Country night on American Idol can be hit or miss. But Dolly Parton seemed to bring out the best in the Top 9 contenders tonight as they do their best to honor her tunes with some justice.
In fact, I was overly impressed with the candidates this evening – well all but one. It’s not that they all did an outstanding job, but the performances were at least pleasant and enjoyable.
Here’s my breakdown of the performances:
At the top of my list again this week is David Cook. What else can I say about Cook? Each week he steps up to the challenge of not only finding the perfect song, but the perfect arrangement to showcase his talent. And he did it again this week an original arrangement. “Little Sparrow” might not have been Cook’s strongest performance, but he’s still outperforming the others by leaps and bounds.
On the other hand, Michael Johns surprised me by turning in a stellar performance and showing us his blues side with “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right.” This new blues version of Michael suited him. It was very nice to see that Michael has more to his repertoire than Queen and I think this performance put him back in the running.
“Jolene” was a great song choice for Brooke White. She looked like she was having a great time singing. Of course, she performed with an instrument, but the guitar along with the accompanying instruments suited the arrangement and Brooke. My only complaint was that song sounded a bit rushed to me.
And nobody is more surprised than me, but I liked Carly Smithson this week too. She did a beautiful job with “Here You Come Again,” but honestly I still prefer Dolly’s version. While the song might be better suited for Carly’s voice, I think she lacked the emotion that Dolly brings to her songs.
On a side note, Simon’s comments about Carly’s wardrobe were harsh, but he has a point. I think the same can be said about Ramiele Malubay’s attire as well. In fact, Ramiele’s outfit this week looked a lot like last week’s.
Furthermore, it’s clear that Kristy Lee Cook’s voice is definitely suited for country music. Her performance tonight was not only one of her best, it also earned her a reprieve for another week. That said, I think the tempo of her arrangement of “Coat of Many Colors” was a bit fast and didn’t give her a chance to express the sentiment behind the song.
Also on the top of his game tonight was Jason Castro. I can’t believe that I’m going to say this, but I agree with Paula that “Travelin’ Thru” was one of Jason’s better performances. The folksy like sound suited him and gave him a little more range than he has in the past.
Likewise, David Archuleta rendition of “Smokey Mountain Memories” was beautiful, probably one of his best performances. But I’m having trouble getting excited about him doing yet another ballad. The only time he’s strayed from the slow, soft songs he failed miserably. I’m not convinced that he has the range or stage presence to be a great star.
Similarly, Syesha Mercado’s choice of “I Will Always Love You” was predictable. She always goes for the Whitney Houston-type power ballad and she has the voice to carry it off. She’s another that needs to find a little variety in her repertoire. For instance, I honestly liked the beginning of her song – the simpler Dolly version – to the big Whitney finish. If she had stayed with the simpler rendition, I might have been more impressed with her performance.
Contrastingly, Ramiele Malubay finally picked something besides another ballad. But even with a catch little tune like “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” Ramiele was unimpressive and her performance was less than memorable.
Obviously Ramiele is my pick to go home again. I think Archuleta and Syesha should join her in the bottom three just because they have failed to challenge themselves.
What do you think? Who most impressed you tonight?