I'm sorry to tell you this, but tonight's theme on American Idol is Grand Ole Opry (which will probably be boiled down to country). I think that's really not going to work for some people. But I guess we'll see.
Simon Cowell even sarcastically tells Ryan Seacrest that he loves country music so much, he wishes it was a full week instead of two hours.
Hey, Randy Travis is in the audience! That's because he was the one who invited Carrie Underwood to join the Grand Ole Opry and because he worked with the Top 11 during the past week.
First up is Michael Sarver, who is going to sing a speedy song, Garth Brooks' "Ain't Goin' Down Til the Sun Comes Up," and Randy Travis warns him not to biff the words. He handles it swimmingly, though the manic harmonica player sitting on the stage is a little distracting. Randy Jackson says it was a cool song choice, but he didn't think it showed his vocal capabilities. (Ha, Simon is booing him, like Randy always does to him.) Kara DioGuardi said it didn't have any big notes, but she was impressed he handled all the lyrics. He says he just wanted to have fun. Paula Abdul says it was fun to watch him and that the genre suits him well. Simon says it should have been good, but he couldn't understand a single word he sang. "Country folks did," Michael says. Simon calls is clumsy and karaoke, and then, pressed by Ryan, gives it a "1.2" out of 10.
Allison Iraheta tells Randy Travis she's going to sing Patty Loveless' "Blame It on Your Heart," and he's impressed. He does suggest she skip the little dance she does during her practice with him. It's a good choice for her -- she gives it a rock vibe and kills it. Kara says she could sing the alphabet and sing it well (snore), but adds that she gave the song her own spin, which isn't easy. Paula calls it another rock-solid performance. Then she tells Allison she needs to expand her range and show some vulnerability. (Except you just know that if she did that, she'd get scolded for getting outside of her little rock-grrrl box.) Simon says it was good, though a little bit tuneless at parts. Randy Jackson says he thought it was dope, and her family goes wild.
Kris Allen takes on "To Make You Feel My Love" by Garth Brooks, and Randy Travis tells him that Garth will like it. He sings it, sans guitar, in a very balladeer-ish manner. It's nice, but kind of boring, and his last note, a high one, is off. Paula says she's surprised and that it was an honest, pure and vulnerable performance. She adds that he needs to make sure his low notes are on pitch (and some of the high ones). Simon says he thought it was terrific, that it was a great song choice, and a very controlled performance. "That, in a way, probably is the first time ... when I've really thought you've got a shot at this competition." Randy Jackson says Kris brought out the tender moments. Kara says the song wasn't even country, it was just beautiful.
Lil Rounds talks to Ryan about how she is going to hold back her R&B sound and "honor the country." She sings Martina McBride's "Independence Day." She sings it well, but it is a departure. Randy Jackson says it was ambitious and he wasn't sure at first, but when she hit her "power zone," it was better. He says it was "all right." She says she wanted to show that R&B isn't the only thing that she can sing and that she thought the song was really relevant. Kara says she could have chosen other songs, but she did what she felt, and that's part of being an artist. Paula says she things everything is going right for her tonight. Then she babbles about her voice "piercing through." Simon calls her "Little" and struggles with trying to say "Lil." He says it came across like she had to sing a song at a wedding that she didn't like and that she seemed uncomfortable. See, this is what happens when someone gets out of their box! They get yelled at. (So Allison, don't listen to what Paula said a few minutes ago.) Sigh.
Adam Lambert tells Ryan that this will be a signature performance. He talks with Randy Travis about how he is going to perform "Ring of Fire," based on this cover that has a lot of sitar and a Middle Eastern flair. Randy's not so sure. Adam is. Dear Adam, remember how you were going to rein in the theatricality? Not so much. It might be technically difficult and well done that way, but I didn't find it enjoyable. Kara says it was all a little strange, and she doesn't know what to make of it. She closes, "It was strange, but I kind of liked it." Paula says he is true to who he is as an artist (as in: he stays in his box), and she liked that it reminded her of Kashmir-era Led Zeppelin. Simon: "I think what Randy [Travis] was trying to say was, 'What the hell was that?'" He adds that people are throwing their televisions out the window right now because "it was absolutely indulgent rubbish." Yes, yes it was. Randy Jackson says it was like Nine Inch Nails doing a country song, so it's relevant and current. (Perhaps he was thinking of Johnny Cash's cover of NIN's "Hurt"?) Blah. Randy Travis says he's still speechless.
Scott MacIntyre is going to sing "Wild Angels" by Martina McBride. Randy Travis interviews and says he didn't want to tell him, but he thought it was a bad choice. After working with him, though, he decided he could pull it off -- he suggested Scott speed up the tempo. His piano playing is spot-on, and he does OK once it gets a little faster, but some of his high notes are seriously off. Paula says tonight was another impressive, lovely performance, but she thinks the piano is becoming a crutch and separating him from the audience. "We can move it closer," he says. Hee. She wants him to mix it up. (Don't do it! Stay in your box or they will yell at you.) Simon says she's being stupid, that he's comfortable behind the piano, and so is Elton John. He adds he isn't picking the right songs yet, that really show him off. Randy says he is looking for the "hot, crazy, unbelievable" vocals, but this has been kind of safe. Kara tells him they just want him to up his game a little bit.
Alexis Grace is going to sing Dolly Parton's "Jolene," and Randy Travis says it was a good choice for her -- he doesn't even have any notes for her. She's comfortable with the song, but it was a little pitchy. And Randy Jackson agrees, immediately saying it was pitchy. Kara says she lost her edge a little, and she found it a little flat. Paula says it was more effective than the others said because she showed a different side of her vocals. "I don't care about pitch problems," she says. Hello, it's a singing competition. Simon says it was a little "soundalike," which Alexis doesn't understand. (She keeps talking back and responding to everything. Shhhh! It's time for you to listen!)
Danny Gokey got nervous in front of Randy Travis. He is going to sing "Jesus Take the Wheel," and he messes up a bunch of times during his practice. (Whoever told him to pop his collar on this weird white blazer didn't do him any favors.) He remembers the words and delivers a nice performance, though he loses some notes here and there. Kara wants to talk, but the audience is being too loud. She finally says when he hits his stride, he's like no other, though she says the first half was not great. Paula says if he was always that high up, they would get used to it or something? Anyway, she thought he was brilliant. Simon says he agrees that there should be light and shade, but he doesn't like his outfit -- he says he looks like he is going on a polar expedition. Randy agrees with Kara, saying that he didn't support the verses enough, that they were pitchy.
Anoop Desai says he was nervous about Grand Ole Opry week at first. Randy Travis says he was interested to hear that he's singing "You Were Always on My Mind," but his doubt went away when he heard Anoop singing it. Anoop says he was driven by Simon's comment last week that he didn't deserve to be in the Top 13 after his performance. This is way, way better -- controlled and serious and heartfelt. Nice recovery after "Beat It" last week. Paula: "Anoop is back!" She adds that she is proud of him and his vocals. Simon: "Anoop, you just managed to go from zero to her. That was a good choice of song. In a way, that was one of my favorite performances of the night. ... You definitely deserve to be in the show." Randy Jackson says this is why they wanted him in the show -- because he can really sing. He adds that the arrangement "was dope." Kara says it is hard to take an "untouchable" song and create a personal performance. She says it was the surprise of the night. Ryan asks if he is surprised by the feedback and he says no because he expects the best of himself.
Megan Joy Corkrey sings "I Go Walking After Midnight." Randy Travis wasn't sure at first, but loved her arrangement. He tells her to sing it just like she did in practice. So. I know the judges are in love with her "unique" sound, but to me she just sounds kind of stilted. I just want to ask why she's singing that way and enunciating that way. I don't get it. Her notes are OK, I guess, but I'm not totally enamored. Randy Jackson says he thought it was going to be a trainwreck, but it was really good. Kara says it was the perfect song and the perfect look. She adds that she's a winner because she just got through that song with the flu. Paula says she's been in the hospital and didn't get to do the run-through. Simon says she should have the flu every week because she sounded better this week than last week. Hearing that she has the flu, OK, I definitely cut her some slack, but I still don't get her.
Matt Giraud is going to sing Carrie Underwood's "So Small." As happened a few other times, Randy Travis says he wasn't sure about the choice, but once Matt sang, he liked it a lot. He performs behind the piano, and I guess he changes up the song a bit, but I'm not familiar with the original. Kara says he's an artist and he "worked the dynamics of that song. Amazing. I just love you." Paula struggles over the word authenticity, but she eventually says he pierces through people's hearts. That sounds painful. Simon says he doesn't think he's been given enough credit for his vocals, and that tonight he thinks he outsang Danny. He says he reminds Simon of Michael Buble. Randy Jackson says it was his favorite performance of the night, and that he has it going on since he's gotten compared to Justin Timberlake and Michael Buble.
Who'd you like? Who'd you hate? Any predictions for tomorrow night?