American Idol: yee haw, y’all

It’s Grand Ole Opry Week on “American Idol,” meaning the contestants last night had to sing country music songs by anyone who belongs to the Opry, including recently inducted member and former Idol champ Carrie Underwood. Opry veteral and country music legend Randy Travis spent the week in Hollywood training and mentoring each contestant. Country week can be challenging for most of the finalists at best, and painful for viewers at worst. But honestly, there wasn’t anything last night that was so hideous you knew for sure what tonight’s results would be. At least, that’s how I saw it. Here is a recap of the very good, the good, and the mediocre:

THE VERY GOOD

Allison Iraheta sang Patty Loveless’ “Blame It On The Heart” and while I had my doubts about this young (16!) hopeful, Allison proved last night that she is not only going to hang around a bit, but that she could be a contender to win it all. Her voice is just sick. Kara said Allison can sing anything in her own style, Paula said it was rock solid, Simon said it was good but tuneless in spots, and Randy strongly disagreed with Simon, saying it was “dope.” I agree, it was dope.

Danny Gokey came out dressed in this weird white jacket that made him look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from “Ghostbusters.” Really, whose idea was that? Danny started off slowly with Underwood’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” but in the chorus he soared to heights that few in this competition can match. And to be honest, I hate this song. Kara said the second half of the song was amazing, Paula said it was brilliant, Simon agreed with Paula but said he hated the marshmallow suit and that it looked like Danny was going on a polar expedition, and Randy agreed with Kara that he only liked the second half of the song.

Anoop Desai was close to being eliminated last week, so he knew he had to step up his game. And he did just that, with a solid performance of Willie Nelson’s “You Are Always on My Mind.” Paula declared, “Anoop is back!” and that he touched her heart (please…), Simon said Anoop went from “zero to hero” and that it was an excellent song choice, Randy said he showed great skills and that he loved the arrangement, and Kara said Anoop took a classic song and made it sound amazing. Indeed.

Matt Giraud closed the night with Carrie Underwood’s “So Small,” but did a really cool piano version of it. This kid is a dark horse…..remember, his day job is as a dueling piano player, and his only blemish so far was that awful Coldplay song a few weeks ago. Kara said there is nothing small about Matt and that he is a true talent, Paula said it was authentic and honest, Simon said Matt doesn’t get enough credit for his vocal skills the way Adam and Danny do, and Randy said it was his favorite performance of the night.

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American Idol: this round better

Last week on “American Idol,” there were some horrific performances of some bad song choices. How long could it go on? Well, this week, that was answered, because the song choices AND the performances were far better. That was good for us and good for the judges, but when you think about it, not really fair to everyone that sang last night because now that middle round that went last week may water down the finalist talent. But it is what it is I guess. With that, here is our recap of the good, the bad and the in-between from last night’s semi-final round:

THE VERY GOOD

Quite frequenly on this show, the performers who sing last make the best impact on voters, but last night the final two who sang were just lights out anyway. The first was Jorge Nunez, the kid from Puerto Rico who the judges had told to work on his linguistics and sound more American. Are you kidding me? Well, Jorge chose a white bread song in Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and accent or not, it was excellent. And I mean, this dude has a spectacular voice. Paula said she’s proud of him, Simon said Jorge has a good voice, which is an understatement, Randy said it wasn’t perfect but really good, and Kara said Jorge was born to sing.

Lil Rounds closed the night with Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You” and it was not just the best performance of the night, but I would dare to say it was the best semi-final performance of the season. Lil is not a contestant on “American Idol,” she is already a recording artist going through the necessary motions, kind of like standing in line to get her license like everyone else. Simon said “in one word, brilliant” and that it was his favorite of the night, Randy said it was one of the best this season, Kara said Lil is a powerhouse, and Paula said Lil is “first class.” Yeah, all of the above. See you next week, Lil.

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American Idol: You call this an improvement?

So as Fox’s “American Idol” turned the page from Season 7 to Season 8, they vowed some improvements to help boost ratings. Well, we’re finding out that there was a bit of hot air in those promises. Yes, they added a fourth judge, and maybe they extended Hollywood week on TV another seven days, but an improvement? Not really. In fact, they barely showed any performances last night. I think they showed more of the judges deliberating and the contestants’ agony waiting for said deliberation than actual singing. Something is getting stale and the producers of the show can’t seem to learn any new tricks. But I’ll say this…the talent this year is pretty freaking good….and I believe it may carry the ratings regardless of the production.

Anyway, as the 72 remaining contestants got ready to sing in front of the judges solo but with some backup singers and a keyboard, the judges began their unenviable task of weeding out the mediocre ones. Then they were separated into four rooms..and you would think that two of the rooms would stay and two would go home, but that’s not exactly what happened. Only one room was sent packing, and I’m pretty sure there were no more than 15 or 20 in that room.

Among them, Kendall, the first girl of the night, attempted Carrie Underwood, and while yours truly is not a Carrie fan in the least, Kendall made Underwood look like Martina McBride…..Keneshe Young, the 16 year old from Cincinnati, who I thought was great, did not make it past this round…India Morrison, who led a fantastic group performance that included buddies Danny and Jamar, did not stand out enough on her own…..and Michael Castro, Jason’s brother, didn’t stay in Hollywood either, though they haven’t shown him performing since his initial audition (really now, how is that possible?).

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