Country night is often a cringe-worthy evening on American Idol, but this year, the top 11 did a pretty decent job turning songs from the Grand Ole Opry artists into relatively contemporary songs. There were several strong performances and not too many trainwrecks — though there's also at least one performance that will definitely be a love-it-or-hate-it number.
So, which singer do you think is going home tonight? To see my thoughts on Tuesday's performances, just
Michael Sarver — It says something that I spent this performance focusing more on the harmonica player than on Sarver himself. He didn't do much of anything with "Ain't Going Down (Till the Sun Comes Up)" except mumble through it, and breathlessly at that. Randy wasn't sure it showcased his voice, Kara liked the personality but missed the big notes, and Paula found it charming.
Allison Iraheta — "Blame It On Your Heart" was basically one of Allison's comfort zone Heart power ballads with twang. But hey, I respect that; she could have taken the song and made it a straight-up rocker. Good for her for working with the country arrangement. Paula wants to see her experiment more, Simon said it was precocious, and Randy simply said it "was dope."
Kris Allen — Kris ditched the guitar for "To Make You Feel My Love," and you know what? It was simple and sweet and pure. I was nervous when he geared up for that last high note, but he nailed it. Color me impressed, even if it wasn't the most exciting song. Simon called it terrific, and Randy appreciated all the tender moments. And then he was branded "tender puppy."
Lil Rounds — Lil was worried about bringing too much R&B to her country performance, and "Independence Day" was pretty restrained by Lil standards. Her voice is there, for sure, but she was maybe trying too hard to prove she could be country. Paula said everything was going her way, but Simon said it wasn't her and refused to pronounce her name correctly.
Adam Lambert — Hey, Randy Travis? I don't even know what to say about this boy, either. It's a unique take on "Ring of Fire," I'll say that. And I felt kind of dirty watching it, but I also didn't outright hate it . . . until the wailing at the end. Then I hated it. Kara was confused but happy, Paula liked his trust in himself as an artist, and Simon urged him to stay out of Nashville.
Scott MacIntyre — I love Scott as a pianist, and I think there's definitely a market for his music, but every song he does sounds to me like the same adult contemporary music I hear in my dentist's office. "Wild Angels" was another one that just made me go "eh." Paula called it impressive and lovely, but Randy wanted to hear more unbelievable vocals, not just the safe songs.
Alexis Grace — "Jolene" was like a great choice for her, and she seemed to be into the emotion and story of the song. I also liked her phrasing, especially in the first half. But there were a few parts where her voice sounded weaker than I expected, especially when she was moving around the stage. Randy said it was pitchy and too bluesy, but Paula liked her soft side.
Danny Gokey — "Jesus Take the Wheel" for Danny is like "God Bless the USA" for Kristy Lee; it's smart gamesmanship. I don't love the song anyway, but Danny's version didn't do anything special for me, though it did pick up at the end when he got into his comfort zone. Kara and Simon were "meh" on it, but Paula thought he was brilliant and Simon just laughed at his jacket.
Anoop Desai — Maybe "Always On My Mind" was safe for Anoop, in that it was a straightforward ballad that let him really show off his voice, but after the judges have piled on him so much, I think it was smart. It's also cool to hear him bust out a power song. Paula said he touched her heart, Simon said he went "from zero to hero," and Kara called it the night's best.
Megan Joy Corkrey — She's like some kind of '30s radio singer, isn't she? There's such an interesting, old-fashioned quality to her voice, which made "I Go Walking After Midnight" a perfect pick, even if there were some spotty notes (I blame the flu). Randy said it all came together, and Paula and Simon suggested she should get sick every week if she'll sound like that.
Matt Giraud — I'm starting to come around on Matt. I like the way he took Carrie Underwood's "So Small" and made it something a little more modern rock than country. (I think he's cooler than Simon's Michael Buble comparison, too.) He's also so obviously comfortable behind the piano. Simon said he needs more credit than he's gotten, and Randy said it was his favorite.
Favorites of the night: Anoop, Matt, and Megan
In danger: Michael, Scott, and Allison if people forget about her (I needed the replay at the end to remember what she sang).
Going home: My guess is Michael.
Photos courtesy of Fox