Randy Travis helps Idol’s Top 11 Find Their County Side

It’s Grand Ole Opry Night on American Idol and that means Simon is going to be extra hard to please.  We all know how little the Brit likes country music so it’s a real test to see which of the Top 11 can impress him tonight. 

This week the Top 11 honor The Grand Ole Opry. Recently guest mentor Randy Travis invited former Idol winner Carrie Underwood to become a member of The Opry. Tomorrow the two will perform a duet.

This week the Top 11 honor The Grand Ole Opry. Recently guest mentor Randy Travis invited former Idol winner Carrie Underwood to become a member of The Opry. Tomorrow the two will perform a duet.

Who knew that it was going to be Anoop Desai who would shine the most?  Last week, he stood next to Jorge Nunez and wondered if he would be back again.  This week, he blew us away with a beautiful, heartfelt performance of a classic – Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind.”  My only complaint is that you don’t sing a song like that in a hoody.  Anoop stepped up his vocal game this week; now he needs to dress the part.

Also doing a full 180 was Megan Joy Corkrey.  Megan Joy was also fighting for survival last week and despite having the flu tonight, she turned in a pretty nice performance of Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight.”  I’m still not a full out Megan Joy fan, but I’m starting to see what others like about her.  Now if she’d just get rid of that funky twist/dance thing.  And unlike Simon, I liked tonight’s look much better than her quirky look.

Now normally when we get to country music we have several fall flat on their face, but honestly, I can’t say that there were any real bad performances – one a bit on the weird side, but no train wrecks.  In fact, I’m having trouble picking my favorite and judging from the clips of the contestants with guest mentor Randy Travis, he did too.

Among those impressing me tonight was Kris Allen.  Kris sang “To Make You Feel My Love” which is not one of my favorite Garth Brook songs.  But Kris made it sound beautiful.  Randy Travis called him a great ballad singer and I have to say I agree.  I kind of wish he would have sang it with the guitar, but without it he took a chance, showed his vulnerable side and it worked.

Just a note to Kara, who said that she didn’t even know that Kris’ performance was Opryland material.  Opryland was a country-themed amusement park, no longer in existence.  The Opry is the longest running radio show that Idol was honoring tonight

Matt Giraud also blew me away.  Both he and Danny Gokey chose Carrie Underwood songs.  First, let me tell you I find it a little weird when male singers pick songs by female artists, especially when they do it consistently like Danny.  I’m all in favor of guys getting in touch with their feminine side, but when they keep picking these songs, I have to wonder what they are trying to accomplish.

Tonight Matt showed us what he was trying to accomplish.  I was totally wowed!  I liked his version “So Small” better than the original.  And let me tell you that this guy can really play the piano too.

Unfortunately, Danny’s performance just didn’t compare.  He didn’t really change much for his rendition of “Jesus Take the Wheel.”  He struggled with the verses, but came out soulful and big on the chorus.  However, it sounded like every other song Danny does.

On the other hand, Alexis Grace changed up her performance tonight.  The judges thought her performance of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” lacked the “dirty” she’s had the last couple of weeks.  Personally, I liked seeing Alexis’ softer side.  Sure, she didn’t try anything different with the song, but it still came across simple and pretty.

However, pretty wouldn’t be how I’d describe Adam Lambert’s performance.  I grew up in a family that regarded Johnny Cash as a legend and you don’t mess with a legend.  So you can see where I would approach Adam’s Middle Eastern arrangement of “Ring of Fire” with trepidation.  Now, I can’t say that I think Cash would have loved it, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be – just weird. 

I think Adam would have had more success if he’d tried a rock version of the song.  But even funnier that Kara trying to evaluate Adam’s performance was Randy Travis’ reaction to Adam in general.  Talk about clash of cultures.

But fun was the name of the game for Michael Sarver.  He might not have the strongest vocals, but Michael is definitely a down-to-earth likeable guy.  During the critique about his performance of “Ain’t Going Down (Til the Sun Comes Up)” by Garth Brooks, he said “country music is about having some fun.” 

And Michael sure looked like he was having fun when he was singing that mouthful of words that make up that song.  While I like that performance, I agree that it had a couple rough spots were it sounded like he mumbled the words a little.  But when Simon rated Michael’s performance as a 1.2 (on a scale of 10), the personable Michael replied with a smile, at least it wasn’t a zero.

Another performance that I think got overshadow tonight was Scott MacIntyre.  His version of  Martina McBride’s “Wild Angels” started out very pretty and I liked it even more after he picked up the tempo.  But unfortunately, while the arrangement is beautiful, the vocals just didn’t wow me. 

We learned tonight that Scott spends an incredible amount of time on the arrangements each week – and it shows – and he hasn’t always gotten his first choice in songs, but he still needs to kick up the vocals a notch if he wants to stay in the game.  And I totally disagree with Paula, I don’t think the piano inhibits his performances at all – it enhances them.

Poor Lil Rounds just suffered from the wrong genre this week.  Lil was clearly unfamiliar with country music, but I think she made a fair stand with her version of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.”  It wasn’t her best performance, but it was still solid.  Unfortunately, compared to the others she just paled.  But no matter how she performed, Simon really needs to learn her name by now.  He insisted on calling her Little throughout her critique.

While Lil struggled with the genre, Allison Iraheta missed an opportunity.  She chose “Blame It On Your Heart” by Patty Loveless and she put in a decent performance.  But given the bluesy/rock sound of her voice, Allison could have change that performance more to suit her voice and really stolen the night.  If she’d have experimented a little more, she would have been much more memorable.

I’m really struggling with my bottom three this week because as I said earlier no one just crashed and burned.  I think the bottom would have to include Allison and Lil.  The third spot could go to either Scott or Michael.  And I think Allison should be the one to go home.

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