March 18, 2009
Hey, y'all. And top o' the evening. (That's a combo greeting to mark both Grand Ole Opry night on American Idol and St. Patrick's Day.)
The remaining 11 contestants lent their pipes to the twang and pluck of country music Tuesday, usually a theme that leaves at least half of the finalists floundering-though an inevitable few end up transcending genre boundaries and cementing their star quality.
A gracious Randy Travis served as mentor to the aspiring Idols and then they gave it a go, for better or for worse.
Michael Sarver: The brawny 27-year-old appeared to be having a ball and his vocal was perfectly pleasant, although at times he appeared to be chasing after the rapid-fire lyrics of Garth Brooks' "Ain't Going Down," rather than man-handling them in a new and exciting way. Randy Jackson dug his song choice, Paula Abdul pretended that having fun onstage was enough to win favor, and Simon gave the performance a 1.2 out of 10. Ouch. "If we were all perfect, we wouldn't need this show," Michael offered.
Allison Iraheta: The 16-year-old's vocal was a little less melodious than in the past few weeks, but there's just something so charming when this girl belts out angry tales of burn and betrayal, such as Patty Loveless' "Blame It On Your Heart." She blocked our memories of River Phoenix crooning it in The Thing Called Love, so we'll call it a job well done. Allison's verging on precocious, according to Simon, but Randy thought "it was dope!"
Kris Allen: Simon Cowell may hate country but he's a sucker for stripped-down, vulnerable slow songs, la Jason Castro doing "Hallelujah." Add Kris' naked take on Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" (covered by both Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood in the '90s, before they were mister and missus) to Idol's roster of successful reworkings. "I thought that was terrific," Simon declared, while Paula called it a "real honest, pure and vulnerable performance."
Lil Rounds: Have we found something Lil Rounds can't do? (Or didn't care to do?) The 23-year-old chanteuse, whose vocals are usually top-notch, didn't really connect with Martina McBride's "Independence Day." Her booming voice couldn't help but lift the chorus to great heights, but mostly she seemed uninterested in what she was singing. The judges more or less agreed, and Simon called the performance reminiscent of a wedding singer forced to take requests.
Ray Mickshaw / FOXAdam Lambert: Johnny Cash by way of Trent Reznor, the Darkness and your neighborhood snake charmer. This take on "Ring of Fire" gave us chills. Adam hit some amazing high notes and, if you weren't expecting twang and pluck, gave a killer performance. So why didn't the judges-except Randy, who called it young, fresh and hot-get it? "I think there are a lot of people throwing their television sets out the window at this point," Simon said. Oh, pish-posh!
Scott MacIntyre: Back behind the piano, the Josh Grobanesque singer charmed once again with the Martina McBride ballad "Wild Angels." But there was little to distinguish last week's performance from this one. Paula even suggested that Scott's piano was becoming "a bit of a crutch," which prompted a tirade from Simon about how disrespectful she was being. "Elton John always used to sit behind a piano," he pointed out, before agreeing nevertheless that Scott needs to shake things up a bit in terms of song choice.
Alexis Grace: Is it just us, or was there not enough throat in this version of "Jolene"? Brooke White brought just the right amount of husk to the Dolly Parton tune last season, but as pretty as Alexis' pipes are, this performance-especially the beginning-seemed sort of lightweight. The last 20 seconds were better. As Kara Dioguardi noted, she "lost [her] edge a bit," and Simon predicted we'd all forget about the vocal in "10 minutes' time." Hear that, Alexis? You're losing 'em, so bring back the dirt!
Ray Mickshaw / FOXDanny Gokey: What was with the white parka? Aside from that, what a singer! The beginning of Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel" was a little soft in Danny's hands, but then he let 'er rip upon reaching the chorus and the last half of the faith-praising tune was heavenly. "When you hit your stride it's like none other," Kara said, referring to that chorus, while Simon, bless his heart, said his only problem was with Danny's wardrobe. "It's like you're going on some sort of polar expedition," he said.
anoop desai: It was a world better than "Beat It." Anoop's vocal prowess gratefully returned to center stage tonight on the Elvis Presley/Willie Nelson classic "Always on My Mind." Anoop didn't exactly bring anything new to the tune, but he didn't need to-a great song and his was a really smooth, velvety vocal. "You've just managed to go from zero to hero," praised Simon, who last week was doubting the judges' decision to create a Top 13.
Megan Joy: Patsy Cline's voice was so heartbreakingly tender, it was weird at first hearing the flu-stricken Megan Joy (she has dropped the Corkrey, which she got from her ex-husband) tackle "Walking After Midnight" with her hard-edged grrrl voice. But it worked-a very saucy, bluesy performance. Randy, who thought it was going to be a "train wreck," was "quite impressed."
Matt Giraud: Matt's raspy baritone and piano playing made Underwood's "So Small" so much bigger. He massaged that tune into submission and, despite being the final performer at the end of a long night, really woke up the judges. "You're an artist," Kara said, while Paula called his delivery "unparalleled." It was Randy's favorite performance of the night, and Simon felt that Matt outsang Danny.
Ray Mickshaw / FOXOverall, this was a better country night than we expected-although, regardless of the number who rose to the occasion, one still has to go during Wednesday's elimination show.