Tonight on Idol we have “music from the Grand Ole Opry.” I grew up in a household where country music was appreciated and listened to (along with rock, jazz, blues, standards and hell, even polka), so it’s not like tonight’s selections will be totally unfamiliar to me. However, the country music I like falls into a pretty narrow band: the “classics;” funny, clever songs about getting drunk and laid; and anything uptempo. I have a very low tolerance for ballads, and country ballads are right there with Celine Dion schmaltz for trying my patience (plus, they tend to encourage the Idolettes to oversing). So hopefully we won’t hear too many of those tonight. Okay, on with the show.
Hey, Randy Travis as a mentor. Cool.
Batting lead off is Michael, doing “Ain’t Goin Down Until The Sun Comes Up.” This is an extraordinarily difficult song to sing, with all the fast paced lyrics, and he handles it pretty well. It’s not quite as crisp as it could be, and at times, he gets a bit slurry and lazy with the extended notes. Not bad. 6
Allison is up next performing “Blame it on Your Heart.” Wow, her voice sounds great. She gives the song some character, though she doesn’t hit some of the lyrics quite as clearly as she could have. Simon is obviously struggling with appraising country music, but Randy, with his authentic shit-kicking, pick-em-up-truck driving background, calls Allison’s song “dope.” I think most of the Wranglers wearing audience thinks that means something else. 8
Kris gives up his six string binky to perform “To Make You Feel My Love.” I’m not particularly fond of the song, and I don’t feel his love. I feel like a nap. The judges seem to like it, and christen him a “tender puppy dawg.” I think I’ve seen that on the menu at a Pak's local Korean restaurant. Meh. 4
Lil takes on “Independence Day,” typically a song for a big voice. It sounds odd hearing it without a twang, and much like when contestants take on Whitney or Mariah, living up to Martina McBride vocals can be a challenge. It’s a workmanlike take on the song, and Simon, when he can remember Lil’s name (he wants to call her “Little,” and thinks “Lil” is short for that, like “Lil Kim,” who is on another entirely different reality spectacle) says she reminds him of a wedding singer. I think I would have rather heard Adam Sandler screaming drunken profanity at the bridal party. Plus, Little keeps going on with the judges about how she wants to show America she can sing anything. Lil? Stop arguing and take your lumps. 4
Adam looks like he would fit right in at the Grand Ole Opry, doesn't he? Randy Travis is astonished that someone would do “Ring of Fire” with sitars. Or that a dude would wear nail polish. Something tells me Randy doesn’t watch Project Runway, or have the Logo channel on his cable system. Well, THAT, was completely different. I’ll give the boy props for a bold and unique take on the material. I don’t even know what to make of that. Chris Daughtry and Blake Lewis both did wildly spun versions of tunes on their theme nights, and it worked for them, but this was kind of a head scratching mess. 3
Scott follows that up with “Wild Angels,” another Martina McBride song. It reminded me of a Barry Manilow b-side (and I say that liking Barry Manilow). His vocals are warm and safe, but they occasionally get lost behind the band and the piano. Still, it’s a slight uptick on quality from the last few performances. 5
Alexis is from the south, and claims to like country music. She’s doing “Jolene,” which I had wanted Carly to do last year. Her version is slightly more ethereal and modulated than I expected, based on what I saw last week. She could have definitely kicked it up a notch and had more fun with it. Eh. No one is really taking charge tonight. Where’s the fun, people? 6
Danny will treat us with “Jesus Take the Wheel.” I like the tone of Danny’s voice, but I’m not a big fan of the song. Maybe Jesus didn’t take the wheel, because he was too busy helping Kurt Warner with his new contract. Paula seems a little on her meds this evening, and the judges are all cranky, but fairly constructive compared to seasons past. 6
Here comes Anoop with “Always on my Mind.” A really, really good performance. Unlike a lot of Idolettes, he keeps strong voice and good tone through the quiet parts and doesn’t let them drop off in favor of just the power notes. My first exposure to him was last week’s awful “Billie Jean,” and he showed light years of improvement from that. Outstanding. 8
Hey, a Fringe commercial! When the fuck is this show coming back!
Megan will be doing “Walking After Midnight.” Miss “Caw Caw” puts a torch singer spin on the song, and cracks and coughs through a few notes (she was apparently sick all week), but does an otherwise likeable version. Certainly not a train wreck, and no avians were harmed. 6
Matt closes us out with “So Small.” It’s very poised and heartfelt, and he works it well with the piano. 7
Country night is often the trainwreck for Idol, and it was surprising that nobody had a complete face planting disaster (well, almost nobody, depending on how much you think Johnny Cash is spinning in his grave). But I would have liked a little more variety in the performances, and a little more fun. Didn’t anybody want to sing about getting drunk, running moonshine, being in jail or hating your ex?
TNRLM Top 3: Anoop, Allison, Matt
TNRLM Bottom 3: Adam, Kris, Lil