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AI Season 5

[back to top] Contestants

Finalists
Place Name / Hometown #Ep #Pf. Average Rating Hi Lo σ 0-19 20-39 40-59 60-79 80-100
1
Hicks TaylorTaylor Hicks
Birmingham, AL
14 20
60.7
 
80 17 18.0 1 2 5 9 3
2
McPhee KatharineKatharine McPhee
Sherman Oaks, CA
14 20
55.3
 
90 13 17.4 2 4 5 4 5
3
Yamin ElliottElliott Yamin
Richmond, VA
13 17
64.8
 
88 44 18.5 0 0 6 8 3
4
Daughtry ChrisChris Daughtry
McLeansville, NC
12 14
64.7
 
92 28 18.1 0 3 2 6 3
5
Bennett ParisParis Bennett
Fayetteville, GA
11 12
57.1
 
82 39 20.6 0 1 6 4 1
6
Pickler KellieKellie Pickler
Albemarle, NC
10 10
34.1
 
65 5 18.5 3 3 3 1 0
7
Young AceAce Young
Denver, CO
9 9
35.3
 
78 9 18.0 2 4 2 1 0
8
Covington BuckyBucky Covington
Rockingham, NC
8 8
41.6
 
51 23 20.8 0 3 5 0 0
9
MandisaMandisa
Antioch, TN
7 7
64.9
 
90 23 16.9 0 1 1 3 2
10
Tucker LisaLisa Tucker
Anaheim, CA
6 6
45.8
 
78 11 16.8 1 1 3 1 0
11
Covais KevinKevin Covais
Levittown, NY
5 5
29.2
 
42 14 17.2 1 3 1 0 0
12
McGhee MelissaMelissa McGhee
Tampa, FL
4 4
42.3
 
55 25 18.8 0 1 3 0 0
Place Name / Hometown Avg. Rtg. SF FI Solo Lo1 Growth #Ep. B3 SAge FFact RFact
1
Hicks TaylorTaylor Hicks
Birmingham, AL
60.7 71.7 58.7 60.7 17.0 -0.39 14 0 32.9 65% 0.40
2
McPhee KatharineKatharine McPhee
Sherman Oaks, CA
55.3 64.7 53.6 55.3 13.0 -1.72 14 2 33.1 50% 0.90
3
Yamin ElliottElliott Yamin
Richmond, VA
64.8 72.7 63.1 64.8 44.0 -0.83 13 3 34.4 59% 0.47
4
Daughtry ChrisChris Daughtry
McLeansville, NC
64.7 82.7 59.8 64.7 28.0 -3.17 12 2 20.8 86% 0.21
5
Bennett ParisParis Bennett
Fayetteville, GA
57.1 55.7 57.6 57.1 39.0 -1.28 11 4 23.0 67% 0.50
6
Pickler KellieKellie Pickler
Albemarle, NC
34.1 43.3 30.1 34.1 5.0 -2.96 10 1 26.7 60% 0.60
7
Young AceAce Young
Denver, CO
35.3 49.7 28.2 35.3 9.0 -3.17 9 4 21.8 78% 0.22
8
Covington BuckyBucky Covington
Rockingham, NC
41.6 45.3 39.4 41.6 23.0 +0.23 8 2 21.8 88% 0.13
9
MandisaMandisa
Antioch, TN
64.9 77.3 55.5 64.9 23.0 -7.18 7 1 23.7 86% 0.29
10
Tucker LisaLisa Tucker
Anaheim, CA
45.8 61.0 30.7 45.8 11.0 -11.34 6 3 25.3 83% 0.33
11
Covais KevinKevin Covais
Levittown, NY
29.2 30.0 28.0 29.2 14.0 -0.70 5 1 31.2 0% 1.80
12
McGhee MelissaMelissa McGhee
Tampa, FL
42.3 48.0 25.0 42.3 25.0 -6.30 4 1 15.5 50% 0.75
Place Name / Hometown Avg. Rtg. HTH W L T Pct Strk Solo
1
Hicks TaylorTaylor Hicks
Birmingham, AL
60.7 22 17 5 0 0.773 8 8
2
McPhee KatharineKatharine McPhee
Sherman Oaks, CA
55.3 36 16 19 1 0.458 4 4
3
Yamin ElliottElliott Yamin
Richmond, VA
64.8 24 19 4 1 0.813 14 14
4
Daughtry ChrisChris Daughtry
McLeansville, NC
64.7 11 6 5 0 0.545 5 5
5
Bennett ParisParis Bennett
Fayetteville, GA
57.1 16 10 5 1 0.656 3 3
6
Pickler KellieKellie Pickler
Albemarle, NC
34.1 11 2 9 0 0.182 1 1
7
Young AceAce Young
Denver, CO
35.3 7 1 5 1 0.214 1 1
8
Covington BuckyBucky Covington
Rockingham, NC
41.6 9 3 6 0 0.333 1 1
9
MandisaMandisa
Antioch, TN
64.9 5 3 2 0 0.600 5 5
10
Tucker LisaLisa Tucker
Anaheim, CA
45.8 6 1 4 1 0.250 3 3
11
Covais KevinKevin Covais
Levittown, NY
29.2 14 5 9 0 0.357 0 0
12
McGhee MelissaMelissa McGhee
Tampa, FL
42.3 9 2 7 0 0.222 1 1
Semifinalists
Place Name / Hometown #Ep #Pf. Average Rating Hi Lo σ 0-19 20-39 40-59 60-79 80-100
200 SF
Bennett BobbyBobby Bennett
Denver, CO
1 1
7.0
 
7 7 7.0 1 0 0 0 0
200 SF
Brown AylaAyla Brown
Wrentham, MA
3 3
52.0
 
61 38 18.3 0 1 1 1 0
200 SF
Cox HeatherHeather Cox
Jonesville, NC
2 2
14.0
 
14 14 13.0 2 0 0 0 0
200 SF
Gethers BrennaBrenna Gethers
Mount Vernon, NY
2 2
10.5
 
14 7 11.5 2 0 0 0 0
200 SF
Hall PatrickPatrick Hall
Gravette, AR
1 1
40.0
 
40 40 15.0 0 0 1 0 0
200 SF
Makar WillWill Makar
The Woodlands, TX
3 3
38.3
 
47 24 17.7 0 1 2 0 0
200 SF
McKinney GedeonGedeon McKinney
Memphis, TN
3 3
54.3
 
65 44 19.7 0 0 2 1 0
200 SF
O'Donohue BeckyBecky O'Donohue
Dobbs Ferry, NY
1 1
21.0
 
21 21 14.0 0 1 0 0 0
200 SF
Penala SwaySway Penala
San Francisco, CA
2 2
25.5
 
32 19 20.5 1 1 0 0 0
200 SF
Radford DavidDavid Radford
Crystal Lake, IL
2 2
25.0
 
30 20 17.0 0 2 0 0 0
200 SF
Scott StevieStevie Scott
Fair Oaks, CA
1 1
10.0
 
10 10 17.0 1 0 0 0 0
200 SF
Sky KinnikKinnik Sky
Duluth, GA
3 3
27.3
 
43 12 15.0 1 1 1 0 0
Place Name / Hometown Avg. Rtg. SF FI Solo Lo1 Growth #Ep. B3 SAge FFact RFact
200 SF
Bennett BobbyBobby Bennett
Denver, CO
7.0 7.0 n/a 7.0 7.0 n/a 1 0 28.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
Brown AylaAyla Brown
Wrentham, MA
52.0 52.0 n/a 52.0 38.0 n/a 3 0 5.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
Cox HeatherHeather Cox
Jonesville, NC
14.0 14.0 n/a 14.0 14.0 n/a 2 0 14.0 50% 0.50
200 SF
Gethers BrennaBrenna Gethers
Mount Vernon, NY
10.5 10.5 n/a 10.5 7.0 n/a 2 0 30.5 50% 0.50
200 SF
Hall PatrickPatrick Hall
Gravette, AR
40.0 40.0 n/a 40.0 40.0 n/a 1 0 12.0 0% 2.00
200 SF
Makar WillWill Makar
The Woodlands, TX
38.3 38.3 n/a 38.3 24.0 n/a 3 0 34.3 33% 1.00
200 SF
McKinney GedeonGedeon McKinney
Memphis, TN
54.3 54.3 n/a 54.3 44.0 n/a 3 0 42.7 67% 0.67
200 SF
O'Donohue BeckyBecky O'Donohue
Dobbs Ferry, NY
21.0 21.0 n/a 21.0 21.0 n/a 1 0 28.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
Penala SwaySway Penala
San Francisco, CA
25.5 25.5 n/a 25.5 19.0 n/a 2 0 25.5 50% 0.50
200 SF
Radford DavidDavid Radford
Crystal Lake, IL
25.0 25.0 n/a 25.0 20.0 n/a 2 0 48.5 0% 1.00
200 SF
Scott StevieStevie Scott
Fair Oaks, CA
10.0 10.0 n/a 10.0 10.0 n/a 1 0 5.0 100% 0.00
200 SF
Sky KinnikKinnik Sky
Duluth, GA
27.3 27.3 n/a 27.3 12.0 n/a 3 0 6.3 33% 1.00
Place Name / Hometown Avg. Rtg. HTH W L T Pct Strk Solo
200 SF
Bennett BobbyBobby Bennett
Denver, CO
7.0 0 0 0 0 n/a 0 0
200 SF
Brown AylaAyla Brown
Wrentham, MA
52.0 3 1 1 1 0.500 2 2
200 SF
Cox HeatherHeather Cox
Jonesville, NC
14.0 5 0 5 0 0.000 0 0
200 SF
Gethers BrennaBrenna Gethers
Mount Vernon, NY
10.5 2 0 2 0 0.000 0 0
200 SF
Hall PatrickPatrick Hall
Gravette, AR
40.0 3 1 2 0 0.333 0 0
200 SF
Makar WillWill Makar
The Woodlands, TX
38.3 6 4 2 0 0.667 0 0
200 SF
McKinney GedeonGedeon McKinney
Memphis, TN
54.3 11 6 5 0 0.545 2 2
200 SF
O'Donohue BeckyBecky O'Donohue
Dobbs Ferry, NY
21.0 1 0 1 0 0.000 0 0
200 SF
Penala SwaySway Penala
San Francisco, CA
25.5 2 0 2 0 0.000 0 0
200 SF
Radford DavidDavid Radford
Crystal Lake, IL
25.0 7 1 5 1 0.214 0 0
200 SF
Scott StevieStevie Scott
Fair Oaks, CA
10.0 0 0 0 0 n/a 0 0
200 SF
Sky KinnikKinnik Sky
Duluth, GA
27.3 6 1 5 0 0.167 0 0

[back to top] Episodes

Pre-finals
Date Episode / Theme #Cn. #Pf. Average Rating Hi Lo σ 0-19 20-39 40-59 60-79 80-100
38769 Feb 21, 2006
Open
12 12
45.8
 
80 10 15.8 3 2 3 3 1
38770 Feb 22, 2006
Open
12 12
49.2
 
85 7 16.5 1 4 3 2 2
38776 Feb 28, 2006
Open
10 10
41.6
 
70 7 16.7 2 2 4 2 0
38777 Mar 1, 2006
Open
10 10
49.4
 
92 19 15.6 1 3 3 1 2
38783 Mar 7, 2006
Open
8 8
50.4
 
87 12 18.5 1 1 4 1 1
38784 Mar 8, 2006
Open
8 8
49.8
 
80 24 19.9 0 3 2 2 1
Date Episode / Theme Avg. Rtg. Solo SR In SR Out CR XFact SAge FFact RFact
38769 Feb 21, 2006
Open
45.8 45.8 n/a 45.8 45.8 n/a 19.3 75% 0.33
38770 Feb 22, 2006
Open
49.2 49.2 45.8 47.5 49.2 n/a 27.9 58% 0.67
38776 Feb 28, 2006
Open
41.6 41.6 47.5 45.7 46.7 -10.20 16.7 60% 0.60
38777 Mar 1, 2006
Open
49.4 49.4 45.7 46.6 51.9 -4.90 30.0 60% 0.50
38783 Mar 7, 2006
Open
50.4 50.4 46.6 47.2 53.7 -4.94 15.6 50% 0.75
38784 Mar 8, 2006
Open
49.8 49.8 47.2 47.5 55.6 -8.75 22.5 63% 0.63
Finals
Date Episode / Theme #Cn. #Pf. Average Rating Hi Lo σ 0-19 20-39 40-59 60-79 80-100
38791 Mar 15, 2006
Stevie Wonder
12 12
48.8
 
84 14 17.0 2 3 2 3 2
38798 Mar 22, 2006
1950s
11 11
56.9
 
90 23 17.9 0 3 3 4 1
38805 Mar 29, 2006
2000s
10 10
40.9
 
72 9 20.3 2 2 4 2 0
38811 Apr 4, 2006
Country
9 9
46.9
 
71 17 22.0 1 1 4 3 0
38818 Apr 11, 2006
Queen
8 8
50.0
 
68 12 23.4 1 1 3 3 0
38825 Apr 18, 2006
Great American Songbook
7 7
63.7
 
87 9 15.7 1 0 1 3 2
38832 Apr 25, 2006
Love Songs
6 6
51.5
 
88 5 15.8 1 1 2 1 1
38839 May 2, 2006
Year Born / Billboard Top 10
5 10
52.8
 
81 15 19.5 1 2 3 3 1
38846 May 9, 2006
Elvis Presley
4 8
53.3
 
86 21 20.6 0 3 1 2 2
38853 May 16, 2006
Idol's / Clive's / Judge's
3 9
54.6
 
90 21 17.6 0 1 5 2 1
38860 May 23, 2006
Finale
2 6
49.8
 
77 13 12.5 1 1 2 2 0
Date Episode / Theme Avg. Rtg. Solo SR In SR Out CR XFact SAge FFact RFact
38791 Mar 15, 2006
Stevie Wonder
48.8 48.8 47.5 47.7 56.1 -9.67 28.6 50% 0.67
38798 Mar 22, 2006
1950s
56.9 56.9 47.7 48.9 57.3 -0.43 51.7 82% 0.27
38805 Mar 29, 2006
2000s
40.9 40.9 48.9 48.1 56.9 -19.16 3.6 80% 0.20
38811 Apr 4, 2006
Country
46.9 46.9 48.1 48.0 56.5 -11.20 11.6 89% 0.22
38818 Apr 11, 2006
Queen
50.0 50.0 48.0 48.1 54.8 -5.45 24.4 75% 0.38
38825 Apr 18, 2006
Great American Songbook
63.7 63.7 48.1 49.1 57.4 +7.07 62.1 71% 0.43
38832 Apr 25, 2006
Love Songs
51.5 51.5 49.1 49.2 60.2 -9.61 26.3 17% 1.50
38839 May 2, 2006
Year Born / Billboard Top 10
52.8 52.8 49.2 49.4 63.3 -12.56 18.4 80% 0.50
38846 May 9, 2006
Elvis Presley
53.3 53.3 49.4 49.7 63.2 -11.56 42.6 63% 0.38
38853 May 16, 2006
Idol's / Clive's / Judge's
54.6 54.6 49.7 50.0 61.2 -8.09 35.2 44% 0.67
38860 May 23, 2006
Finale
49.8 49.8 50.0 49.9 59.4 -9.58 n/a 33% 0.83

[back to top] Ratings Distribution

Total of 156 performances
  5
 
13
 
15
 
18
 
28
 
21
 
17
 
22
 
14
 
3
 
 
  9- 10-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-69 70-79 80-89 90+  

[back to top] Top Performances

Highest-Rated Performances
Highest-Rated Performances
1
Hemorrhage In My Hands0001Hemorrhage (In My Hands)
92
 
2
I Don't Hurt Anymore0001I Don't Hurt Anymore
90
 
Over The Rainbow0001Over The Rainbow
90
 
4
A Song For You0001A Song For You
88
 
5
Im Every Woman0001I'm Every Woman
87
 
Someone To Watch Over Me0001Someone To Watch Over Me
87
 
7
Trouble 10001Trouble
86
 
8
Wanted Dead Or Alive0001Wanted Dead Or Alive
85
 
9
Higher Ground0001Higher Ground
84
 
10
Moodys Mood For Love0001Moody's Mood For Love
82
 
These Foolish Things0001These Foolish Things
82
 
Lowest-Rated Performances
Lowest-Rated Performances
1
Unchained Melody0001Unchained Melody
5
 
2
Copacabana0001Copacabana
7
 
Last Dance0001Last Dance
7
 
4
Drops Of Jupiter0001Drops Of Jupiter
9
 
Bewitched Bothered And Bewildered0001Bewitched, Bothered, And Bewildered
9
 
6
To Where You Are0001To Where You Are
10
 
7
Because Of You0001Because Of You
11
 
8
If I Aint Got You0001If I Ain't Got You
12
 
We Will Rock You0001We Will Rock You
12
 
10
My Destiny0001My Destiny
13
 

[back to top] Summary

"The Season Five 'Final 5' ".  The words are spoken in reverent tones whenever American Idol fans meet, much like how baseball fans refer to the 1927 New York Yankees or wine lovers discuss 1947 Cheval Blanc.  OK, so we're exaggerating – no one we know is ready to equate Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to Taylor Hicks and Chris Daughtry, nor is there a whole lot of agreement as to which of that quintet actually deserved to win.  But there remains a fairly strong consensus on Idol boards and blogs that in 2006 – whether by design, accident, or sheer dumb luck – America got the Final 5 right for once.  Of course, the road to Rightville was riddled with potholes and hairpin curves along the way, but you can't expect a smooth ride on this crazy show....

First out in the Top 24 Girls show was Mandisa (née Hundley), a very-plus-sized, black Gospel singer from Tennessee, who naturally kicked off the season with a cover of...well, we'll give you three guesses.  Then ten thousand more, if you'd like.  Stop us when you get to Heart's Never.  But Mandisa's unexpected song choice made a strong impression on the Idolsphere, earning a 76 rating that was later matched by Paris Bennett's Midnight Train To Georgia.  Little Lisa Tucker trumped both with a 5-star rendition of I Am Changing from Dreamgirls, but Katherine McPhee outpointed them all with the anchor number, Since I Fell For You, at 82.  Regrettably, three consecutive 1-star performance in the middle of the show took much of the luster off the Girls' otherwise strong opening night.

The Top 24 Guys, by contrast, got off to a rocky start: the first five performances all came in at under 50, and the judges were getting restless.  Enter North Carolina rocker Daughtry, who woke everyone up with the week's top-rated performance, an 87 for Wanted Dead Or Alive.  Another well-traveled rocker from the South, Birmingham's Hicks, closed with a 5-star cover of Levon, while Ace Young displayed a nimble falsetto on George Michael's Father Figure, just missing 5-stars at 79.  The only other above-average approval rating of the evening was a 4-star cover of If You Really Love Me by little-hyped Elliott Yamin.

The ten advancing ladies backslid badly the next week, with an average rating of under 43 and only Mandisa and teen basketball star Ayla Brown reaching even a modest 4-stars.  Brenna Gethers and Heather Cox achieved a dubious WNTS.com milestone: they became the first pair of contestants to post back-to-back 1-star performances in consecutive weeks; both were eliminated.  The Top 20 Guys show was highlighted by a pair of memorable numbers.  First, Yamin navigated the challenging pitch jumps of Moody's Mood For Love, earning an 84 rating and prompting more than one Idolsphere reviewer to ask, "Who is this guy?"  Then, Daughtry brought down the house with Fuel's Hemmorhage (In My Hands); at 94, it was the top-rated performance of the season and among the very highest in Idol history.

Brown was a somewhat controversial elimination in the Top 16 Girls episode, though in the voters' defense she did have one of the two lowest-rated performances of the evening.  Mandisa's I'm Every Woman led the way at 88, with McPhee's Think falling just short of 5-stars.  Joining them in the Top 12: Bennett, Tucker, country-singing waitress Kellie Pickler, and underdog Melissa McGhee.  For the Guys, the gray-haired Hicks punched his Final 12 ticket with the Doobie Brothers' classic Takin' It To The Streets at 82.  Daughtry and Yamin had 4-star performances to join him, along with Young and country singer Bucky Covington.  Most reviewers felt that 17-year-old Gedeon McKinney deserved the 12th and final spot, but in a mild shocker, McKinney was edged out by another teen, Long Island's Kevin Covais, who'd posted just three 2-star performances in the semifinals.

Stevie Wonder was guest mentor for the Final 12 Episode, which didn't really pick up until the final four singers hit the stage: 5-star performances by McPhee and Daughtry (who went with the Red Hot Chili Peppers' version of Higher Ground), sandwiching 4-star numbers by Hicks and Bennett.  McGhee was the first Idol eliminated, and Covais followed her home on the Barry Manilow-mentored 1950s Night despite notching his first 3-star rating with When I Fall In Love.  It took five long years, but Mandisa's spirited rendition of I Don't Hurt Anymore became the first performance out of the dreaded leadoff slot to earn a rating in the 90s.  But Mandisa's achievement was overshadowed by the first significant controversy of AI5: Daughtry's alt-rock twist on I Walk The Line earned him fawning praise from the judges for cleverness and originality...except no one mentioned on-air that the arrangement came directly from a 2001 cover by Live.

After two weeks of golden oldies, and to the delight of much of the sick-of-elevator-music Idolsphere, the producers decided to go contemporary in the Final 10 Episode.  But as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for, you might get it.  The 2000s theme thoroughly flummoxed the contestants – Tucker, Pickler, and Young opened the show with three 1-star performances, and it didn't get a whole lot better from there.  At 41.0, it's the lowest-rated Finals episode in our database.  Ignoring the Web reviewers' pleas for a mass elimination, only Tucker was sent home the next night.

Country Night came next, and to everyone's horror, the Idols picked up right where they'd left off.  The enormously popular Hicks made a 1-star mess of Take Me Home, Country Roads, and the usually atomic-clock-consistent Mandisa barely got to 2-stars with Any Man Of Mine.  But the remaining contestants managed to sputter into gear, sort of – none fell below 3-stars, and Pickler (who somehow snuck Fancy past the show's hypersensitive censors), Daughtry, and McPhee each squeaked out a fourth star.  A shock was in store for America the next night: Mandisa, Bennett, and Yamin all made their first visit to the Bottom 3, and Mandisa was eliminated.

After two down weeks, the last thing the contestants needed to hear was that the Final 8 Week theme would be the vocally complex catalog of Queen.  Apocalyptic predictions filled the forums, but the Idols rose to the challenge.  Six performances rated above 50, led by Yamin's Somebody To Love, while a seventh, Pickler's gutsy go at Bohemian Rhapsody, fell just short of 3-stars.  Only Young, who tried to put an odd marching-beat spin on We Will Rock You, fell flat (prejudiced, perhaps, by a deceptively-edited intro piece that incurred the ire of guest mentor Brian May the next day).  Despite a truly clever honky-tonk take on Fat Bottomed Girls, Covington was sent home.

Another ominous theme followed: songs from the Great American Songbook, mentored by Rod Stewart.  Abject boredom was forecast across Idol Nation, with one tongue-in-cheek forumist worrying that the series might get canceled by Fox in mid-episode.  Surprise!  The contestants merely turned in the second-highest rated episode of the first six seasons, a whopping 64.4.  McPhee's show-closing Someone To Watch Over Me led the charge at 89, but Bennett also hit 5-stars and Hicks, Yamin, and Daughtry each were in the 70s.  Just imagine how highly this episode would have scored had Pickler not checked in with one of the lowest-rated performances of the season: she posted an 8 for Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, a song title whose irony didn't escape the scathing keyboards of many Web reviewers.  Pickler avoided the voters' axe though, as Young was sent home instead.

Andrea Bocelli and David Foster were guest mentors on Love Songs Week, the second episode in a row led by an 89-rated performance: Yamin's near-flawless A Song For You.  Meanwhile, Pickler, whose naïve-country-blonde shtick was wearing thin on many viewers, decided to push all-in with one of the boldest song choices in the books, Unchained Melody.  From the Idolsphere, she earned an A for courage but a season-low 4 for the wobbly delivery; from the voters, she earned a ticket home to North Carolina.

And then there were five: Bennett, Daughtry, Hicks, McPhee, and Yamin.  To its fans' shock and awe, American Idol had reached uncharted territory - the five contestants that many believed deserved to compete in the multiple-song weeks had actually made it there.  Was the show actually starting to make sense?  Nah.  During Year You Were Born/Billboard Top 10 Week, McPhee and Daughtry pulled off a feat that was unprecedented and, when you think about it, almost unbelievable too.  They delivered the two top-rated performances of the night (Black Horse And The Cherry Tree and Renegade, respectively; both reached 5-stars)...AND the two lowest, Against All Odds and I Dare You.  Don't try this at home, kids.  But quadrophenia ruled the day when the voters chose to drop Bennett, who'd posted two slightly below-average ratings.

Most analysts expected Yamin to be the next one out of the competition, but the unassuming Richmond pharmacy clerk evidently never got the memo.  He busted out on Elvis Presley Week with a 4-star If I Can Dream, followed by a near-showstopping Trouble at 87.  Hicks also went 5-stars/4-stars, which put the pressure squarely on McPhee and Daughtry.  They combined for one 3-star performance, three at 2-stars, one noticeable lyrics flub (by McPhee), and one bad pair of sunglasses (by Daughtry.)  Still, while the Idolsphere generally agreed that it was an off-night for the shaven-headed rocker, they rated his two performances comfortably ahead of McPhee's.  Which made the next night's voting results all the more flabbergasting.

With the favorite suddenly out of the picture, the race for the AI5 crown was now wide open.  Most Web reviewers were unanimous as to whom they thought should've been eliminated from the Final 3 Episode: Clive Davis.  His three song assignments averaged to a 40 rating, with Open Arms becoming the first performance by Yamin to score under 50 (snapping his remarkable 14-song hitting streak.)  During the Judges' Choice segment, Simon, who'd been openly exasperated with McPhee's recent song choices, assigned her Over The Rainbow and instructed her to sing it seated on the stage with the lights dimmed, Fantasia-style.  It worked.  "Rainbow" brought down the house, prompting Simon to call it "the single best performance of the competition to date."  The Idolsphere almost agreed, rewarding it with a 91 rating, second only to "Hemmorhage".  Hicks, meanwhile, made the most palatable lemonade he could from Clive's and Randy's lemons, then closed the show with his own choice, a 4-star Try A Little Tenderness.  Just six-tenths of a percentage point separated the three contestants in the voting, with Yamin at 33.06% the odd man out.

The AI5 Finale, in the inspired words of USA Today's Bill Keveney and Edna Gundersen, was a battle between "the unusually pretty Katherine McPhee and the pretty unusual Taylor Hicks."  The first four performances were all reprises, and they were notable primarily for Hicks having an unexpectedly rough time with Levon, losing over 40 points off the original approval rating.  Most reviewers, though, cited the reliably wretched American Idol Original Winners' Songs™ as the difference-maker.  McPhee was weighed down by the drippy My Destiny, which came in at a dismal 12 rating, a record low for a Finale performance.  It's rumored that the song Hicks was first assigned was no better...but we'll never know, because after the previous week's results show, he successfully petitioned the producers to let him switch to Yamin's song, Do I Make You Proud.  Though "Proud" scored only 45, the difference was enough to inspire his Soul Patrol fanbase to put him over the top.  29-year-old Taylor Hicks, who lacked the showstopping punch of his rivals but delivered solidly and consistently all season long, became the fifth and most unlikely American Idol.

What We Thought

All things considered, this was our favorite season.  Putting aside the outcome, both Daughtry and Hicks put on a clinic on how to formulate an effective American Idol campaign strategy and then stick to it.  That they were two very different strategies can be explained by the fact that the two men had very different goals.

Hicks is the weakest pure vocalist who ever has won, or ever will win, American Idol, and we say that entirely in admiration.  We doubt "Gray Charles" himself would argue the point, anyway.  Hicks was in it to win it, and he succeeded because he ran a campaign so brilliant from start to finish that his future might lie in politics.  He chose a string of popular, well-liked songs in a variety of genres to build his fanbase, arranged them cleverly to accentuate his vocal strengths and mask his limitations, and delivered each with a passion and flair honed from years of professional stage experience.  He passed up no opportunity to show America how deeply he wanted to win, and his signature "Soul Patrol" chant gave his fans a collective identity to rally around.

In contrast, winning was never Daughtry's primary goal.  For him, Idol was merely a springboard to launch a successful rock career.  If he could do that as the AI5 winner, terrific, but he never took his eye off the long-term objective.  His obstinance in his song selections eventually caught up to him (see the I Dare You summary for details), but it allowed him to transition from Idol to the real world with his rock credentials intact, or at least as intact as any rocker's could possibly be after four months on AI.

Of course, Hicks's post-Idol career hasn't worked out quite so well thus far.  Daughtry is the season's breakout star, with Yamin and McPhee having enjoyed major hits on the pop charts as well.  Mandisa, Pickler and Covington have all been quite successful in their respective genres, and Tucker seems to hold promise as a stage actress.

Best performances of the season?  The extended WhatNotToSing.com team is unusually divided, with about fifteen songs making our collective list.  Among the ones we more or less agree on: Mandisa's "I Don't Hurt Anymore", Yamin's "Trouble", Daughtry's "Hemmorhage" and "I Walk The Line" (origins controversy aside), Bennett's, "Midnight Train", and several of McPhee's performances...though, we admit with a shrug, "Over The Rainbow" isn't among them.  AI5 also contained what one of us feels might be the most underrated performance of the first six seasons.  The judges, along with most of America, were snickering too much at an Idol going on stage and singing "I want to go Home" to appreciate how superbly Yamin sang that song.  It really deserved much better than a 65.

Despite some very weak early episodes in the finals, Season Five owns the second-highest average approval rating, trailing just AI2.  If degree of difficulty were a criterion, however, the AI5 crew's ratings would have been through the roof.  Yamin, Young and Pickler in particular rarely took the safe road in their song choices.  Some of these endeavors turned out better than others, of course, and Pickler's final two song selections demonstrate, in rather gory fashion, the risks of overreaching yourself.  But, some risks go beyond overreaching and into the realm of the truly asinine, none moreso than the rapid-fire series of blunders perpetrated on 2000s Night, with Tucker and Young leading the charge.  We don't know what dinner they served in the red room the night the contestants made those song choices, but the FBI ought to be called in to do a toxicology study.

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