delivers a big finish when he's back on the stage, dropping to the floor and kicking his legs up into the air, doing the Dying Insect. He must have been taking mental notes last week when Andrea Bocelli and Daughtry both got down on the floor to sing. He will place the cherry on top of this banana split if he'll just do the Curly Howard "whoop-whoop-whoop-whoop" thing and floor-spin himself 360 degrees on his side.

Paula says, "This is the authentic Taylor Hicks we love." And, I might add, it's the only one I want to see. Ever. Then Simon says something insulting. I forget what. With regard to Hicks, Simon has missed the boat again. And Hicks seems to be mocking him, interjecting the word "Funky!" into the middle of Simon's attempt to bash him.

The second half of the show is all about songs from this week's Billboard charts. Seacrest talks about that gay-ass "Had a Bad Day" song that everyone loves so damn much. That song makes me want to start fires. The rules of the second half are that any song on a chart this week is fair game. Which means that everything from reggaeton to album catalog hits from 1967 is acceptable. All I know is the first person to try that effing James Blunt song is going to be poisoned later in their sleep. I had audience spies last week. Don't think I can't get things done.

Elliott, soft as an easy chair, emotes through Michael Buble's "Home." It's a sit-down moment. Oh? You want to go home, Elliott? Give it a week. We'll see what we can do.

Paris tries Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You." Now here's the thing with Mary J. Blige: She can wipe the floor with me and you and everyone we know. Like a Swiffer Wet pad. It's always a mistake to try to step to her. Paris, my dear sweet Paris who I love more than all the others, you are going home, even though Elliott just announced in his own song that he wants to go there. It's going to be you. That is my sad prediction.

Daughtry and the Return of the Wallet Chain show their true colors with a cover of Shinedown's "I Dare You." Wow. Worst song ever. Maybe in the history of the show. Like worse than that guy whose clip they always dredge back up, the crazy "Silent Night" dude from a few seasons back. Remember him? But at least it's consistent with Daughtry's bottom-scraping taste in "rock."

Not about to let Taylor Hicks take the night away, McPhee slinks around on the floor to that KT Tunstall song "Black Horse & The Cherry Tree." Is there anything better than watching someone sing and scootch around on their haunches, trying to create a sensual gesture out of a raised kneecap? And flanked by two guys hitting boxes? Not that she needs to try to get too sexy. Every straight man I know lets out a whimper when her name is mentioned. Then they say they want make up an NC-17 variation on her name to describe what they want. You can guess.

Hicks does "Something" by the Beatles. Whatever. I yawn now. Start wiggling for me, man. I need my monkeys to dance.

On to Chopped & Screwed night...

Carmen Electra is here. I have nothing more to add to that. The camera cuts to her. No Pussycat Dolls in sight.

Someone is holding a sign up that reads, "Ryan...Please come to my house for Thanksgiving Dinner." This is a fan with a major to-do list. She's already planted the gourds she'll harvest for the centerpiece and she knows that you have to book Seacrest way in advance for these sorts of personal appearances. And I guarantee you, if the price was right, he'd probably say yes.

The Final Five sing a song called "We Are One." At least I think that's what it's called. I've never heard of it before. And I never want to hear it again. The lyrics are something like "we've worked so hard to reach our goals and our dreams are here and we are ready to ascend the glittering staircase of fame and cultural supremacy and maybe four of us are about to be sacrificed to the demigod of has-been-itude but one of us won't be and it's gonna be me damn it and whoa-ohhhhhhhh." Onto the stage pours a gospel choir of folks who must hate all five of these kids for leapfrogging their way to national name-recognition status while they toil away as background singers in Dairy Queen commercials. They're not even dressed in choir robes. One of the guys has on a black tank top, an item of clothing I've never associated with gospel choirs and hope to erase from my memory soon. It would be much, much, MUCH more entertaining if the Kids From Widney High were the backup vocalists on this number.

Ford commercial time: They sing "Hollywood Swinging" like they're a family of dopey tourists in a car touring wacky Los Angeles while a Guernica of cliches swirls around them. They park the car at the corner of Holly and Weird streets. Hicks does a spazzy hand-jive in the backseat with his little sister McPhee and little brother Elliott. Daughtry assumes the dad position behind the wheel, which means he's married to Paris. Outside the safety and normalcy of the Ford vehicle, people with pink hair and fake wings just hang out on the street. There are giant Afro people. A Franken-Pickler walks by accompanied by a punk rock lesbo. Here comes the skateboarding bulldog. He's gleaming the cube. Some Von Zipper motorcycle dudes cruise past on pink tricycles. Paris gives them the "white folks sure are crazy" look. Why don't I get these people on my block? I live in Hollywood too, and all I ever see are stupid aspiring actors out walking their dogs and yammering loudly on cell phones.

Then come the drag queens. And that's the tipping point. Suddenly our wholesome gang is off to the West Hollywood Halloween Street Fair. Paris is everyone in Thunderdome at once. Daughtry has on a giant top hat and appears to have stepped out of a Color Me Badd video, circa 1990. Elliott is postapocalyptic bling meets punk meets 8 Mile-wannabe baller, Hicks has on Road Warrior shoulder pads, Rocky Horror makeup, a spike collar, and some oily mechanic's rags, and McPhee is "Angel," high school honor student by day, Hollywood hooker by night.

Seacrest announces that the final four are being shipped off to Graceland of all places, where "waiting for you will be Tommy Mottola." If that's not a threat, I don't know what is. What's he going to do, battle Elvis's ghost while they watch, terrified? Maybe burn Mariah Carey in effigy while cackling, "That's what you get when you mess with the Big M, kids!" Whoever gets the ax tonight should thank their lucky stars they don't have to deal with it.

And finally, the boot. Seacrest tells Hicks and Daughtry that they're safe. Paris is Bottom Two. He tells her to sing. And suddenly it's like the weight of the world is off her shoulders. She tosses her chewed-up gum to Seacrest and gets all "Hey Baby!" with it. This is a performance of "Kiss" that might have saved her from the spot she's in right now. It's sassy and bright and winning and she's making goofy faces. When her mike flies off while doing the booty-pop she doesn't even seem to notice. Seacrest chases her across the stage with it. She finishes and he says, "You almost lost [your mike]!" and she flips back with "I did!" (Translation: "And I don't give a fuck!")

Elliott is Bottom Two too. But it's Paris who packs her bags. Goodbye, My Lady of Loud. I will miss you.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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