Taylor Hicks, <EM>American Idol</EM> Taylor Hicks, American Idol
American Idol Song choice presented major problems for the first two guys, Patrick Hall and

David Radford. Patrick's nerves were too obvious; he could've used some of Melissa Etheridge's bravado and grit to get through "Come to My Window." Meanwhile David picked "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" to get away from the crooner label and then proceeded to "Sinatra" his way through a Vegas-style version. Not the best start for either guy.

Bucky Covington used his growling vocals to full advantage on "Simple Man." Ryan Seacrest contrasted his own potential song title with Bucky's by calling himself a "Shallow Hollywood Talking Head," which may be the most accurate judgment anyone has ever made on American Idol. Young Will Makar pulled a Paris Bennett, having fun with his song, emulating a '70s superstar and getting the crowd on their feet. Somewhere out there, you just know Winnie Cooper is frantically dialing Will.

The sweeping falsetto of Sway highlighted his unique voice, but I didn't enjoy him as much as the judges did. Chris Daughtry was impressive. With a Liam Gallagher stance, a strong rock voice and a classic tune, he overcame the unfortunate Burger King flame graphic and some harsh male backup voices to become one of the best of the night.

Paula Abdul needs to stop saying she wants to "squish" 16-year-old Kevin Covais: I think that's illegal in 43 states. The kid looked terrified, but he's got a very confident voice. Someone not lacking in confidence was Gedeon McKinney, who had Paula jumping along to "Shout" but got only a pout from Simon Cowell. It was freaky seeing Gedeon's huge grin next to Seacrest's... kind of like looking at dueling Pez dispensers.

Elliott Yamin received the biggest props of the night when Simon said he was the best male vocalist in five seasons. Then Seacrest had to go ruin it by talking about his sweat glands. Meanwhile Bobby Bennett's "Copacabana" truly put the "low" in Manilow, but I gave him points for almost crushing Seacrest in a bear hug.

Ace Young managed a decent "Father Figure" but his main talent seemed to be gazing longingly at the camera. Sort of like Constantine, but with soap. Finally Taylor Hicks took on the Elton John classic "Levon" and the judges naturally loved him. (Ever notice how their favorite is always saved for the last spot?) After the performance Seacrest drew upon his inner howler monkey to imitate Taylor's yowling. Please, no more of that, Mr. Seacrest. Overall, I'd put Bobby, David and Patrick on the endangered list. Ken McGilvray