~March 17, 2009~

The Idols gave a nod to the Grand Ole Opry this week by singing country music.  It's a genre that feels comfortable for a few and strikes fear in the hearts of many.

Michael Sarver, a Texas native, had no problems with singing country.  He chose "Ain't Going Down 'Til the Sun Comes Up".  Really tough song with a lot of words crammed into a small space.  It's not a song I would choose for a competition specifically for that reason--too many notes so it doesn't allow the person to shine on it.  Michael sang with a harmonica player sitting on the steps accompanying him which made for a cool effect.  Kara said she missed the big notes from him this week and Simon said he couldn't understand a single word.  What's great about Michael though is he didn't take any of Simon's garbage this week.  He refuted him earlier and then he also told Simon that country people understood the words.  Surely being surly to Simon counts for some votes!
Bottom line: He sang well but I'm worried about his song choice.

Allison Iraheta followed Michael and she's one for whom country might pose a problem.  She chose "Blame It on the Heart" and she sounded really strong and solid.  She did put her own rock-edge twist on it but I have no problem with that.  Once again, she nailed the song choice--it was a good song for her.  One complaint, and this is about the song itself, I HATE wading through a million words to get to the last word of the chorus.  Typical country technique but it drove me a little crazy.  As far as the judges go, I got to hear Randy correct Simon for the first time in a long time which was very welcome.  Simon said she was rock solid, verging on precocious.  Randy said, "Not precocious at all.  I thought it was dope!"  Well said, Randy.

Surprise of the Night
It's the first time in this whole competition that I understood what Kris Allen is doing here.  I was completely blown away by his version of "To Make It to My Love".  He starts out with a really nice, sweet clear tone.  I loved his vulnerable performance.  And even with a slightly shaky end note, it was still an amazing performance.  He's safe this week.  He has to be.

Disappointment of the Night
I understand why she did it.  But the performance was disappointing as heck.  Lil Rounds performed Martina McBride's "Independence Day".  She said she really wanted to honor the country genre but it ended up removing anything interesting or astounding about her voice.  She sounded good on the chorus but the verses were dull.  And I don't generally comment on appearance but I have to say, I didn't get her outfit.  She looked absolutely beautiful but it just didn't seem to fit with the genre.  It might even have lent to Simon's comment of she looked like someone asked to sing at a wedding and do a song she really doesn't like.  Lil is way too good for this type of performance and I hope her song choice doesn't penalize her this week.

Less verses = happier performance
Paula told Lil Rounds it would have been better if Lil had only done one verse on her song and Simon ridiculed her for her opinion.  But Paula was spot on.  When the chorus is the place in a song where a singer shines, get there as quickly as possible.  You have a minute twenty to make your impression.  The majority of your performance needs to be good.
Danny Gokey chose Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel".  It's always interesting when a guy chooses a girl's song and vice versa (think of Adam Lambert's doing Cher's "Believe").  The verses were a little tedious but he sounded really good on the chorus.  And he really poured himself into the song at the end.  This is another song that one verse would have been better.  It would have been a little more disjointed because this song tells a story and so he would have been jumping into the middle of the tale.  But again, if you shine the most on the chorus, get there as fast as possible. 

More Singing Advice 
I wasn't sure what to expect out of Anoop Desai this week after such an off-the-mark performance last week.  But Anoop redeemed himself with "You're Always On My Mind".  It had a whole different feel and I liked when it kicked up.  The one thing I would have changed: Anoop hit the power note and then riffed it back down.  I don't care how good your riff is, if you're on a power note, you milk that puppy for all its worth.  But that choice can be forgiven for what ended up being a solid performance and a million times better than last week.  Simon even cliched, "You've gone from zero to a hero!"  I was not as enamored as the judges with Anoop's performance but he will definitely be around another week.

Left Randy Travis speechless
Adam Lambert
's performance will definitely be most talked-about.  He sang Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" in a way that Johnny likely never intended.  It started out with a Middle Eastern flair which was very cool but that mood he created didn't translate to the chorus, so the two parts of the song felt very disconnected from each other.  I liked the feel initially but then it seemed like it went south.  Somehow, he went bizarrely sexual toward the end.  It wasn't needed and it left everyone questioning.  Kara said the performance left her confused and sort of happy.  Simon said, "What the hell was that?!" and followed that by saying, "There are a lot of people throwing their t.v.s out the window right now."  Randy disagreed saying, "It's current!  It's young!  It's fresh!  It's hot!"  I worry that some will have really hated that performance enough to put Adam on the chopping block.

Scott MacIntyre played the piano and sang "Wild Horses".  I am really worried about Scott's song choices.  The song could have been sung in a different key because the verses were too low.  I did like the soaring notes on the chorus but the middle transition was weird, where it seemed to go from a ballad to a rock song.  Ultimately, it was a nice, safe performance but I was not wowed.  Kara summed up everyone's opinion, and mine as well, when she said, "We want you to up your game a little bit."  In spite of that, he's safe this week.

Alexis Grace is also from the south and I thought Dolly Parton's "Jolene" would be a good song for her.  But, unfortunately, it wasn't.  Randy said she tried to bend it into a bluesy way that didn't quite work and Kara said it was a little flat for her.  I have not like Alexis' performances for two weeks running now.  I am not sure if it's song choice or performance but I'm not seeing how good she really is.

Megan Corkrey made the interesting song choice of "I Go Walking".  Her voice sounds really good for this song, but the performance felt disjointed and choppy.  She also missed some of the notes when she popped up.  I noticed when the Idols first came out that she didn't look happy and the reason soon became evident.  Kara and Paula shared that Megan had the flu and had been to the hospital and back.  I am so glad they said that because, given that fact, she did extremely well.  Simon went so far as to say she should be sick every week.  (How is it our country gets all of the rude Brits and puts them on t.v.?!)  Hopefully people will take Megan's condition into account because it would be a shame to send her home because she was compromised.

An Incredible Ending
Matt Giraud rounded out the evening at the piano singing "So Small".  He owned it from the beginning and I could hear that song on the radio now.  It was really cool when the song kicked-up though I would have loved to see Matt get up from the piano at that point, go forward and sing with a mic.  That would have been powerful!  Excellent performance and well worth the wait.  Ryan walked out and said, "We got ourselves a competition!"  And so we do.

I really can't say who should go home.  Everyone's performances were solid enough that there was no glaring exception.  Out of the whole crew, Kris and Matt were my favorites and I am wondering if Megan or Alexis will not be in the running to go home.  Tune in tomorrow night to see!