The fifth season of reality television singing competition American Idol began on January 17, 2006, and concluded on May 24, 2006. Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell returned to judge, and Ryan Seacrest returned to host. It is the most successful season to date ratings-wise, and resulted in 18 contestants (including all of the top 10 and a few semifinalists) getting record deals – nine of them with major labels. It was the first season with a male winner (Taylor Hicks) and a female runner-up (Katharine McPhee), which happened again in seasons 9, 10, 11 and 13. It was also the first season of the series to be aired in high definition.
^a Later stages of the Austin auditions were held in San Francisco due to Hurricane Katrina which caused large number of evacuees to be relocated in Texas. The show however made no mention of the venue switch and presented the Austin audition as having taken place entirely in Austin.
Unlike season four, no guest judges were involved during the auditions. The season used the same rules as season four.
One notable auditioner this season was Paula Goodspeed, a fervent fan of Paula Abdul, who auditioned in Austin. In 2008, Goodspeed made headlines when she committed suicide outside Abdul's home. Abdul later claimed that she had objected beforehand to Goodspeed being at the audition because she knew Goodspeed and had been frightened by her past behavior, but the producers overrode her objection. The producers Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe however denied being aware of her fears or that they would put her in danger.
In Las Vegas, an auditioner Tora Woloshin gained a golden ticket to Hollywood but was disqualified just before she was due to go to Hollywood for unspecified reasons. She later appeared on the first season of X-Factor.
The Hollywood semi-final rounds were held at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, California consisting of 175 contestants. The first round of semi-finals consisted of solo a cappella performance with each contestant choosing one song out of twelve that were given to each contestant two weeks in advance. Those who did not impress the judges were sent home the following day. After the singles round, the contestants were separated into four groups, with three groups going through (with 44 contestants chosen). In the Pasadena Civic Center, each were individually taken via elevator walking the infamous "mile" to the judges station where the verdict if they would be chosen or not was announced. Twenty were cut and the final twenty-four (12 men and 12 woman) were selected.
The live show portion of the semifinals began on February 21, 2006, with the names announced on February 15, 2006. There were three live shows each week for the three weeks of the semifinals. There were no format changes from season four which featured 12 male singers and 12 female singers with two of each being eliminated each week.
The semifinalists were announced February 15, 2006. The following are semifinalists who did not reach the finals.
Ayla Marie Brown (born July 28, 1988) is from Wrentham, Massachusetts. She originally auditioned in Boston, singing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." After being voted off American Idol on March 9, 2006, she has continued to tour throughout the New England area, and released the singles "Know You Better" and "I Quit" in September, followed by the album Forward in October.
Shontai Kinnik Sky Marshall (born May 13, 1977) is from Duluth, Georgia. She auditioned in Greensboro. She was grouped with Nicole Turk, Celeste Scalone and Tyra Schwartz during the group rounds.
Brenna Mema Gethers (born October 7, 1980) is from Mount Vernon, New York. She auditioned in Boston, and was known for her "catty" attitude. She became the lead singer for Bomb Squad, a funk-rock band that won an American Music Award for Best New Music in 2003.
Stephanie "Stevie" Marie Scott (born May 22, 1986) is from Fair Oaks, California. She auditioned in Denver. She sang "Emotions" with Hannah Freeman and Paris Bennett during their group performance in Hollywood. She was eliminated on February 23, 2006 along with Becky O'Donohue, Bobby Bennett, and Patrick Hall. She made a cameo appearance on the Top 6 performance show of American Idol on April 25, 2006.
Rebecca "Becky" Clarise O'Donohue (born July 13, 1980) is from Dobbs Ferry, New York. Her original audition was in Boston with her twin sister (who did not sing due to recent throat surgery). Simon Cowell praised her looks, but said no to her voice. She was let through to Hollywood by Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul.
Gedeon Luke McKinney (born October 1, 1988) is from Memphis, Tennessee. He intended to audition in Memphis, but the auditions there were canceled due to the city's role in relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina. He raised funds to travel to the Chicago auditions by putting on a benefit concert. His elimination was a surprise to many, including Simon Cowell, who had criticized him previously. McKinney's father, Tony McKinney, also a performing artist, died in December 2005 before the show aired.
William John "Will" Makar (born March 2, 1989, in The Woodlands, Texas) attended high school at The Woodlands College Park High School. In high school, Will starred in several musical productions, including The Woodlands College Park High School Musical in January 2006, the performance of which began the day after the airing of the his American Idol audition and was covered by local media. He has also performed for Presidents Clinton and Bush and with singer Celine Dion as part of the Houston Children's Chorus. He has performed the National Anthem at many sporting events and was also a member of the band Last Born. During the Hollywood rounds, he performed Fly Me to the Moon with David Radford and Kevin Covais. Will was signed to Double Deal Brand Records, which also signed fellow Top 16 semifinalist Ayla Brown, and released his debut single titled "I Won't Make It Out" on iTunes on April 27, 2007. Will began attending Berklee College of Music in 2009. His band is Will Makar and The Red Line.
José "Sway" Penala (born January 23, 1978) is from South San Francisco, California, where he also had his audition for the show. He was the only Asian-American who made it to the semifinals that season. He has performed with such groups as DnH and 6th Day. When he competed, on stage, Penala often wore a Fedora hat and coat and military dog tags. He developed friendships with Elliott Yamin, Taylor Hicks, and Chris Daughtry during the season. Elliott was also his Hollywood Week group mate and later his roommate. Penala now sings back-up vocals in Yamin's band, and has toured with them on several occasions.
Patrick Aaron Hall (born September 24, 1977) is from Gravette, Arkansas, and was seen for the first time in Hollywood, California. During the Hollywood rounds, Simon Cowell called him 'very likeable', and compared him to Clay Aiken. He received many positive comments during these rounds. To separate himself from the Clay Aiken comparison, however, he chose to perform "Come to My Window" in the first week of the Top 24. He was eliminated that week.
Bobby Bennett, Jr. (born June 4, 1986) is from Denver, Colorado, where his audition was held. He is most known for his rousing rendition of the song "Copacabana" and was named the "showman" of the semifinalists. He also made an appearance in the March 21 episode on which Barry Manilow performed. He has gone on to perform in night clubs and most notably at "lannies Clock Tower Cabaret" in Denver and has sold out four consecutive times. He also does charity work for the organization "Denver Kids Inc" and mentors young children and adults. He was the headlining performer at the Denver Rotary Club Branch Rickey Awards in 2007. He now resides in Hollywood.
Efraym Elliott Yamin was born in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in Richmond, Virginia. He started singing at the age of five and did not have any formal training. He auditioned for American Idol in Boston. In the Hollywood week, he performed Rascal Flatts' Bless the Broken Road for the first solo, The Shoop Shoop Song for the group round. After his first semifinal performance, Simon Cowell said that he was potentially the best male vocalist in American Idol history, reprising his praise on Top 6 week after Yamin's "A Song for You", calling it a vocal masterclass; also, in the second round of the semifinals, Randy Jackson gave Yamin a standing ovation after his rendition of "Moody's Mood for Love". Yamin finished in third place in one of the closest outcomes in Idol history where less than 1% separated the votes of all top three contestants.
Kellie Dawn Pickler is from Albemarle, North Carolina. She was profiled as a roller-skating waitress. Her mother left when she was two and her father has had numerous legal problems; he is now free. Pickler lived with her grandfather and originally auditioned in Greensboro. She was never in the bottom three until she was eliminated.
Brett Asa "Ace" Young (who goes by his middle name) is from Denver where he auditioned. At that time, Randy Jackson called him one of the best he'd seen so far this season. In the Hollywood week, he performed Shai's If I Ever Fall in Love for the solo, and with Daughtry in the group round Samantha Sang's Emotion. After he sang "Father Figure" in the semifinals, Simon Cowell said that Young had the 'X-Factor' (a reference to another RTL talent show, in the UK). Young had been singing since age nine and had voice lessons.
Mandisa (born Mandisa Lynn Hundley) is from Antioch, Tennessee. She had a successful original audition in Chicago, Illinois, where she performed Alicia Keys's Fallin'. Afterwards Simon Cowell made jokes about her size, but he later apologized after being confronted by Miss Hundley. In the Hollywood week, She performed Freda Payne's Band of Gold in the group round. Like Pickler, she was never in the bottom 3 until her elimination.
Kevin Patrick Covais was 16 years old at the time of the show, and is from Levittown, New York. For his audition in Boston, he sang "You Raise Me Up". In the Hollywood round he performed Shai's If I Ever Fall in Love in the solo. Viewers gave him the nickname "Chicken Little".
A new feature this year, the show now uses a special song to make a tribute to an eliminated contestant's journey on the show, as opposed to before when various different melodic music compositions were played. This year, the song used for an eliminated contestant's flashback tribute was "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter.
The chairman of TeleScope Inc., the company which manages the American Idol results, came at the end of the show with the result card. 578 million votes were cast for the season with 63.5 million votes in the finale, and Taylor Hicks was named the winner, the second American Idol winner from the city of Birmingham, Alabama (the first being Ruben Studdard), and the fourth finalist with close ties to the city.
DialIdol is both the name of a computer program for Microsoft Windows and its associated website that began tracking contestants during season four and sprang to prominence at the start of season five. The program allows users to automatically vote for the American Idol contestants of their choice using their PC's phone modem. The program then reports back to the main website, which keeps track of the results based on the percentage of calls for each contestant that result in a busy signal. Based on the data received, the website then predicts which contestants may be eliminated or may be in danger of being eliminated. As of May 25, 2006, its predictions for season five were 87% accurate.
This was the first season in which the free US public service website, Zabasearch.com, started to openly present voting results (starting with the top 12 and onward) that it claims are from Cingular and American Idol. It has experienced controversy over the fact that its results change throughout the day until (and often through) the results show.
In January 2006, twins Derrell and Terrell Brittenum were charged with forgery and theft after allegedly using a false identity to purchase a car. This occurred after the "Hollywood" portion of the show was filmed, and the twins were subsequently disqualified.
Simon Cowell said that he did not like "last year's winner" as much as Kellie Pickler. He has since said that it was a heat of the moment thing, as Carrie Underwood had performed on the show the week before and was not very fond of the performance.
In January 2006, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) expressed concern about the show's portrayal of some contestants: "The real offense here was in the producer's decision to add insult to injury by turning a contestant's gender expression into the butt of a joke." Damon Romine, Entertainment Media Director, on January 20.
In February 2006, it was discovered that José "Sway" Penala was reportedly signed to E-Real Records with his band 6th Day, at the time of his audition.
Two rumors about finalist Katharine McPhee circulated during early March and throughout the season. The first was that she was quitting the show and would not show up for the March 7th airing. The second was sparked by the loose fitting blouses she had been wearing, leading viewers to suspect she was pregnant. Katharine denied both rumors when interviewed by host Ryan Seacrest on the March 7th show.
During the March 28 show while Mandisa Hundley was singing, her name and phone number came up, but changed for a few seconds and showed Taylor Hicks' name and phone number. At the end of the show the numbers were right.
Mandisa Hundley was voted out after country week, whereby her rendition of "Any Man of Mine" was not well received as a good song choice. The reason behind her elimination was speculated to be what she said before she began to sing her rendition of "Shackles (Praise You)" by Mary Mary: "This song goes out to everybody that wants to be free. Your addiction, lifestyle and situation may be big, but God is bigger." Many viewers believed that the "lifestyle" stated was regarding the homosexual lifestyle, which she denied, clarifying that the lifestyle she was referring to was her lifestyle of addiction to food. Mandisa is a former employee of the Southern Baptist Convention, having joined the Convention in 2000 as a telephone sales representative for their LifeWay book division, and later in their women's enrichment events area, and later Beth Moore's Living Proof Live events. (Moore's books are published by LifeWay.)
On the April 25 show, the theme of which was Greatest Love Songs and featured guest coaches Andrea Bocelli and David Foster, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe forced contestant Taylor Hicks to change his song a day before air time (and the same day as the dress rehearsal). Hicks' chosen song was "Try a Little Tenderness," but Lythgoe, in a radio interview, claimed the song was more appropriate for a Blues Brothers week and was not a song that Andrea Bocelli would sing. Hicks changed his song at the last minute to "Just Once" (James Ingram) and appeared very uncomfortable on stage. Hicks fans were distressed, feeling that a) Hicks' original choice of song was very appropriate to the theme; b) The producers changed the song at the last minute even though they must have known Hicks' choice the previous week as they must obtain clearance for all songs; c) Lythgoe's statement that it was not a song Andrea Bocelli would sing was dubious, as other song choices that were approved were songs sung by Bryan Adams ("Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman," sung by Chris Daughtry) and Donny Hathaway ("A Song for You," sung by Elliott Yamin).
During the East Coast transmission of the May 2 show, Paris Bennett was bleeped while singing Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" at the exact point where an obscenity appears in the lyrics. However, Fox confirmed that the song was not bleeped when it was broadcast on the West Coast. Forum posters on the West Coast said Bennett sang the radio edit of the song which excludes the obscenity, leaving viewers nationwide wondering why Bennett was precensored during the earlier live transmission. Paris was eliminated in the results show the day after.
Following Chris Daughtry's elimination, many Idol fans claimed calls they dialed to Daughtry's line during the first few minutes of voting were misdirected. According to them, the first of his two numbers was answered by a recording of Katharine McPhee (who was also in the bottom two that night) giving thanks for their vote rather than Daughtry. Others reported similar behavior dialing other lines, such as dialing Elliott Yamin's line and hearing a recording of Daughtry giving thanks for their vote.
On Top 5 night (May 3), Elliott Yamin performed first, with Taylor Hicks going out last. Next week (May 10) Katharine McPhee went out last. It was expected that Yamin would go out last on Top 3 night (May 17), but he was again the first one to sing, losing what is called the "pimp spot", while Hicks was the last one to perform that night. Yamin's fans were distressed stating it was Yamin's right to go out last, while Hicks should have been first, and that the show producers arranged it to have Yamin eliminated next night (May 18), which actually happened.
American Idol was the top-rated show for the 2005–06 TV season and occupied the top two positions. The number of viewers for its Tuesday episodes averaged 31.17 million and for the Wednesday episodes 30.16 million. It is still the most-watched of all seasons with an overall average number of viewers of 30.6 million per episode. Click on "show" below to see the rating details.
Taylor Hicks first post-Idol single, "Do I Make You Proud", would debut at number one and be certified gold. Hicks' album, Taylor Hicks, has sold 703,000 copies. He later parted with Arista Records. His follow-up album, "The Distance," was released March 10, 2009 on his own record label Modern Whomp Records.
The fifth-season contestant with the most commercial success is fourth-place finisher Chris Daughtry, now lead singer of the band Daughtry. Their eponymous debut album has sold over 5 million copies to date—surpassing former winners Studdard and Fantasia's respective two-album totals—and produced two top-ten singles. The album, which spent two weeks at number one in the US, is also the fastest-selling debut rock album in Soundscan history.
As of November 2008: Runner-up Katharine McPhee's debut album has sold 374,000 copies; she has two Top 40 Billboard hits. Also notable: sixth-place finisher Kellie Pickler, whose Small Town Girl reached number one on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and was certified gold. To date it has sold over 815,000 copies. Third-place finisher Elliott Yamin's eponymous debut album was certified gold and produced a platinum-selling single. Eighth-place finisher Bucky Covington's self-titled debut album has sold over 400,000 copies and generated a top 20 and two top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. Ninth-place finisher Mandisa's True Beauty album earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album in 2007.
Season five is the season from the first ten seasons of American Idol with the most number of finalists who have made it onto the Billboard charts.