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- "American Idol" - Top 11 Performs - March 17, 2009
Ryan points out that the ten who make it, make the cut for the summer tour.
In the audience: Randy Travis
Theme:Country music/Grand Ole Opry
Video Package: Info on the Grand Ole Opry. Travis actually visited with the contestants and we get a recap on his career. He thinks it's a strong group.
Contestant #1: Michael Sarver
Video: Michael realizes that there are a lot of words. This makes Randy Travis nervous but he does like how Michael changes up the melody a bit.
Song:"Ain't Going Down 'Til the Sun Comes Up," Garth Brooks
Performance: He's getting all the words but it seems like the concentration required is keeping him from moving with anything other than deliberation. The speed also isn't doing him any favors in terms of pitch. The genre clearly works for him though.
Randy: Thought it was cool and fun but didn't bring out much with his vocal capabilities.
Kara: Liked that we saw some of his personality but she missed the big notes. She was impressed he remembered all the words.
Paula: Thought he was having fun and it made her have fun and that it suited him well.
Simon: Thought country would be good for him too but couldn't understand a single word he was saying. Michael says the "country folks" did. Simon thought it was a bit clumsy and reminds him it's about him coming over a star not a nice guy karaoke singer in a country bar. Michael said if they were all perfect we wouldn't need this show. (He seems a little lippy).
Contestant #2: Alison Iraheta
Video: Alison likes having fun. Randy thinks she's very mature-voiced and tells her to sing it without any goofy dance moves.
Song: "Blame it On Your Heart," Patty Loveless
Performance: She's singing well but she's sort of just aimlessly wandering from side to side of the stage.
Kara: Is starting to think she can sing the alphabet well and really made the song her own.
Paula: Calls it rock solid.
Simon: Thought it was good but a little tuneless in parts but that it seemed like she was struggling to remember the words. She says she wasn't. He says she was verging on precocious. Which he says is good.
Randy: Thought it was dope.
Contestant #3: Kris Allen
Video: Randy Travis thinks he's a strong ballad singer and that he'll do well and that Garth would be proud.
Song:"Make You Feel My Love," Garth Brooks (who heard it from Billy Joel, who knows it's really a Bob Dylan song)
Performance: Seated on a stool he's very tender and vulnerable and earnest. He sounds pleasant. Garth may like it but I wonder what Dylan thinks.
Paula: Is pleasantly surprised by his honest, pure, and vulnerable performance.
Simon: Thought it was terrific. Great song choice and exercise of control. He says that's the first time he thought he had a shot at doing really well in the competition.
Randy: Wonders who knew he had these tender moments, was impressed.
Kara: She says it wasn't even country it was very Kris Allen.
Contestant #4: Lil Rounds
Ryan interviews her on the stools about how much time the contestants spend together. She says they spend a lot of time: cooking, swimming, hot tubbing. She only knows country songs from movies so she's nervous, she says she's going to hold back her r&b vibe.
Video: Randy Travis counsels her to slow it down a little so she can get her riffs and licks in and help her relax and help people understand the words. He's impressed with her pipes.
Song:"Independence Day," Martina McBride
Performance: She's singing fine, it's kind of bland until the chorus when she throws her power onto it, she's having a serious pitch problem though, she's just a little sharp the entire time. It's just average
Randy: Doesn't know, it didn't feel comfortable for him on her. She says she wanted to give it a go and show she could do something other than r&b. They understand but Randy throws out "I Will Always Love You" and Kara "How Do I Live?" as other options that would've suited her better.
Kara: You'd have to be deaf to think she wasn't a good singer but says she missed the big voice too but gives her props for standing her ground.
Paula: Thinks everything is going right for her tonight, vocals and look. She says she should've stuck to one verse and chorus though.
Simon: For him it came over like a wedding singer forced to sing something she didn't want to. She interjects again that she wanted to show something different and he asks if she can speak. (Enough backtalk already. Oy.) He thought it just wasn't her.
Contestant #5: Adam Lambert
On the stools Adam says Randy Travis was quite the gentlman mentor.
Video: Was nervous about country week. Randy Travis is thrown for a loop by Adam's nutty arrangement and gives Adam points for uniqueness. He's also taken aback by a man wearing nail polish, but gosh he thinks he's real nice and can sing well.
Song: "Ring of Fire," Johnny Cash (Adam's found a Middle Eastern arrangement).
Performance: It's all slithery and serpentine, sounding something like what Cher might do to the song during a hookah sketch on her show in the '70s. And then he takes it into the stratosphere. Crazy overwrought and I predict the judges will adore it.
Kara: She thought it was all a little strange, enjoyed the drama and his smoldering eyes. It was strange but she liked it, she's confused but happy.
Paula: Thinks he's true to himself as an artist. She loved it and thought it felt like Zeppelin's "Kashmir." She expects more great things from him.
Simon: What he thinks Randy was trying to say was what the hell was that? He tells him to not go to Nashville. Adam says he has no plans to. He calls it indulgent rubbish and horrific.
Randy: Thinks the greatest thing about it was that it was like Nine Inch Nails doing a country song. He thinks it was current, young, fresh, and hot.
Contestant #6: Scott MacIntyre
Video: Randy Travis initially thought this was a bad choice for him. He thinks vocally he sounded fine but wanted to Scott to pick up the tempo a little. He says Scott was the most surprising of the contestants and will do fine.
Song: "Wild Angels," Martina McBride
Performance: He's gotten a much needed haircut. He's making this sound like a Bruce Hornsby song, it's still too slow, and he's struggling with the lowest notes in his register. He sounds fine but it's boring. He picks it up at the end and the band kicks in but it's unclear why he chose this route for the arrangment.
Paula: Thought it was impressive and lovely. She thinks the piano may be a bit of a crutch in that it separates him from the audience and they need to see him as a bit of a showman. He jokes they can move it closer.
Simon: Thinks it's stupid for Paula to say that and points out that people like Elton John always sit behind a piano. She argues that she just wants him to mix it up. He thinks the performances were similar because the songs were and that they haven't allowed him to be emotional. Scott says he's lost a lot of hat picks. (How does he really know that??) Simon says he's choosing songs that are going over his head and are forgettable
Randy: Says it's not the songs he's choosing it's that he's missing the hot vocals instead of the nice stuff he's giving them.
Kara: She says that what they're all saying is he needs to up his game but that he brings class and poise to the stage.
Contestant #7: Alexis Grace
Video: It was an easy transition for her and she wants to show America her softer side. Randy Travis thought it was great and that Alexis knows how to tell a story. He thinks Dolly will be proud.
Song: "Jolene," Dolly Parton
Performance: It starts in a weird place for her vocally and she seems to bounce around in a feathery place and a more powerful place. She's had her hair styled to actually look a bit like Dolly. It's all a little odd and unwieldy.
Randy: Thought there were a bunch of pitch problems and didn't care for how she tried to bend it to her bluesy ways. Good song choice, not so good performance. She says she wanted to put her own flavor on it. (Sigh.)
Kara: Thinks she lost her edge a bit and that it was a little flat and wished she'd sung a sassy Carrie Underwood song like "Last Name" or "Before He Cheats."
Paula: Thinks it was more effective than Randy and Kara thought and that she told a story. She enjoyed the vulnerability and doesn't care about pitch problems. That soft side is what she wanted to show Alexis says.
Simon: Thought it was okay and a little bit soundalike and forgettable. (She didn't understand soundalike at first and hopes it wasn't forgettable and should officially stop talking.) Like Scott before her - who promised he would keep playing the piano until he didn't- Alexis promises to go back to what the judges like if America brings her back.
Contestant #8: Danny Gokey
Video: Randy Travis made Danny nervous and he goofs up the song repeatedly. ravis is worried for Danny but thinks when he does a good job he has an impressive soulfulness.
Song: "Jesus Take the Wheel," Carrie Underwood
Performance: The beginning is a little flat and listless and the white jacket he's rocking is awful. He predictably kills the chorus, even if it's a little shouty. And then there are some pitch issues but he's very passionate. The crowd gives him a huge ovation.
Kara: Says when he hits his stride he's like none other. She didn't care for the front half of the song.
Paula: She disagrees in the sense that she likes an artist to tell a story and that if he was always at 11 they would get bored. She thought he was brilliant and Carrie Underwood would pay money to buy the record.
Simon: Agrees with Paula and that the song requires light and shade and he can't scream it from the beginning. His problem is with what he's wearing since he looks like he's going on some polar expedition.
Randy: He agrees with Kara that he didn't support the verses enough but that he's a great singer.
Contestant #9: Anoop Desai
Video: Randy Travis was skeptical but his doubts melted away when Anoop got into the first lines and he thinks people will rethink his capabilities as a singer.
Song: "You Were Always On My Mind," Willie Nelson
Performance: Starts tenderly and eyelash fluttery with just piano accompaniment. The violin seeps in and he does some nice sincere work. It's nicely understated with a little vocal riffing.
Paula: Thinks Anoop is back. She's very proud of his song choice. He touched her heart.
Simon: Thinks he managed to go from zero to hero and says it was a good choice of song. It was one of his favorite performances of the whole night. He commends him for taking a beating last week without whining and says he takes back what he said about Anoop not deserving to be there.
Randy: He says this is the reason they wanted him in the competition, his vocal skills. He liked the arrangement as well.
Kara: Says that song is untouchable and what he did was amazing and that it was the best performance because it was the biggest surprise.
Contestant #10: Megan Corkrey
Video: Randy Travis was skeptical but he thought Megan's version was totally unique.
Song: "Walking After Midnight," Patsy Cline
Performance: She looks cute and sparkly with her make-up. Her vocal is okay but a little tremulous and feels a little affected in places. She's also fighting the urge, and losing, to do her side-by-side shimmy. (Fashion wise her dress makes her look pregnant and her sleeve tattoo is jarring against it.) It's a good choice for her though and she has some nice spots.
Randy: He was quite impressed, not the train wreck he was expecting and thought it was the perfect choice for her.
Kara: Thinks it was a perfect song and a perfect look and that she's a winner to get up in front of 30 million people and sing with the flu.
Paula: Calls her a fighter and lets us know she went to the hospital and missed the run through. She tells her to keep being sick because she was fantastic.
Simon: Thinks she should have the flu every week since she was better this week than last and thinks she looks gorgeous except overly made-up, like she's going to the prom.
Contestant #11: Matt Giraud
Video: Randy Travis was skeptical of his song choice until Matt started singing it with his soulful voice.
Song: "So Small," Carrie Underwood
Performance: He sits at the piano. It starts at a weird place for him vocally too. It's within his range easily it's just not a spot that sounds real pleasing. The band kicks in and he kicks it up a notch. He sounds fine, it just never, for me, seems to settle into a totally comfortable place.
Kara: Says there's nothing small about him and that he's an artist, a true talent, and his heart pours out, she loves him.
Paula: Loves the authenticity of his delivery and thinks he's piercing people's hearts.
Simon: Thinks he's underrated vocally in the competition and thinks he outsang Danny tonight. Matt reminds him of Michael Buble and calls it one of the best performances of the night.
Randy: It was his favorite performance of the night and thinks it's great he can be compared between two such stylistically different singers as Buble and Justin Timberlake.