The ''American Idol'' heartthrob's middling rendition of an American classic -- plus his slimy new look -- left viewers cold

By Michael Slezak
July 03, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
American Idol: Ray Mickshaw/FOX
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”American Idol”: The heartthrob flatlines

Don’t underestimate the power of Kellie Pickler.

Indeed, the ditzy blond vocalist, who in her own words ”butchered” the beloved chestnut ”Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” during Tuesday night’s American Idol performance episode, somehow escaped a trip to the bottom three during tonight’s results show. Meanwhile, Chris Daughtry and Paris Bennett — both of whom indubitably outperformed Kellie this week — ranked as the second and third lowest vote getters with the American public.

I should’ve seen it coming, really. Over five seasons of Idol, the message has been broadcast again and again and again: Personality counts. Or, to be more specific, performances don’t begin and end with the first and last note of the contestants’ songs. Every second of screen time is a chance to win (or lose) a vote, a fact that this season’s perceived bubblehead has exploited brilliantly, enabling herself to take certain disaster — getting well ahead of the band halfway through her performance on a night when most of her competitors sang quite well — and turn it into one part comedy act, one part sympathy ploy.

Kellie’s shtick seems to divide EW.com readers into two camps. On one side, there are folks like H, who wrote, ”I hope that Kellie is the next to go. She butchered that song and is an insult to women who have brains and know how to use them.” SR, on the other hand, said she voted repeatedly for Kellie, citing her potential, her marketability, and the fact that she appeared to be seriously at risk after her ”Bewitched” misstep.

Intellectually, I know I shouldn’t fall for Kellie’s routine — no one can tell me the girl who once said, ”What’s a ballsy?” is 100 percent unscripted — but how can you hate a girl with one liners like ”When all else fails, you better have great shoes, right?”

So what can Chris and Paris learn from Kellie? For the bald-headed rocker dude, perhaps it’s time to have more fun on stage, pick a song that’s not so bloody serious, maybe even shake his moneymaker a little. Indeed, while I thought he sounded great showing a softer side on ”What a Wonderful World,” it was not a performance that generated a lot of buzz on our TV Watch message boards.

For Paris, it’s high time she quit robotically saying ”thank you” even when the judges are throwing jabs at her helium-y speaking voice — and while she’s at it, she needs to work on holding back the tears when her fellow contestants get the boot. (They’re only leaving the show, not being taken out back with the brick and the brown bag, after all.) Still, I worry that no matter how well she sings (and on Tuesday night, her take on ”These Foolish Things” was the performance of the night) her polarizing personality has already sealed her fate. As OhioIdolFan wrote, ”Paris sounds good, but I can’t get past her age, attitude, and speaking voice. It’s time the little one packed her bags.” That said, if Paris gives five consecutive showstoppers, she may be able to rally, says recent convert LuckyDuck4u: ”Katharine has been and still is my pick to win, but I must admit, as much as I was turned off initially by Paris and her grating personality, she has gradually won me over and last night delivered an amazing performance that really caused me to reassess my opinion of her.”

One thing most EW.com readers agreed on, though, was that it was time for Ace Young to leave the competition — and this week, America agreed, giving the contestant with this season’s healthiest hair and teeth the lowest number of votes after his decent but not fantastic rendition of ”That’s All.”

Then again, maybe it wasn’t so much Ace’s singing as his new look that did him in. ”What bugged me most was that hideous little ponytail of Ace’s,” wrote Allie. ”I love Ace in all his cute, dorky splendor, but whoever told him to put half a gallon of bear fat on his head and hold it back with a bread-tie needs to go and uglify someone else.” Or, as Carolinacat succinctly predicted, ”Ace will probably be gone. This was the wrong time for him to mimic Steven Seagal.”

What do you think? Did Ace deserve to go home? Were you surprised to see Chris make his debut in the bottom three? And what did you think was more shocking: the fact that Ryan asked Taylor to choose which group of his fellow contestants was at risk, or that Taylor took him up on it?

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