American Idol – Episode 8-21 Review

Ryan keeps telling us that the stakes are higher than ever for the 11 contestants on the stage. They are. Mainly because the Top 10 get their ticket punched for the tour. It doesn’t matter who wins the whole thing. Anyone can get a record contract. After this cut, you’re not really sent home. You’re still in the mansion practicing for that arena tour.

The stage “drapes” part and the judges step forward to an announcer. The judges now have to walk to their seats so Ryan has to kill time. Ryan’s wearing a suit that isn’t green. It’s St. Patrick’s day. Get into the holiday. He reminds us of last week’s losers and how the judges wouldn’t save them. 

It’s Country week? Why? Has anyone cared about Country weak? Outside of Carrie Underwood, does anyone care about seeing these people warble Johnny Cash? We get Ryan narrating the history of the Grand Ole Opry. But they show the new home and not the Ryman. They show stars being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. Carrie Underwod gets asked in by Randy Travis. She cries at the honor. Randy Travis visits the kids. He really looks like Josh Brolin in W. How come nobody wants to cast Travis as Abe Lincoln? 

Michael Sarver ought to be country savvy since he works on the oil rigs. His new goatee makes him look like a hefty Corey Feldman. He chose “Ain’t Goin’ Down Till the Sun Comes Up” by Garth Brooks. A guy on the steps wails on the harmonica. It’s not bad, but he’s wearing a coat and t-shirt that makes him look like he should be pricing a jetski. It’s not showing much range since it’s a machinegun fast song with so many lyrics jammed in the notes. Randy thinks its a cool song choice, but he doesn’t think it showed his vocal capabilities. Kara thinks it was more about his personality and not the big notes. Paula liked the charm and fun. She thinks its his genre. Simon thought it should have been good. He couldn’t understand a single word he sang. He feels it was clumsy and karaoke. Sarver responds, “If we were all perfect we wouldn’t need this show.” Well there is youtube. He shouldn’t worry so much cause there’s always a few wannabes that sound like they’re being stampeded by cattle on Country night.

Allison Iraheta gets nice compliments from Travis. He tells her to avoid the cute dance step. She goes hard with Patti Loveless’ “Blame it on Your Heart.” She’s full force with her voice. She gets a twang that makes her sound credible. She’s a queen of the honky tonk. She avoids the dance steps. Kara thinks she can sing the alphabet and make it her own. Paula is impressed by the power of her voice and the rock edge. She wishes she’d do a song that showed her venerable side. Simon thought it was good, but she was struggling with the words. Randy thinks it was “dope.”

Kris Allen is also doing Garth Brooks. This time its “To Make You Feel My Love.” Travis says he made it his own version of the song. It’s an extreme ballad with the strings kicking. He’s sitting on a stool. He really de-countrified the song. It’s like a slow dance at a prom. Paula is pleasantly surprised at the song being honest and pure. Simon thought it was terrific. He liked how Kris didn’t go over the top. He thinks the kid has a shot at doing well. Randy likes the tender moments from his dog Kris. Kara forgot it was Opryland night. Sounds like they want people to buy this from iTunes for their tender moments.

Lil Rounds talks about life at the mansion. She enjoys the hot tub. The only country songs she’s ever heard were in movie. Does this mean we’ll see “Rhinestone Cowboy?” Travis warns her about tackling Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” He slows her down to give her the right space for the lyrics. He’s giving real mentor advice. She’s way too smooth for the rough imagery. She finally gets into the song during the chorus. She doesn’t go over the top in the final run. Randy had problems with the front part, but thinks it got a little better during the chorus. It just didn’t feel comfortable to him. He wishes she did “How Do I Live” or “I Will Always Love You.” Kara also liked the second half better, but likes that she sang what she felt. Paula thinks the vocals were spot on along with Lil’s outfit. Paula wishes she’s skipped the second verse and went straight to the chorus. Simon has a problem calling her Lil. He keeps calling her Little. He compares her to a singer who gets forced to sing a song at a wedding that she doesn’t know. He wasn’t happy with the selection. Lil shouldn’t feel too nervous. 

Adam Lambert is looking very theatrical in a bronze leather jacket. He’s scaring Randy because he’s doing a Middle Eastern version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Lambert doesn’t see himself as country artist. Lambert gets sultry on the stage with the slow burn. He is what Criss Angel imagines himself as when singing. He’s got the metal whirl voice going. Travis claps in the crowd. Kara thinks it was all a little strange with the fire and the Egyptian thing. “It was strange, but I liked it,” she says. Paula likes how Adam is true to what he is. She likes the sitar action. Simon asks, “What the hell was that?” He calls it rubbish. Randy thinks it’s like Nine Inch Nails doing a country song. That’s a bit confusing since Johnny Cash recorded Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” as his final big song. He should still get all those Twilight girls calling his number even if Nashville has objections.

Scott MacIntyre seems sure about his selection. Travis isn’t sure about him doing “Wild Angels” by Martina McBride. He performs it on the piano. It’s really middle of the road sound. They bathe the stage in gold when the tempo picks up. But it’s like a Dan Fogelberg concert. He needs a bit more showmenship. Paula thinks it’s an impressive performance. She fears the piano is a bit of a crutch. He needs to get closer to the audience. Simon thinks Paula is saying stupid stuff. Scott does defend himself by pointing out how he loses “hat picks” so his material is stuff already picked over. Randy thinks he’s been doing a nice performance. Kara wants him to up his game. While Simon keeps harping on picking better material, the problem is simple – getting the rights to perform those songs. The producers do have to not merely pay to perform these songs on the show, but also the royalty breakdown for selling them on iTunes. It’s extremely complicated.

Alexis Grace has had her hair Dolly-fied. She’s getting into the moment. Ryan mentions how Paula and Simon got into a fight. Way to distract the poor gal. Alexis will expose the soft side of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Travis thinks Dolly will be proud. She’s working the plead asking Jolene to not take her man. Randy hears pitch problems. Kara thinks she lost her edge. She wants the angst from Alexis. Paula feels the song was more effective than the others felt. Simon thought it was OK and soundalike. He swears we’ll forget about this performance in 10 minutes. Alexis promises she’ll being the dirty next week if America votes for her return.

Danny Gokey standing in front of Randy Travis. He’s doing Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Takes the Wheel.” Gokey is blowing notes and lyrics during the rehearsal. Travis likes the man’s soulfulness. Just hopes he can deliver the song. Gokey’s white semi-parka is really distracting. It’s like he’s wandered off an Andy Williams’ Christmas special. He does gets the lines. He gets his inspirational big note to launch the middle of the song. The lights behind him are brighter and whiter than his coat. The crowd goes nuts. Kara loves it when he hits the stride. Feels he hit that note. She didn’t like the front half. Paula loves how he built the song. She thinks Carrie Underwood will download it from iTunes. Simon agrees with Paula. Simon has a problem with the white coat. Randy doesn’t think he supports the verses enough. Are the verses part of the musicians’ union?

Anoop Desai pleases Travis with his version of Willie Nelson’s “Always On My Mind.” The two share a hug. Travis swears this will be the best we’ve heard from Anoop. He goes husky on the vocals. Sounds like Michael Bolton without the hair issues. He’s working to put goosebumps on people. He’s holding the notes. He did much better than last week’s “Beat It” bust. Paula declares Anoop is back. She’s proud that the song fit him like a glove. “You got tender, honest, amazing, sweet vocals,” she says. Simon says he went from zero to hero. Simon says Anoop belongs on the show after trashing him last week. Randy felt this proved Anoop is a great singer. Kara thinks its an untouchable song and the biggest surprise. Does she not know how many people did this song? It’s not quite “Pac-Man Fever.” Now that’s an untouchable song. 

Megan Joy Corkey will dip into Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight.” She’s wearing a gown that shows off her tats and top. She’s got this annoying quiver. This would be considered cute for little kids. But it’s painful. This was just too goofy for words. She’s coughing afterward. Randy thought it would be a trainwreck, but it wasn’t. He thinks it worked for her. Kara says perfect song and perfect look. She performed with the flu. Paula admits Megan was in the hospital earlier in the day. Simon hates how her dress is sucking away her quirkiness. Ryan says it’s influenza B. Why is Ryan not near this woman while wearing a safe suit and a scuba tank? Is he going to try and pass Megan’s germs onto Joel McHale? Next week everyone is going to be sick. Maybe we’ll get projectile vomiting on the stage? That’d be cool for Punk Rock night.

Matt Giraud is also doing a Carrie Underwood song. Travis seems pleased with his take on “So Small.” But I’m stuck wondering what Paula was sniffing off Simon’s arm. Matt plays the piano while singing. He goes for the Elton John arrangement of a power ballad. It’s effective for the material. Kara declares him an artist and true talent. She loves him. Paula loves his honesty with his delivery. She thanks Carrie Underwood for letting the kids sing her songs. Simon thinks he outsang Danny and Adam. He references Michael Buble. Randy thinks he’s got it going on. It’s all love for the dueling pianist.

This truly is a hard week to predict winners and losers. Nobody completely flopped on the stage in a painfully embarrassing way. A few figured out how to un-country their material. 

First Class Ticket to the Tour: Matt Giraud, Danny Gokey, Kris Allen & Allison Iraheta.  

Stuck in Coach with the Roadies: Anoop Desai, Adam Lambert, Lil Rounds & Michael Sarver.  

Not Bound for the Road: Megan Joy Corkrey, Alexis Grace & Scott MacIntyre.

Ultimately the choice between our bottom three will come down to one simple fact: How much pity will Megan Corkrey receive from her heartwarming story of fighting the flu to entertain America. Alexis should have been wheeled out in an oxygen tent. At least Alexis won’t have to worry about folks calling her line accidentally getting a phone sex operation. Megan deserves to be booted, but Simon is still fixated on her tattoo. He might even burn the save ticket for her.