Tuesday, March 17, 2009

American Idol - Top 11 burn down the Grand Ole Opry!

Hello there American Idol enthusiasts across the land! Were you as excited for Country Week (Artists inducted into the Grand Ole Opry) as I was? It has been a slow conversion, but my country music fandom has reached an all time high. Of course, all it takes is a night's worth of performances from our amateur Idol contestants to bring my excitement down a notch! As, predicted by yours truly last Tuesday night, the 2nd week of the finals was a notch below the opening week. On top of that, Country Week usually hurts more than helps most of the contestants. But there were a handful that still impressed. Only one will go home. Who will it be? I'll try to break it down for "y'all" as best as I can!

Before we get to the breakdown, I am sure many of you caught the gossip that has flooded the main entertainment sites today. It is what I have been complaining about all season. Has American Idol gone ahead and FIXED the competition to their liking? Do we already have a defined final 4? I have no doubt in my mind that the producers like to tip the scales in their favor, especially with MOLDING this top 13. But, I cannot be blind to the fact that America's opinion has to matter at some point. And when you have a night like tonight when the CHOSEN ONES fail, for the most part, you have to think that someone else may rise from the ashes and turn this competition around! At least, that's what is going to keep me watching folks!

Anyway, tonight featured artists that have been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry (including American Idol's own Carrie Underwood). The Grand Ole Opry is one of the longest running radio shows in the country. Just add Carrie to your TiVo wish lists folks, you will get yourself some Grand Ole Opry shows recorded! I will not lie, they're a good time! Got a little choked up myself, when Randy Travis came out and surprised Carrie with her nomination to be inducted!

Okay okay, I'll stop boring you! Randy Travis was the mentor for the contestants this week. Did he help them at all? Let's break it down!

  1. Michael Sarver - "Ain't Going Down 'Til the Sun Comes Up" by Garth Brooks - Well okay Mikey, you memorized a lot of words! Come on! Let's be honest. Any hardcore country fan worth their salt already has this song memorized. Michael Sarver grew up in Texas! He knows this song already! I think he sang it just fine, but agreed a bit with the judges on their not being much of a melody to show off in this tune. Although, at the same time, with the right amount of charisma it can do wonders for you. Remember Josh Gracin's performance in season 2 when they realized he was a Closet Country Music performer? When I think of Michael's performance in comparison, I'm not sure if I'm seeing it. But I still like the guy. It will be tough with him going first this week. But man were there some other stinkers I'd rather go home!

    I think Sarver needed to bring on the cowboy hat this week!
  2. Allison Iraheta - "Blame it on Your Heart" by Patty Loveless - What can you say about Allison? She is still really impressing everyone with those powerful vocals while she is still so young. She has some mad pipes. I rarely have good things to say about the 16/17 year old American Idol contestants. But I cannot think of anything bad to say about Allison! I have also come down hard on contestants that cannot pronounce their S's correctly like Lakithsha and Chrith Sthligh in season 6. But for Allison? I'm going to blame the braces because I kinda like her! Not the best performance of the night, but she should in no way feel threatened to be booted either.
  3. Kris Allen - "To Make You Feel My Love" written by Bob Dylan and performed by Billy Joel first, THEN Garth Brooks - Ahh my biggest pet peeve with this song. Billy Joel, (I am his biggest fan. Seriously, I dare you to challenge me on it!) needed some tunes to record for his 3rd Greatest Hits volume but was retired from writing new pop tunes. He went into the Bob Dylan library and found a song that Bob had written but never recorded. He thought it was amazing, and then he DID record it. Garth, who already covered a version of Billy Joel's "Shameless," came along and did an interview segment saying HE was the first to record the Bob Dylan tune and threw it on that Gosh Darn awful excuse of a movie HOPE FLOATS's soundtrack! (okay okay, I didn't see the movie!) Anyway, now country fans across the world think it's a Garth tune (just like they think "Shameless" is too). And I just wanted to set the record straight! By the way, Bob Dylan later recorded the stupid song and won a Grammy for Album of the Year! Go figure...

    Okay, regardless of who sang the song first, it's still an amazing song. And Kris did a wonderful job with it. I'm not even Kris's biggest fan, but I liked the fact that he stepped away from the guitar and tried to mix things up a little bit. (It's crazy when I start agreeing with Paula sometimes) Do I think he has the chops to win the thing? Naaaa But he's gotta be safe this week. Although I did roll my eyes when he added a "self-echo" effect to one of his notes. "you...oooo...oooo...oooo" Kris, if you want to keep getting compliments from me...never do that again!
  4. Lil Rounds aka Madam Mix A Lot - "Independence Day" by Martina McBride" - This was one of 2 major disgraces of the night. I think we all knew that Grand Ole Opry / Country Week would be Lil's downfall on her American Idol run. Lil claims to be from Memphis, Tennessee and to never have heard a country song in her life except what is in the movies. Really? TENNESSEE???? Okay, whatever. Let's say that is true. Then why try to do Country Music justice by trying to sing it straight? You know you're only going to fail and just flat out ruin a great song! It's exactly what she did. She just uncomfortably sang the melody and then busted out some LIL for the chorus, over singing and changing the melody and all. Ugh... 2nd strike against her, Carrie Underwood sang "Independence Day" 0n American Idol and even released it as a single. I was just getting into Country Music back in season 4 so this is one of the first songs and versions of the song that I really got into.

    Sure Carrie had her pitchy issues during her performance, but she's a country girl and she pulled it off. Lil, just completely performed the wrong song. No fear, if she gets kicked off, she'll get saved. She is one of the CHOSEN 4 afterall! One note in Lil's favor. I think Scott MacIntyre may have slipped and discussed picking songs out of a hat. Sometimes they keep talking about song choice. And sometimes we get the impression that they really do not have many songs to choose from. So could Lil really have taken a song out of the selection and R&B'd it up? Good question. Either way, this was NOT the way for her to go.
  5. Adam Lambert - "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash - Well when I referenced the Grand Ole Opry being burned down, it was probably lit by Adam's "Ring of Fire." In the words of Simon "WHAT THE BLEEP WAS THAT???" Middle Eastern sound? Really? Okay okay, I get it. You want to mix it up and make it your own. But you do not want to insult the great Johnny Cash in the process. And I think Johnny must have been rolling over in his grave at the sound of the screeching, screaming, sitar'd rendition of "Ring of Fire." The judges were kinda on board with Adam (probably because they are paid to convince America of getting him to the final 4!). But Simon spoke up and said what he really felt. VERDICT? I think most of us agreed with Simon! I really want to like Adam. I know he has that amazing vocal range. But, if he continues down this strange path, he will make it very difficult for me.
  6. Scott MacIntyre - "Wild Angels" by Martina McBride - Most memorable part of this performance will be Simon and Paula arguing over what is an appropriate critique for a partially blind contestant. Bottom line, we all still like Scott. But my problem with this performance was the same as Simon's. If you try to compare it to last week's performance, you would not be able to distinguish them apart. It's not necessarily being behind the piano. It's Scott's style that he brought to both performances. They both sounded good. But no real wow factors. I still cannot see Scott leaving us this week. But we shall see!
  7. Alexis Grace - "Jolene" by Dolly Parton - Ahh another one of the American Idol producer coveted 4 contestants! Did she live up to her billing? In a word.... NOPE! I am continually waiting for Alexis to impress me. I am told she is the next coming of Kelly Clarkson and I am still not seeing it. Yeah, she has a killer voice. But, there is something about her performances that is throwing me off. It does not help that she butchered the arrangement of an infamous Dolly song. No fear, if she makes it to next week she will bring back the DIRTY! Awesome, because THAT was the issue. I loved how Kara referenced 2 Carrie Underwood songs "Last Name" and "Before He Cheats" and told Alexis that she should have been more edgy with her song choice. You heard it here folks, CARRIE UNDERWOOD = EDGY! Can't make up my mind on Alexis, but if I had my way for the results show, 3 of the 4 supposed final 4 would find their way to the bottom 3 this week.
  8. Danny Gokey - "Jesus Take the Wheel" by Carrie Underwood - Not Danny though kids! I'm still a fan of the over-hyped wonder. Oh yes, I cringed when I heard his song choice was Carrie's 1st big single off of the Some Hearts album. And I agree that he needs to work on his verses a bit to build into his big finishes. But come on! This guy has mad skills when it comes to giving chills! His chorus was amazing tonight and no amount of hyping would have changed the outcome of that. There is a reason that the producers like this guy. And I refuse to accept this as a reason that I should NOT support him. He is too good to think that way! But I must throw out one prayer..."Jesus, take the Jacket" away from Danny. That thing was horrendous!
  9. Anoop Desai - "You Were Always on My Mind" by Willie Nelson - Just when we thought he was out.....he pulled us back in! Finally, Anoop lived up to his previous billing with taking on the well known Willie Nelson tune. I was ready to call it quits on him, but thankfully it looks like he has done enough to keep him going into the Top 10. Can he bring us an up tempo song next week without losing his vocal ability? That will be key to his survival!
  10. Megan Joy Corkrey - "I Go Walking After Midnight" by Patsy Cline - Bottom line. The judges love her, I still do not see it. Where do I start? The cheesy attempts to sound Old Fashioned and Hip at the same time? The awful dancing? The nasty tattoo draped down her right arm that she flaunts around even more so than Carly Smithson!? I just do not get it. I may get some disagreement on this one, and that is fine. Some people may like the artificial vocal style she adds to every song. Me? I see right through it and would like to see her go please! But if Lil, goes instead? That works for me too!
  11. Matt Giraud - "So Small" by Carrie Underwood - Really, who would have thought at the beginning of Grand Ole Opry night that 2 guys singing Carrie Underwood songs would steal the show? Well, American Idol is the same show that brought us David Cook singing Mariah Carey and wowing us! So, I guess anything is possible. Matt's version of "So Small" was fantastic. Starting with piano, adding in some backing vocals, and crescendo'ing into the full band for the 2nd take on the chorus. And his vocals shined throughout. Danny and Matt are still my favorites. Pre-Destined Final 4 or not. These are the guys I say you should be watching!

So what do you do on a night like tonight when the world gets turned upside down on you? Do you make a bottom 3 prediction with 3 of the early favorites? Ahhh American Idol....season 8 and this show still drives me crazy! Let's do some math shall we?

Best Performances of the night therefore Safe? Danny, Matt
Great Performances - Allison, Kris
Comeback Kid? Anoop
I think was awful but Judges Liked? Megan
Okay Performance but not great? Alexis
Worst Performances of the Night? Adam, Lil
Forgot about them when I was doing this math? Scott, Michael

Bottom 3 Picks: Lil Rounds, Michael Sarver, Megan Corkrey Bonus Bottom 3 Pick: Scott MacIntyre
Elimination Pick: Michael Sarver

This was a tough decision for me! Lil or Adam should go home after this week, but Adam already has a pretty big fanbase and I'm going to guess Lil does too. Sure, Mandisa went home in country week in season 5 but her "Shania Karaoke" (thanks Carrie) may have been even worse than Lil's! Plus, if Lil or Adam get voted off, there is no way that the judges would let them go home. They WOULD, no doubt, use their Judges' save. In fact, I have no doubt that they put this rule in place BECAUSE of country week.

Oh well, anyone that has been reading my blogs over the years know that I rarely get these things right. The only thing I am concerned about is picking the winner of the whole darn American Idol season! And with that, I am a stunning 6 for 7! (Ugh, I'm still befuddled by Ruben!) I'm interested to hear all of your thoughts in the comments below!

Speaking of my country music fandom, I actually have just returned home from a Brad Paisley concert in Nashville, Tennessee this past weekend. And, I even caught Carrie Underwood's performance this past December down there. 2 great shows in a great country music town! What are the odds? This Wednesday night, both Carrie AND Brad will be on the American Idol results show. SCORE! A results show worth watching! Until then, this wraps up Grand Ole Opry performance night. Hope you enjoyed my ramblings and I will see you after the results for more discussion!

This blog can also be read and discussed on Gather.com. Come check it out and throw some votes my way if you have spare time!


Anonymous said...

I'd love to see super-annoying Megan go home too. For all the hype the judges give her it doesn't seem like anybody really likes her except Vote For the Worst.

I didn't like Danny. I thought it was a bad song choice and he just didn't sound good on it. Surprisingly, I kind of liked Adam's performance just for the sheer left-field nature of it.

I think Alexis hits the Bottom 3 this week. Her performance wasn't terrible, but it was very forgettable. Sometimes it's better to be memorably bad than forgettably OK.

Mike V. said...

I agree with your Alexis comment Ian. Worked for Megan last week. And judging by dialidol this week, she (Alexis) may do more than be in the bottom 3! I kinda thought Sarver and Scott's performances were just as forgettable though and I gave Alexis a pass for supposedly being one of the "coveted 4!" lol But it may have been a bad move!

It was a crazy song choice for Danny but I am really thinking that Carrie Underwood songs HAD to be featured this week considering 2 guys ended up picking them. Scott's "picking out of a hat" comment made me kinda skeptical! Then again, the picking out of the hat could have been for people that wanted to sing the same song out of the "200 or so" provided lol But I'm guessing 20-30 songs being available is more realistic.

I'll give you "LEFT FIELD" on Adam, but I cannot agree that it was good! lol He is one weird dude, but I see no danger in him leaving tonight!

Anonymous said...

Nice blog again Mike. But apparently my musical tastes are far, far different than yours.

Didn't care that much for Country week at all. And I love country music. When I heard Danny and then Matt attempt to sing Carrie songs, it just reinforced to me how great Carrie's voice really is. Though I am fond of Danny--and believe he has an army load of fans---I am NOT a fan of Matt's at all. I wasn't impressed.

Megan, as you are probably aware, dropped her former married name of Corkery. So she just goes by Megan Joy now. But there wasn't much joy at all in her performance, was there? I know she's apparently been sick and all but ugh....

Loved, loved, loved Adam's performance. Yes, Mr. Cash probably DID turn over in his grave but Adam is a performer in the truest sense of the word and is the only one most likely to record a hit record/album right now. Last night's performance reminded me of last year when David Cook performed "Billy Jean". Really different. Really good.

Big Mama Lil....(did Simon actually call her Little??? LOL)was a trainwreck to watch last night. I'm with ya Mike on calling out this Tennessee woman NOT knowing country songs. Sheesh! But she'll stick around. This will be her low point of the year I think and certainly there are other Idols who need to go before her.

Alexis was okay with me. She always reminds me of Chloe from Smallville. I think they could pass as sisters. She's on solid ground, I think----dirty or not.

Anoop----Out of all the people that were in trouble, he helped his cause the most. He won't win Idol but at least he reminded us why's he there.

Scott---Not sure what to think about him anymore. I thought he'd be better than he is but I don't think you can take him away from the piano. He's so good at that and besides, isn't America intrigued by his story? I suspect he'll be around for quite a while.

Overall, there's really no unbearable people left. I think this is a solid as final 11 that I've ever seen. But since somebody has to go, for me, it's time for Mr. Sarver to go home.

Mike V. said...

Thanks Drew! I can't imagine my musical taste can be that different than anyone's. I pretty much can appreciate anything when it sounds good! lol I used to hate country music, btw, but that was pretty much because I never listened to it!

I totally agree with you that Carrie's voice is one in a million. There is no way Matt or Danny could fill those shoes. But that was just it...it surprised me how good they DID sound based on that. I do think Danny's verses left some to be desired though.

But yeah, we'll have to agree to disagree on Adam. The difference for me with Cook and Adam changing up those tunes...was that Cook's sounded good!! I don't recall him really changing up the melody as much as the pace and style of the song. And he took a well known cover version of Billie Jean (by Chris Cornell) which helped matters. Adam went for the most obscure sounding cover he could find....and I'm CONVINCED he changed it up himself even further adding in those screecher notes! And totally changing the melody at times. I just cannot appreciate that! It was similar to what Lil did...she abandoned the melody by the end and just was going all "LIL ROUNDS" on the chorus..."let me sing some big notes for you all to hear and love me!!!" Yeah...Simon calling her LITTLE was hysterical lol I forgot to mention that. Also Kara telling someone they could sing the Alphabet...REALLY!!??? lolol I think she meant the phone book (which isn't much better!) 5 year olds can sing the alphabet!

Alexis...I think she has the potential to be good...but i just haven't quite seen it yet. Good call on Chloe though! (I love smallville...but man that show needs to end soon! lol)

It's definitely a strong top 11 though. It was really tough for me to figure out who was going home this week!

Should be interesting tonight!