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KAT SEES GREEN `AMERICAN IDOL' STAR TO HAVE A FROG AT HER SIDE - NOT IN HER VOICE - ON NEW YEAR'S DAY.

Byline: Fred Shuster Music Writer

Kat and Frog -- it's a match that will only happen at the Rose Parade.

The Kat in the picture is Katharine McPhee, the curvaceous Sherman Oaks pop singer who many believe deserved last season's ``American Idol'' crown, but settled for runner-up.

The frog is a giant, leaping hydraulic model, complete with working 5-foot orange tongue -- no, it's not named Simon -- which will join McPhee on a Rose Parade float Jan. 1.

The huge green frog will, hopefully, keep any croaks to itself while McPhee belts out a ballad from her forthcoming debut album as the mobile platform -- promoting a home water purification system -- makes its way through the parade route.

``It's cheesy but awesome at the same time,'' a radiant McPhee, 22, said the other day at a preview of the Kat `n' frog act just down the street from the Rose Bowl. ``It's an early morning, and I hope the frog doesn't wobble too much.''

On parade day, McPhee, whose self-titled debut is due in stores Jan. 30, will sing the ballad ``Better Off Alone'' (which is not, incidentally, the first single from the disc) perched between the frog and a huge working faucet gushing hundreds of gallons of LifeSource water. A smaller auxiliary mechanical frog was stationed nearby.

At one point, the alpha frog hovered open-mouthed above McPhee, as if stalking a bug on a lily pad. In the throes of her dramatic delivery, Kat was oblivious to the green menace above her.

Throughout the morning, her sense of humor remained intact.

``It's a soulful song,'' the plucky, dark-haired McPhee said, ``on a float with a frog.''

McPhee, who was raised in Sherman Oaks and won hearts on season five of ``Idol'' with her spirited attitude and warm reading of ``Over the Rainbow,'' said she often watched the Tournament of Roses on TV as a kid.

``I was always fascinated by how much they were able to create out of the flowers,'' she said.

As the cameras pressed closer, a Chihuahua scampered nearby. The tiny dog, named Nena, is the latest addition to Kat's household.

``I had time to kill one day and went shopping at the Beverly Center,'' Kat explained. ``I never even wanted a Chihuahua before, but I saw her at the pet shop and had this feeling she would be the best pet.''

McPhee says she may tour in the new year depending on how her album does.

Win or lose, ``American Idol'' contestants sell records. The winner of the '06 edition of the record-breaking amateur singing contest, Taylor Hicks, sold almost 300,000 copies of his eponymous album to land the No. 2 spot on the current Billboard 200 sales chart (behind rapper Young Jeezy). Chris Daughtry, who finished ``Idol'' in fourth place, is still riding the Top 10 with his self-titled debut after a month in stores. And ``Idol'' season three winner Fantasia's self-titled second album went to No. 3 this week on the Billboard r&b album charts and No. 19 on the Billboard 200 overall albums list this week.

``It proves that you really can have a career, even if it's four or five years after you've been on the show,'' she said of Fantasia's success. ``It's a powerful show, and real talent comes out of it.''

McPhee says she'll be watching when the new ``Idol'' season debuts next month.

``It gives me the jitters watching these kids at the beginning and knowing what they're gonna go through, `` she said. ``But once you go through that whole process, nothing fazes you.''

Even a gigantic green -- and possibly hungry -- mechanical frog.

Fred Shuster, (818) 713-3676

fred.shuster@dailynews.com

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(color) ``American Idol'' runner-up Katharine McPhee will sing on this Rose Parade float on New Year's Day. ``It's an early morning, and I hope the frog doesn't wobble too much,'' she says.

John McCoy/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 24, 2006
Words:652
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