After being promised with guest Travis Tritt last week, we were surprised to tune into American Idol tonight and find Kenny Rogers in his place. The performances tonight seem just as unsure. Is it the genre? I’m not sure. Kenny told the Idols that with country music, it should tell a story, paint a picture, and drop you off at the end of the journey. You would expect following this advice, that people and songs would be connecting all over the place, but somehow this just didn’t happen.
Taylor Hicks opens the show and tries a little John Denver with Take Me Home Country Roads. Working with Kenny Rogers on the song during the week, Taylor is told he’s a little weak with the song, and that he needs to hit it and win the audience over with the first note. As Taylor sings it tonight, this is the first time he hasn’t totally clicked for me. He doesn’t dance at all, but seems to want to I think he just needs to be allowed to unleash it!
Randy thinks it was a pretty good song choice for Taylor, but calls it just okay vocally, and says it wasn’t very exciting. He doesn’t feel Taylor was exuding his personality. I still say it’s because he felt like he shouldn’t dance. Paula says she usually feels like Taylor is so full of life and that he electrifies. But tonight, she feels the song didn’t allow him to shine and that he just sang it as is. Simon gets directly to the point, calling the song safe, boring and lazy. He says it sounds like Taylor chose the song ten seconds ago, and did it with no rehearsal. Ryan wonders if it’s really Simon’s love life that is safe, boring and lazy.
Paula is talking to Randy, and when Ryan asks what’s going on, Simon tells him that Paula loves him. Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe then stands up from the audience and says, “I love you, Ryan.” Ryan is beginning to wonder again what’s in those red cups the judges have. Sure, but explain Nigel …
When Kenny Rogers works with Mandisa, he says she picked a song with more words in it than all the songs he has ever done combined, yet he admits she does it well. He believes it’s important for Mandisa to articulate every word to make sure the audience doesn’t miss any of the story. As Mandisa launches into Any Man of Mine by Shania Twain, it definitely isn’t my favorite Mandisa, but I have to admit I still get the wow factor. She is once again effortless.
Randy calls this a weird song choice for Mandisa, and says the beginning wasn’t so hot, but he felt she found her range in the last four bars of the song. Paula tells Mandisa she can sing the phone book or encyclopedia, and says her voice is amazing. She begins to say something else, but it drowned out by the audience, and everything switches over to Simon, who thinks this song was horrible. When he is booed, he asks why he isn’t allowed to say anything constructive. Paula tells him he’s boo-able. At least she didn’t say do-able. He tell Mandisa he liked the four seconds after the song.
Simon and Randy engage in yet more verbal sparring, as Ryan asks if Simon at least liked Mandisa’s singing. He replies he quite liked her. Ryan replies if Simon would read a dictionary, he’d know what constructive means, and Simon replies he’s not the one trying to look like someone from Desperate Housewives (Ryan confirmed this week that he is dating Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher, after pictures showed then canoodling together). After Simon follows this telling Ryan to lose the beard, Ryan says it’s Simon that fits the bill wearing his powder blue baby Ts. Hot one tonight, huh Randy?
Returning to the reason for the show, Kenny Rogers thinks Elliott Yamin has a tendency to oversing things a little bit. He advises that if the lyrics are big, Elliott shouldn’t do a lot of licks in the song. He says instead of trying to impress people, Elliott should be trying to make them cry. A man after my own heart. No wonder I’ve always like his music. Elliott sings If Tomorrow Never Comes by Garth Brooks. He sounds like typical Elliott to me. Sounds great, but the same as all his other songs. He has also gone back to singing without emotion.
Randy says she loves the song, and mentions his pleasure in producing it for Garth Brooks, drawing groans from nearly everyone. Calling it hot, Randy says the competition has now started. Paula tells Elliott there’s so many thins she adores about him, and calls him a breath of fresh air to this business. She enjoys that he stays true to who he is, calls him fantastic, and likes how he keeps growing. (Where?) Simon cracks that he says the same things about Paula. He calls this a great choice and good vocal for Elliott. He felt it was a little hesitant like Elliott was nervous, and he admits he was.
Ryan wants to know how many different ways Paris Bennett can style her hair, which is funny because I was thinking the same thing. Tonight it’s in a cute little bob. Paris says she likes to show different sides to herself, and calls this one, “chillin’.” As she works with Kenny Rogers on her song, he says she’s small, but sings big. He feels with a great power ballad like How Do I Live Without You by both Leann Rimes and Trisha Yearwood, you believe her when she sings. As Paris sings tonight, I disagree with Kenny’s statement. She does really well in parts, but I expected more. I believe I’m turning into Randy. Yo yo Dawg. Check this out.
What Randy does say is that he feels this is a difficult song for paris. He says for a great melody, it was hard for her with the front, and calls it not good overall. Paula says the great part about Paris is that she has a powerhouse voice, and Paula can see her joy. But tonight, Paula doesn’t feel Paula connected, and felt she was busy trying to find her place on the stage. At this point, Paula is actually booed.
Simon says he has to disagree with Paula, and the crowd roars. He thought Paris was really good, and calls it an excellent song choice. The performance actually reminded him of early Dionne Warwick. I don’t hear that. Ryan calls this an evening of firsts – Randy is dressing like Cupid (in a red vest with white shirt), Paula is getting booed, and Simon is showing his jealousy.
Tonight Ace Young is going to be tackling Keith Urban’s I Wanna Cry. Kenny Rogers calls him a passionate kid who sings with his heart. He believes a great singer knows how to squeeze a note and let his passion out. He thinks this song on Ace is the best match of the nine Idols and their choices. Lately Ace has been picking artsy fartsy songs, and getting lukewarm reviews because he needs something he can put the emotion into instead of artsy fartsy. He does just that with this song. While Ace truly is a good-looking man, it’s the sincerity he puts into the performance that makes us swoon. It makes this good-looking guy vulnerable. That’s where his true charm lies.
Randy says once again it’s hard to bring the personality into one of these songs. He calls it nice, but boring. He liked Ace adding in his falsetto at the end, though. Paula totally disagrees (is she looking to erase the earlier boos?) and says Ace has a knack for picking out the right song. Simon says for the last couple of weeks, Ace hasn’t picked the right song, but tonight, he did. Simon calls it a good night for Ace, and says he was very good.
Kellie Pickler needs to clear something up for Ryan. He notes how some things have been written about Kellie’s naivety not being for real. Ahem! That would be me. Well, I like to think Ryan is talking about me, but in reality it’s probably any number of people that feel the same. Kellie says it’s not an act; she really did think the L in salmon should be pronounced, and had never heard of calamari before. “Naivety? Oh, I thought you meant those scenes we see at Christmas with baby Jesus!”
Country is Kellie’s genre, so she needs to really hit it big tonight. She can’t just do any country song. Kenny Rogers say he loves her, and that she has a wonderful charm about her. He tells Kellie her money is in the high notes, and that this song is perfect for her, as it’s what she’s all about. Singing Fancy by Reba McEntire, it’s classic Kellie, as it has a little tinge of rock thing going with it. This is much better than Suds In A Bucket.
Randy says finally! He thought it was great and that Kellie was in her element. He calls it her night, and says he liked the song choice. Paula says Kellie does well with songs songs like this that she can really sink her teeth into, and calls it a great night for her. Simon says it would be a shock if she didn’t do well. He hated the song, but thought Kellie’s performance was good.
Chris Daughtry is singing another Keith Urban song, Making Memories Of Us. Kenny Rogers tells him it might be hard to sing country with a skull on his t-shirt. Chris tells him that actually most of his family is into country. He’s the rebel doing rock. This song wasn’t easy for Chris at the start, but Kenny says it can go one way or another. He thinks he cares enough that it will go the right way. I have to say it’s very interesting that Chris can bring it for country, but still maintain that alternative edge to his voice. He in no way turns this alternative like songs he’s done in the past, but he still maintains that edge. It’s pretty cool.
Randy agrees, saying what’s cool is that every week you hear Chris doing his rocker thing, yet this week it’s good to hear him changing it up. He tells him it was a good job with a Keith Urban song. Paula liked that Chris showed his versatility, yet still stayed true to who he is. Simon says it’s great to see a different side of Chris, and Paula interrupts telling us we have no idea how Simon double talks. No, we don’t, because you never let us hear him. Simon then continues, and says for two weeks now Chris has chosen boring songs. He thinks the audience deserves better. Better than what? Chris or the song?
Kenny Rogers thinks Katharine McPhee is doing the perfect choice for her, Faith Hill’s Bringing Out The Elvis.Katharine says she loves country music, but it’s not what she does. She wanted to find something with a bluesy feel. Kenny feels she stayed away from the country country, and went more with sultry. As she sings it tonight, Katharine is back to the bold prancing she did onstage a few week. It works though. I wasn’t sure of it at first, but I liked it by the end.
Randy calls this bluesy country, and says he liked it. He thought Katharine did a good job. Paula tells Katharine that’s her niche – sexy, hot and cool. Now there’s an oxymoron. Hot and cool. Simon calls the song peculiar, and Katharine bites back, “You just don’t like country. It’s okay; say it.” Umm, Katharine? You’ve already been in the bottom three once, and Kevin Covais was gone from American Idol the week after he talked back to Simon. I wouldn’t suggest that for someone in a precarious position.
Rounding up the bunch is Bucky Covington, who we’ve been waiting for to see what he’s going to do. Like Kelly, he needs to really bring it since it’s his genre. Kenny Rogers tells him that doing a song a lot of people may not have heard, he needs to really over-enunciate the lyrics, or he’ll lose part of the story. Singing Vertical Horizon’s Best I Ever Had, I wasn’t sure of it at first. But it grew on me the longer it went on, just like Wave on Wave, my favorite Bucky performance so far. I’m now putting this one up there with it. It’s great to hear a ballad on Bucky. My only complaint is that his hat is over his eyes so that we can’t see him express himself in the song.
Randy calls it aw-ight, but says it was pitchy in the front. He believes it was good to see Bucky in his element, and thinks this was a good song choice. Paula says again that he and Kellie probably shined the most tonight, being that they are in their element. She thinks he should wear his hat proud. Simon says he’s not an expert with this kind of music, but it sounded okay to him. Bucky says he’ll take that comment from Simon, and if I were him, I think I would too.
I hope it’s enough to save Bucky for at least another week. It would be such a shame for him to go out on a week that celebrates his genre. But in his place, I really don’t know who I’d put there. I think the only stunning two performances of the night are Ace and Chris, and I think this will keep Ace out of the bottom three. It’s likely Chris won’t see bottom three for quite some time, if ever. Katharine could wind up there again. The only three in the competition still that have been in the bottom three are Katharine, Ace and Bucky. It’s hard to tell, as we don’t know how close those that have been safe are to those at the bottom. It’s possible Elliott or Paris could wind up there, as they have trouble connecting sometimes. Taylor didn’t do well at all this week, so he could be there as well, but I’m thinking his fan base might save him. It’s going to be an interesting one tomorrow night.
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