On ''American Idol,'' having turned in two subpar performances in a row, Kellie Pickler still goes home smiling

By Michael Slezak
Updated July 03, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
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”American Idol”: Kellie goes home smiling

Blame it on her lack of an inspirational ”pottery partner,” or perhaps her somewhat limited vocal range, but Great Love Songs week proved to be the end of Kellie Pickler’s American Idol dream.

Whatever the reason, I maintain that America showed exceptional judgment in giving the lowest number of votes to the sometimes amusing, sometimes annoying, but undeniably quotable contestant. Stacked up against the five remaining finalists, Kellie’s Tuesday-night rendition of ”Unchained Melody” was in a league of its own — and not in a good way — a fact that, apparently, not even her large and motivated fan base could deny. Indeed, even though Kellie had never been in the bottom three until tonight (only one other contestant, Taylor Hicks, could boast the same), two subpar performances in a row finally turned the tide. Heck, when even Paula Abdul says you’re not living up to expectations, you know your time is limited. ”Kellie must go! She shoulda gone last week,” noted EW.com reader Jay, referring to Kellie’s own admission that she butchered ”Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” in the previous round.

But don’t cry for Kellie. As Casey pointed out, ”I’m sure there’s a career waiting for her on CMT with her looks and personality. She is a cutie, just not an American Idol.” Kellie’s exit speech, in fact, made a pretty compelling audition tape. ”I’m glad to be here,” she said after Ryan Seacrest asked her if Hollywood had changed her. ”I know I won’t be here much longer ’cause the commercial’s comin’.” Yes, whether or not she’s your cup of calamari, the naughty little minx knows how to work a live audience.

Joining Kellie in the bottom two this week was Paris Bennett, which came as no surprise to both fans and detractors of the big-voiced teen. As one anonymous Paris booster wrote on our message boards, ”I agree that Paris may leave a little too early. But she has such a bright and long career in front of her. By the time she is thirty she will be saying ‘how you like me now’ bam in your face!”

So what’s making America say, ”Forget Paris,” when it comes time to vote? A lot of you say the perky teenager is simply annoying. But regular reader Reuben Kincaid has a slightly more involved theory: ”Paris has a great ‘instrument’ as Andrea Bocelli would say, but she never developed a fan base — she keeps confusing the audience and reinventing herself. And changing from Beyoncé to Barbra does not make one Madonna.”

Speaking of role reversals, I was shocked to hear Simon backtrack on his harsh critique of Katharine McPhee’s Tuesday-night rendition of ”I Have Nothing.” I listened to it four more times on Wednesday afternoon and found it even more shrill and strained than I did watching it the first time. But then again, maybe Mr. Cowell was influenced by the fact that Katharine was one of the two highest vote getters (along with rocker Chris Daughtry, although Ryan Seacrest didn’t reveal in which order). Or maybe he just agreed with the 50 percent of EW.com readers who told me I needed to get the wax out of my ears when it comes to the raven-haired beauty’s performances.

While I’d politely disagree, that doesn’t mean I’m above making an error. As reader Baylady astutely wrote in, ”Slezak, it’s ‘uff da,’ not ‘oof-dah.’ ” You’re darn tootin’, Baylady!

What do you think? Does Kellie have a future in show business? Should the producers continue to reveal the highest as well as the lowest vote getters? And should Simon have kept his change of opinion to himself?

Episode Recaps

American Idol

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