Katharine McPhee: ''I came in second for a reason.'' The ''American Idol'' runner-up chats with Jessica Shaw about her tricky song choices, meeting Meat Loaf, and why she wasn't dying to win
Did Katharine McPhee look like she was having more fun on the final American Idol results show than ever before in the competition? Backstage on Wednesday night, she was still getting flower shipments (to add to the thousand roses that are still sitting in her dressing room). She took a few minutes to sit back, kick up her feet, and talk about why her destiny was not to win American Idol.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You didn’t look too shocked when Ryan announced Taylor won. Did you have a feeling that’s how the show would end?
KATHARINE McPHEE: Did I know? I guess I had a feeling that he could probably take it home. Especially because Taylor has been high up in the voting thing for the last couple of weeks. He’d never been in the bottom three. I think he’s the only one who’s never been in the bottom three. He did it. I wasn’t in a panic. It wasn’t like, ”I was staying up for four hours last night voting,” like, ”Oh, I have to win American Idol!” At the point I made top two, I felt like there were so many doors opening for me.
Plus you got the car.
Yeah, I got the car and the record deal.
And you don’t have the label of ”American Idol winner” permanently attached to your name. Losing to Taylor might end up being the best thing that ever happened to you.
Yeah, thank you. I’m starting to think that now too. Some years the runner-up hasn’t done that well. But Clay has obviously shown that being the runner-up is just as great as being the American Idol.
Except, I have issues with his hair — but that’s another story entirely. Your song choices were somewhat controversial. How did you choose them?
”Black Horse and Cherry Tree,” I chose that because I think I knew everyone was going to want me to sing that. Everyone was like, ”Oh, good, we wanted you to sing that.” It’s just a song that I think I could’ve put on an album or something like that. And also it’s a fun song for me to let go. And then ”Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was a hard decision for me. I had everybody who thinks they’re everybody telling me what they think I should do. ”Don’t sing it.” ”Oh, it’s too soon to sing that song.” Blah blah blah. And then it ended up being the one thing Simon thought might save me, so I don’t have any regrets. I’m glad I did it. I didn’t win American Idol for a reason. I think I came in second place for a reason. It’s not second-best; it’s just as good.
It’s what you do with it now that will shape your career. But when Simon predicted on Tuesday night that Taylor would win, weren’t you bummed?
No, I didn’t get mad at all. I wasn’t really hurt. It was just one of those things when it’s like, Okay, someone’s gotta win. And then you think, Well, maybe I can still win. I don’t think I was in this… I don’t think I was really desperate to win American Idol. I was just grateful to be in the top two, to be honest.
Your single, ”My Destiny,” was pretty widely panned by the judges and fans. Did you like it?
I liked it when I heard it, but it’s a lot different when you hear it produced. I think people will like it when they hear it produced, with the echo behind it, just a lot of things they put with the song that you don’t get to hear live. And also, my voice was not doing good. I sang it as best I could.
In the theater you sounded great, but I watched the show back on TV and you could hear your voice was strained.
Yeah, I was losing my voice by the dress rehearsal. I had to have a shot of cortisone from my doctor. He came in and definitely saved my day.
Losing your voice and then your ear piece not working Tuesday night before ”Somewhere Over the Rainbow” — so much drama! And then tonight you seemed like you were so relaxed and so ready to finally have fun.
I slept pretty well last night. I wasn’t in this ”Oh my gosh, I have to win American Idol” mode. Tonight I had so much fun.
Did you ask producers to hook you up with a Meat Loaf duet?
They just came to me. It wasn’t like it was my choice. They just said, Okay, you’ll be singing with so-and-so.
I haven’t heard the guy in a while.
I didn’t even know who he was. But now I do. He was like really big in the ’70s, right?
Well, and more recently than that. You must know ”Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” right?
Okay, let’s go to a musical era you’ll remember. When you and Taylor sang ”(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” did you sort of want to pay homage to the Dirty Dancing theme song and do ”the lift”?
Yes! We wanted to! We thought there was going to be a commercial break before the finale for the results. I was supposed to be wearing a different dress, and we wanted to do a spin and a dip at the end, but not with that dress.
So what’s next for you? Free time? Spa days?
No, we’re going to New York and then we have the tour. It’s going to be busy, busy, busy from now on.
(Read Jessica Shaw’s interview with winner Taylor Hicks.)