By Katherine Boyd

Feels like I’ve been churched! Immersed in wave after wave of a vocal high tide until I was whipped into a emotional frenzy of hand clapping, cheering and joyful heart.

I laughed when the Top 10 finalists sang the phone book.  I cried when Jessica Sanchez nailed that note like only Whitney Houston could. And I felt my soul shout with joy when I witnessed the vocal battle between balladeers Jessica Sanchez and Jennifer Holliday.

Yes, Holliday’s faces were ridiculous.  But so was her voice.

I really enjoyed watching Phillip Phillips play with John Fogerty.  They both just seemed so happy strumming their guit-ars and sharing their stories through song.  I could picture these two good ole boys sitting by the bayou as sunset, just picking and crooning the evening away.

I have even more appreciation for Joshua Ledet after watching him perform live.  When I interviewed him on Tuesday, he was so soft-spoken and timid and young.  I asked him if he planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a minister. “No, I want to be a singer because I feel that’s the gift God gave me,” he explained. “The gift I have to inspire others.”

And inspire he did.  When he took that stage at the Nokia Theater and battled it out with Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino, every single person in that room was on his or her feet.  We were riveted by the vocal power.  The raw anger and joy and emotion. They went longer than they were supposed to.  Idol had to cut to a commercial while they were still vocally duking it out. But to those of us in the theater, we had no idea that viewers at home were missing all this.

Rihanna kicked ass. She was fierce and sexy and fun.  She was a more powerful singer than I expected.  And her sensual dance and gritty facial expressions were intoxicating.

The lowest point of the show, where I actually felt bored, was when Hollie Cavanagh sang in what looked like heaven. Don’t get me wrong, she can sing.  But it didn’t stir those feelings in the pit of my stomach that say you’re witnessing something truly special.  Truly unique.

Another yawner?  JLo’s performance.  I really like her as a personality and a judge.  But as a performer I put her in the league of Brittany Spears.  She’s good and I like to watch her, but she’s not in the same league as most of the folks who owned the stage on this night.

Another thing I walked away with after the show is that some people just have it.  When Chaka Khan came on, at first I was a little embarrassed for her… wearing that tight brown glittery body suit.  But then she started to really sing, and I thought, “Damn, she can wear whatever she wants.  She’s insanely gifted and with one note she proved to all the Idol contenders on stage that they still have a way to go before they reach Chaka status.

Neil Diamond.  Ah, Neil Diamond.  The guy invented old school swagger.  He just kind of slowly sauntered down the stairs on stage and just kinda spoke his songs in his distinctive, comforting voice.  At the end of his songs, he didn’t hug the guys around him or jump up and down.  He just kind of stood there and smiled, yet he still owned that stage.

The guys’ Bee Gee’s tribute was another part I could have done without.  It just didn’t work for me. Didn’t blow up my skirt.

And while I couldn’t wait for Aerosmith to rock-out the stage, I have to say it was disappointing too.  Tyler did his usual thing, but compared to the other performances, it just wasn’t all that.  And I was really uncomfortable when he kept going mouth to mouth with guitarist Joe Perry.  I know that’s kinda his thang, but it really is kinda odd.

I loved watching my girl Skylar go head to head with country crooner Reba McIntyre.  That was just so darn fun. As were the little video montages about Jimmy Iovine calling Jlo “Jessica” instead of “Jennifer.”  And the piece showing how many times Randy Jackson said, “Dude, you could sing the phone book!”

I also fought back tears again when Ace Young got down on one knee in front of 7000 people in the Nokia, and millions more sitting in their living rooms at home, and asked Diana DeGarmo to marry him.  You could tell his proposal was well rehearsed, but when they showed his hands shaking from nervousness, that’s when I knew this was for real. Also, when I interviewed the lovebirds the day before, they couldn’t keep their eyes and hands off each other.  They were all gushy and mushy but so stupidly happy you couldn’t help but know they were head over heels in love.

In the end, the unveiling of the American Idol season 11 winner came quickly.  I wasn’t ready for this amazing show to end, but I couldn’t wait to hear who won.  Next thing I knew, they crowned Phillip the winner.  The pyrotechnics went off.  The confetti rained down.  And Phillip started to play his new single “Home.”

Amidst the confetti that kept sticking to his lips, you could see Phillip’s face strained with emotion.  I wanted to run up on that stage and wrap my arms around him and tell him it’ll be all right.  But then he put his guitar down, stepped off the stage and into the loving arms of his family.  That’s when I burst into tears again.

That’s what American Idol is all about.  Some nobody from nowhere can become a somebody whose music is everywhere.

So yes, I got churched.  In the gospel of what makes American Idol so damn good.

Here’s a look back on my experience at American Idol.


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