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: Judges can’t save these two

Last night’s “American Idol” results show began with another new twist of rules announcement. I was afraid of the judges throwing themselves more into the mix, but what they announced was something pretty cool. They flashed on a big screen folks like Tamyra Grey, Chris Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson, and Ryan Seacrest asked what they all had in common. That would be that they finished third or fourth in the voting in past seasons, and subsquently went on to have huge careers. The judges will have the option this season to “save” one eliminated contestant and give them another chance, to make up for a bad week, or because they feel so strongly about the contestant. Keep in mind they can only do this once in the next 10 or 11 weeks.

They then showed the finalists in their new digs at the American Idol mansion…are you kidding me? And then they showed the new Ford video, where the group covered Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” And then there was another awful group performance of The Jackson Five’s’ “I Want You Back.” Blech.

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American Idol: baker’s dozen perform

Last night began the finals of “American Idol” and Fox beefed things up by having the judges and host Ryan Seacrest come out onto the stage in grand fashion. It was really self-indulgent and hideous, to use a couple of Simon Cowell terms. I mean, was that really necessary? Then the judges wielded their mighty power a bit with some of the contestants, and they said there will be a rules change they will announce tonight as well that will also involve the judges. That scares me, because they already have too much influence on the outcome and are already anointing winners. Anyway, here were the good, bad and in-between from last night, with the theme being songs of Michael Jackson, and keep in mind that these are my opinions and not that of the judges:

THE GOOD

Lil Rounds kicked things off last night, and that’s always a tough position to be in. But Lil sang “The Way You Make Me Feel” and while it wasn’t her best performance, it was good enough to be better than most of the other finalists. Randy said it was a great way to kick things off, Kara said Lil scared everyone with that performance, Paula said Lil looked great and is a force, and Siomon said he did not like her outfit and that he was a bit disappointed with the performance but that it was still very good.

Danny Gokey sang “PYT (Pretty Young Thing” and dude just showed why he is in the finals yet again. This guy can sing anything, and despite some awkward dance moves that he admitted to just being natural, Danny’s voice will carry him far. Paula said Danny has a gift and is on his way to the “finals”…um, isn’t he there already?…..Simon said Danny has brilliant vocals but that the dancing was hideous, Randy said “you got IT” and that he’s passionate, and Kara said Danny has such joy when he’s on stage.

Kris Allen sang “Remember the Time” with his guitar in hand, and not only was it a super cool version, but Kris just knocked it out of the park, in my humble opinion. They showed a clip of his wife before he started and Simon didn’t think this was a good idea, because it might take away from the female voters. Kara said girls are going to love Kris, Paula said he was engaging, adorable and sexy, Simon said the vocals were just okay but that Kris is likeable, and Randy said it was “kinda cool.” I don’t think they gave the kid enough credit, I really don’t.

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American Idol: Did you have to pick that song?

Okay, before we get to the recap of last night’s performances on “American Idol,” can I just say, WHAT ARE THESE CONTESTANTS THINKING? It seems like they are choosing the wrong songs with regularity, not understanding the urgency of giving it their best shot while they have the opportunity. It just makes me crazy and I think it makes the judges crazy as well. Last night the performances were less than stellar. In fact, many of them were flat-out awful. But it wasn’t always that maybe the judges mis-calculated and sent the wrong singers through to this round. It was mostly about poor song choice. With that, here were the good, the in-between and the bad from last night, with a prediction for tonight’s results show.

THE GOOD

Alison Iraheta is only 16 and as Simon Cowell correctly pointed out, she looked out of her element when Ryan Seacrest was interviewing her, and then when she took the stage she was a completely different person. This girl has unbelievable vocal ability at such a young age, and last night she sang Heart’s “Alone.” Randy said she “blew it out of the box,” Kara said Alison doesn’t know how good she is, Paula said she was the best so far (she went fifth), and Simon said she was the best so far by a mile. Alison would not have advanced last week, but with the way last night’s semi-finalists performed, she has a great shot now.

Kris Allen is a 23 year old dude from Arkansas, so you wouldn’t expect him to sing Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” would you? I was scared, but dude pulled it off nicely. It was rough at the start but he really nailed it as a whole and could be a dark horse. Kara said she thought it was the wrong song, Paula disagreed and so did Simon, saying Kris showed confidence, and Randy said he did a nice job without his guitar, as he had done before in Hollywood.

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