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March 21, 2009

AMERICAN IDOL TOP 11: We're Riding A Blue Train

Kristen The Yellow Lab and I are shouting "HowwwwDY!" with just a wee bit of the brogue. After all, what better way to celebrate Grand Ole Opry week/St. Patrick's Day on American Idol? For, this week, the Top 11 sings the songs that honor train whistles, dead dogs, heartache, and mamas...and beer, even if it's not green.

A wee leprechaun arrives on the scene to tell us that the odds of winning Idol are now 11 to 1! Oh, wait. That's just Ryan, and he wants to wish us all a happy St. Paddy's day. To emphasize the point, the stage is suddenly alight with shamrocks bouncing to a jaunty jig, inducing inappropriately wild applause from the studio audience. (Tipping the pints a bit early, are we?) This is followed by the parade o' judges, who strut out all very Lord of the Dance at a hoe-down.
Ryan tells us that for the Grand Ole Opry theme, and the kids will be mentored by one Randy Travis. Randy's a member of the Opry, which is appropriate to the theme. But, Kristen and I don't think he's Irish.

First up is Roughneck Michael performing Garth Brook's "Ain't Goin' Down Till the Sun Comes Up." It's a gimmic song that involves reciting a long list of words in triple time while tossing in a note now and then. Michael employs the services of a harmonica player to give him an excuse to sit down, worn and out of breath. Also, it seems Michael is a skilled ventriliquist as he sings some of the song with his mouth closed. (Word on the street is that Michael has the same flu that hit Megan. Is it possible the producers let those two lip sync their performances?) It's not a great performance, but let's face it. Michael is the closest thing this show has to country this season, so he's not going anywhere this week. Randy doesn't know. Kara wanted more vocals. Paula is pleased that he let her have fun. Simon thought he might have been singing in Norwegian. Michael snips, "Well, if we were all perfect, we wouldn't be here!" Oh ho! Watch that ton of voice, young Roughneck. Just for that, Kristen and I are only going to give him 3 shamrocks and a jaunty hat. But, Johnny Paycheck is confident that performance was enough to get you on the tour.

Onto Allison Iraheta, who wears her flame-red hair to honor the day! She's performing Patty Lovelace's "Blame It On Your Heart." Kristen loves Allison's energy and romps around the television as Allison belts out "lying, cheating, cold deadbeating,Two-timing, double dealing, mean mistreating, loving heart." She's managed to stay within the genre, yet bring her own touch of rock spirit to the song. Kara says she can sing the alaphabet. (Um....??) Paula wants her to show her vulnerability. Simon thought it was bordering on precocious. Randy says it was dope! Kristen and I give her 7 shillelahs and a top of the morning to her! Opry member Reba McIntire weighs in!

Here comes Kris Allen, Teen Throb. (Married though. Kristen and I just had to rub that in what with us having to endure Michael Johns flaunting his wedding band all season last year.) Kris has chosen another Garth tune, "Make You Feel My Love." He opts to do the Adele version which is lovely and haunting, and gets lots of play on Kristen's iPod (which she lets me borrow.) He nails it. It doesn't hurt that he radiates the same kind of sweet shyness that got Jason Castro to fourth place last season. Kris might well be a dark horse for the Final 3. Paula was surprised, Simon thought it was terrific, Randy calls him Tender Dawg, and Kara insults country fans by saying she'd never even have guessed it was Opry as it was good. Kristen and I give him 9 pots o' gold and a road rising to meet him! Current country heart breaker, Dierks Bentley, agrees!

Lil Rounds is taking on Martina McBride's "Independence Day." (Hey, someone had to do it. It wouldn't be country week on AI without a power-vocaled "Let freedom riiiiiinnng!") Lil informs us that she wants to show respect for the genre by staying true to it. Remember that quote. It's going to come back to look like a dig at one of her competitors. Lil's falling short with this performance. First of all, the stylists have her dressed like a 40 year old grade school principal. Secondly, in holding back on her R&B stylings, she performs like an also-ran rather than a front runner. Randy says it was ambitious. (Huh?) Kara says it wasn't her best and wonders why she didn't sing "I Will Always Love You." (Nice stereotyping, Kara.) Paula wanted her to stick to one verse and go straight to the chorus. (Which is very astute of Paula, and I'd appreciate it if she'd knock it off. Lucid, intelligent Paula is no fun to blog.) Simon calls her "Little," and when Paula corrects him, he sniffs, "Li'l, Little. Li'l is short for Little." (Uh. Yeah, if you're Li'l Kim, SIMON.) When LILLIAN tries to correct him, Simon's not having it. "May I talk, Little?" he bullies. Just for that Kristen and I give her 8 Aye and Begorahs and a cornbeef sandwhich. Tammy Wynette knows that sometimes its hard to be a woman around the likes of Simon!

Kristen has rolled over on her back, which means Adam's entered the stage. He has chosen Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," but is giving it a middle eastern flair, complete with sitar. In the pre-performance pack, we see Adam meeting with mentor, Randy Travis. Randy claims he doesn't know what to make of Adam because he's never seen a man wear black nail polish before. Huh. REALLY Randy? You've been in show biz HOW MANY YEARS? Adam's got his Elvis freak flying tonight, and it's pretty amazing, if Kristen and I do say so ourselves. He starts off slow and sultry (who knew Ring of Fire was such a sensuous song) and builds to a multi-octave leap. This is definitely a "loved it" or "hated it" performance and was a huge risk on Adam's part. Kara feels confused yet strangely happy. Paula compares it to Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." (Stop making sense, Paula! You're really taking the fun out of it.) Simon says, "What. The hell. Was that. Indulgent nonsense. You better never go to Nashville." Adam informs him he has no plans to do so. Randy passionately defends Adam comparing it to something Nine Inch Nails would do. Simon smugs that country fans will hate it, and the camera pans to a slightly confused Randy Travis. "Nine Inch Nails?" he seems to be pondering. "Would those nails be covered in black polish?" Exactly one hour later, forums all across the internet go down as traffic reaches epic proportions so people can either bellow that they hate Adam for Freddy Mercurizing a sacred country song or shriek that he's the bomb - The Adam Bomb! Kristen and I loved his performance, but even if we didn't, we'd still give him 10 sparkly green top hats and a Kiss Me I'm Irish for being fearless, true to himself, and for showing off those golden pipes. Elvis weighs in!

In order to give us all time to discuss Adam's performance, the producers have thoughtfully squeezed Scott McIntyre into the mix. While we debate, Scott is apparently performing Martina McBride's "Wild Angels" in the background. It's all very "music to listen to at the optometrist's office." The issue with Scott is that he's a better pianist than he is singer. I suspect he arranges his own performances as well. Talented guy. Just not a star. Paula worries the piano is becoming a crutch. (Yes Paula. We get it. You DO know what you're talking about. Now, could you please go back to having visions and wanting to date the male contestants? The new you is kind of a snoozer, truth be told.) Simon finds Paula's comment disrespectful, and since it's HIS job to be disrespectful, he'd like her to step off. He tells Scotty he's picking the wrong songs. At any rate, Randy and Kara finally get the opportunity to speak after Simon and Paula are through pretending their bickering is sexual tension. Randy says it was aiiiight. Kara thinks he needs to up his game. Kristen and I give him 5 green beaded necklaces and a bowl of Lucky Charms. Ronnie Milsap is not so generous.

Here comes Alexis Grace dressed in black for St. Patrick's Day. She has chosen Dolly Parton's "Jolene," a song about begging an auburn-hair vixen not to steal her man, so I guess that's somewhat of a tribute to healthy Irish lasses everywhere. She starts off on the stairs, which is not a good decision. The very size of the staircase makes her look even tinier than she is, and, thus, younger. There's something not so right about a 12 year old begging another women to let her husband be. Halfway through, Alexis finds her voice and starts to blues it up a bit. But, it's too little too late. It's a rather anemic performance, and further proof that the song should only be sung by Dolly or the White Stripes. Randy says, "Not a great performance for me." Kara says, "Flat a little bit." (Not nice, Kara. Once the girl wins the competition, she can get a boob job. Until then, leave her physical deficiencies out of this.) Paula liked seeing her soft, vulnerable side. Simon didn't. "Forgettable!" he sniffs. Because Alexis looks so small and overwhelmed, we're going to give her 5 1/2 Finians Rainbows and an Erin Go Braugh!

The Widower Gokey is up performing Carrie Underwood's first big hit, "Jesus Take the Wheel." In the pre-performance pack, we see that he's so nervous, he can't remember how to sing the first few lines in front of Randy Travis. Randy Travis looks annoyed, but at least this young feller ain't wearing no black nail polish, so he'll do. It starts off a bit rough. For some reason, Danny is dressed like a giant marshmallow. Danny has a gruffness to his voice that works well when used appropriately. It's wrong for this song as it should be performed clean. In part, it's understandable why Danny chose this song as it reflects his own personal struggles as well as his faith. But, it's not a good fit. Kara says here comes Danny. Paula says, "We love it but fall a little short of appreciating it tonight." (Now, there's the Paula we love! Welcome back, girlfriend!) Simon informs him that he can't scream the song from beginning. (Well, he just did exactly that, so what do you know, Mr. Sassypants?) Randy points out that "you gotta support those verses." Kristen and I are on our 4th green beer, so we'll be generous and give danny 7 1/2 River Dances, and a blarney stone. Ricky Skaggs is in agreeance with the judges.

It's Anoop time! He's got to redeem himself from a weak performance of a bad song choice last week. Can he do it with willie Nelson's "Always On My Mind?" Oh yes he can. Kristen notes that his eyes are quite lovely what with the brown and the lashes and the pleading sorrow. It's a gorgeous rendition and he finally, FINALLY shows off his vocal skills. Excellent. Paula's in a tizzy! "Anoop's back! He's back, everybody!" she says, tears of joy welling over her dilated pupils. Simon tells him he went from zero to hero. Randy says the arrangement was dope! (Um...huh? There was nothing special about the arrangement. That's basically the way the song is sung.) Kara calls it the best performance of the night, which displeases Kristen greatly as we all know Adam had the best performance of the night - even if you weren't liking it. Kristen and I give Anoop 9 1/2 leprechaun's and a pass to all the Notre Dame football games. Trace Adkins calls it a touchdown!

Spare us. It's Megan Joy in a granny gown with her boobs looking rather "granny-ish." She's going to sing Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight" in her quirky style. It's not horrible, but her insistance on standing in one place and moving her trunk like a washing machine agitator is growing tiresome. She also seems almost incapable of keeping her eyes open, tonight. This time, when she's finished, she doesn't caw. Instead, she coughs. Repeatedly. "Feeling a little ill?" asks Randy. Kara says that not a lot of people with the flu can do what she just did. (Other than just about every single other person in show biz, KARA.) Paula tells her that if this is sick, then have at it! Simon thinks she should have flu every week. (What a pleasant suggestion, Simon!) Kristen and I aren't completely without heart, and we do understand the seriousness of flu B, so we'll give her 7 bars of Irish Spring soap and a pint or two to kill what ails her. The Opry's own Patsy Cline isn't so sympathetic.

Last of the night is Matt, performing "So Small" by Carrie Underwood. He gives it his own spin, playing the piano as he sings, and it's nice. Very nice! Kristen and I are pleased (if slightly drunk from the green beer) because we like Matt as he's practically a local boy, if living in another state can count as being local. At the same time, there's a certain level of boredom that occurs when listening to Matt. Again, he's got the skills, but does he have the star quality? He's going to have to get out from behind that piano in order to show us. Kara says, "There's nothing small about you!" (Isn't she just a walking font of double entendre jokes?) Paula tells him he's piercing so many people's hearts! Simon tells him he outsang Danny. (Which isn't that hard to do, Simon. Danny's not exactly the standard bearer for vocal skills.) Randy tells him he's got it going on, baby! Kristen and I give Matty 9 1/2 sainted mothers and a wearing of the green. The legendary Charlie Proud is pleased with Matt's performance, also.

Our picks O' the night

The outlaws: You either loved them or hated them, but they remain true to their off-the-beaten path style:
Adam, Allison, Megan

Still in The Chase: Solid performances that will keep them on top:
Kris, Danny, Lil

Not a Moment Too Soon: Saved themselves from falling to the bottom:
Anoop, Matt

Sentimentally Yours: (Resting on their laurels)
Alexis, Scott

I Don't care:


Results Night

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to a night Kristen and I like to call "Adam Intervention Night." Without actually coming out and saying so, the producers do everything in their power on this night to let Adam know he needs to dial it back a notch, or he will go home. Ryan opens the show waving the envelope containing the results and declares, "Someone will face the fire." (As in Ring of Fire, Ryan?) Ryan then goes on to gaze pointedly into the camera to tell us that the results tonight will shock us. (Shocking? Adam, Danny, or Lil in the bottom 3. And since Danny sang a song about Jesus, it ain't him.) Then, he reminds us that the judges do have the right to "save" someone, so we might be in for a surprise or two tonight.

The kids hoe-it-down to a song called "Trouble." (See there! Another clue. Adam's in trouble!)

At least they put Scott at the piano so one of the girls didn't have to lead him around this week.
Sarver is asked about the hardest part of being on the show, and he tells us it's hard to be away from his family! (Tell it to the soldiers in Iraq, roughneck.) Then, he wins the hearts and minds of the viewers by choking back sobs as he relates that his youngest came up to him after the show and asked, "Daddy? Why don't you want to live with me, anymore?" Message to Adam: This is MIDDLE American Idol, pal.

Everyone who is safe this week will be part of the American Idol Summer Tour. Ryan tells us that Danny, Lil, and Anoop better get used to sleeping on a bus because they're all safe. It's between Allison and Michael for the first spot in the bottom 3. Boo! It's Allison! She's so surprised she bellows, "Oh. My. GAWD!" Sarver takes his seat, but Ryan psyches him out. He tells him to stand up, because he's also in the bottom 3. Good. We don't want that little girl missing her daddy any longer than necessary.
Brad Paisley, looking every bit the country rodent, sends us into a coma via song.

Back to results. Guess who else made the tour? Megan. Guess why? Flu. Also, Matt, Kris, and Scott are safe and about to get some groupie action in 3 months. Adam and Alexis are asked to stand. Adam is trying to play it cool, but he knows. Yep. He knows. Maybe dressing like gay Elvis last night wasn't the best idea. Or maybe commiting a felony with his eyes is something America's not quite ready for just yet. Ryan studies them both, then says, "Adam. You.... are........ safe." Whoooooooooo! Kristen and I hug one another in relief, until we realize that means ALEXIS is in the bottom 3.

Carrie Underwood, dressed like Tammy Wynette, and Randy Travis, dressed like her grandfather, sing a love duet together. It's a pretty enough song, but there's something slightly Texas Polygamy Cult about it, what with Carrie still looking so young and tender, and Randy looking sort of creepy, to be honest.

Finally, Ryan gets to it. Going home, tonight, is Alexis, unless the judges choose to save her. Now, she must sing for her survival. It's cruel and painful to watch as the tiny girl, upset and anxious, desperately tries to pull this off. Simon gives the verdict. "It was unanimous. It was good, but not good enough. Sorry." Oh, no. We'll miss you Little Lexi!

All of the judges say farewell to one of their early favorites:

Exept Paula who has other things on her mind:

Some guy named Obama thinks he's more important than American Idol, so the performance show will air on Wednesday with results on Thursday. This week, the kids put their spin on MoTown. Hitsville, baby! See ya' there!


  1. MoTown. I'm there. Thanks for the round up, Z.