On ''American Idol,'' Elliott Yamin has a tearful farewell after losing in a crazily tight three-way race

By Michael Slezak
Updated July 03, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

”American Idol”: Elliott loses by a little

Call me jaded, but no way am I buying that 33 percent business. More on that in a minute.

First and foremost, it’s time to bid farewell to quite possibly the sweetest soul ever to take the American Idol stage: Elliott Yamin, who received the lowest number of viewer votes this week to finish season 5 in a very respectable third place. Whether or not you were mesmerized by Elliott’s smooth-jazz stylings and humble-geek chic, there’s no disputing he left the show on a high note tonight. His encore renditions of ”Moody’s Mood for Love” and ”I Believe to My Soul” were infused with all the confidence and charm that seemed to abandon him during Tuesday night’s performance episode. Just as important, seeing Elliott get moved to tears watching footage of his visit to his hometown of Richmond, Va. (and, later, his post-elimination exit footage), provided a poignant reminder of why so many Idol viewers have become Yaminiacs (not to mention Idol fanatics) to begin with.

Elliott pretty much summed it up when he noted, ”I’m just a counter clerk at a pharmacy. I’ve been waiting my whole life for a shot like this.” Indeed, that’s so much of Idol‘s appeal: In a world where many folks pay hundreds of dollars to watch pre-fab pop stars lip-synch to backing tracks, it’s refreshing that a pharmacy clerk with a bad haircut can walk into an open audition and, using the purity of his voice alone, earn his ticket to Hollywood — and household-name status. Whether Elliott follows in the successful shoes of Idol also-rans like Kimberley Locke and Clay Aiken, or fades into a less high-profile existence, he’ll always have plenty of fans — this sappy writer included. Come on now, how can you not fall for a guy who’s barely hit a bad note all season, isn’t afraid to bawl like a baby in front of 30 million viewers, and still finds time to publicly tell his mom he loves her?

One Yaminiac, using the handle 11111, put it this way on our message board earlier today: ”Based on chops, Elliot wipes the floor with the competition every episode. Deaf in one ear, diabetic, no vocal training, and a mother who is battling chronic illness, his success on Idol is even more remarkable.”

Still, a lot of Elliott’s fans admitted his Tuesday-night renditions of ”Open Arms,” ”What You Won’t Do for Love,” and ”I Believe to My Soul” didn’t live up to his previous performances. ”Was there something wrong with Elliott last night?” asked one anonymous reader. ”He didn’t look well. Maybe the song choices made him sick. ‘Open Arms’?? Whaaat?!”

And TV Watch reader Eric felt the time was right for Elliott’s ouster. ”Taylor and Katharine brought their ‘A’ games and showed the confidence that they need to win,” he said. ”Elliot brought his ‘B’ game and no confidence at all. He surrendered.”

As I see it, though, it’s a shame that the only week Elliott totally whiffed, he got booted from the show, especially since his rival Katharine McPhee went only one-for-three at the plate, knocking only ”Somewhere Over the Rainbow” out of the park — and this after going 0-for-2 on Elvis night last week.

Indeed, Katharine’s talent and consistency were the subject of much debate on EW.com’s message boards all day Wednesday. ”Don’t get me wrong, Kat has a pretty voice,” wrote Nita, ”but Christina [Aguilera] she is not, and she needs to stop trying to be!”

Mari, meanwhile, railed against the way Katharine made excuses for her woeful performance of ”I Believe I Can Fly” by reminding the judges that record exec Clive Davis chose the song. ”Katharine has an excuse every time she doesn’t sing well,” she wrote. ”I thought her singing ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ was the worst performance I have seen from an Idol finalist ever. And she insulted Clive Davis, one of the world’s most respected music producers!” (I’d also throw in a thumbs-down for the incredulous faces Kat made when her take on ”I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues” met with a tepid response from Paula Abdul.)

Katharine’s fans, however, claim it’s envy that’s fueling her detractors’ rants. ”Okay, girls, cut it out!” wrote one anonymous poster. ”I know it’s hard to see a girl as beautiful as Katharine on TV and admit that she can sing, but please don’t be so mad about it.”

Season 5’s other remaining finalist, Taylor Hicks, also has Idol fans divided, although a good majority of our message-board posters give the guy a passing grade. A reader named Sarah feels he’s pretty much got the title wrapped up: ”Once Taylor was through with his songs last night, I had no doubt he will be the next American Idol. He’s different and has the soul and looks to be the AI. Good for him!!”

An anonymous reader, however, doesn’t see anything original in the gray-haired Alabamian’s performances. ”Isn’t that Soul Karaoke Patrol?” the person asked, mocking the name of Taylor’s fan club. ”I wouldn’t mind seeing him performing in Vegas, but I just don’t think he has the voice like Elliot or Katharine.”

My favorite comment of the day, though, came from Chaletexas, who defended Taylor against complaints that he’s a glorified wedding singer thusly: ”I want to know what weddings some of you people are going to. If Taylor is a wedding singer, put me on an invite list!”

Of course, if the Katharine-Taylor showdown isn’t polarizing enough for you, let me throw this question out there: Was anyone else a little skeptical about host Ryan Seacrest’s claim that Elliott received 33.06 percent of the votes, while his two rivals had 33.26 percent and 33.68 percent? (He didn’t say which one had the highest total.) Maybe the tally really was thisclose, but my hype-o-meter tells me it was a way for the show’s producers to infuse tonight’s show with some added drama — and make it seem that Taylor and Katharine are heading into the finals in a virtual deadlock.

What do you think? Will it be close next week, or is someone a shoo-in? Who deserves to win? And does Elliott have a future in showbiz?

Episode Recaps


American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

  • TV Show
  • 16
  • 574
  • ABC