Ace avoids the axe – but is he next to go? Our critic weighs in

The Votes Are In
So: Bucky Covington, the country boy, gone. His elimination couldn’t be called unfair or shocking, considering he made Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” sound like “Sweet Home, Alabama.” But this was definitely a sweet reprieve for Ace Young, who once more found himself in the bottom three along with Bucky and Elliott Yamin and was told by Simon that his time was up.

But Ace could bounce back next week when the show salutes Rod Stewart – not Rod Stewart the rocker, apparently, but his current incarnation as a Barry Manilow clone who sings all the old chestnuts. Ace will probably be able to do more with a pop classic than with Queen.

My guess is it’s time for the voting to turn against Taylor Hicks – I just don’t get what he’s doing there.

Tuesday Night’s Show
Faced with performing songs by Queen, the glam-rock band once fronted by the great, flamboyant Freddie Mercury, American Idol’s eight finalists seemed trapped in a sort of musical equivalent of The Poseidon Adventure, forced to work their way up, up, up through thunky anthems and baroque arias, hoping to reach light and air.

But guess what? As Randy would say, most of them worked it out. Southern girl Kellie Pickler sang a nuttily audacious cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” stalking the stage in a black rock-priestess getup. I kept thinking I’d have liked it even better if she were dressed like the assassin schoolgirl in Kill Bill, but that’s not relevant. The judges all agreed that Kellie had taken a risk, and the risk paid off.

Chris Daughtry, not surprisingly, hit the stage with an authentic hard-rock squeal for the obscure “Innuendo,” a song Simon didn’t like, and didn’t think people at home would like, either. And he was probably right – it sounded like something Freddie Mercury might have sung in the shower. A triller. But the boy did put it across – and in full eyeliner to boot. Mr. Mercury would have been pleased.

Paris Bennett did a knockout version of “The Show Must Go On” – it sounded big and boomingly hollow enough to open a James Bond movie. The fact that Simon dismissed it as “weird” worries me about her future, though.

Things looked worse – worst – for perennial bottom-three resident Ace Young: His “We Will Rock You” didn’t – Simon called it “We Will Rock You Gently.” At one point he tried to prove his stadium-rock attitude by picking up the mic stand and prowling the stage with it, but all I could think of was someone coming home from a flea market carting their new coat rack.

After he was given a pass by Randy and Paula (who often seemed to have been lulled into a state of forgiveness by the sheer weirdness of the music), he encouraged the audience to clap in his support, as if still confident that the magic of his enormous, perfect smile and flowing late-Victorian-poet hair would be enough to save him. But you could see the tremor of doubt.