Live Blog: American Idol, Season Eight, Grand Ole Opry Week
It’s country night on American Idol–Grand Ole Opry night, to be exact–and we’ve got you covered with all the real-time commentary you can handle. I’ll be joined this evening by the one and only Ms. Karlie Justus as we witness this year’s “Top 11″
butcher cover Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and Josh Turner.
American Idol has been a major force in country music this decade, and country night is our chance to get a sneak peak at the new talent that may be vying for our attention in the future. So kick back, pop a top and enjoy the festivities with us.
6:57 – Karlie: Hey all! I’m already taking bets on how many times Randy Travis has to just smile and nod. Let’s do this.
7:00 – Jim Malec: I wonder what Kara thinks of Country Night?
7:00 – Karlie: I wonder what songs Ryan is hoping for. Little Jimmie Dickens? Ba dum dum.
7:02 – Jim Malec: I’m personally hoping for a take on Uncle Dave Mason.
7:03 – Jim Malec: Ryan brings up an important point–the Top 10 get to go on the Idol concert tour, which means that surviving tonight is important.
7:03 – Karlie: Since there’s not really a “country contestant” this season, this should be interesting.
7:05 – Karlie: Is it sad that this Grand Ole Opry montage kind of make me feel all mushy inside?
7:04 – Jim Malec: Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn–these are two of the artists AI’s producers choose to open the show with…I wonder how many of songs by those artists we’ll hear?
7:06 – Karlie: Randy is purposely not making eye contact with the contestants.
7:06 – Jim Malec: Who here thinks Randy Travis is actually an avid fan of American Idol?
7:06 – Karlie: “This song is loaded with lyrics.” Nice.
7:06 – Jim Malec: We open with Texan Michael Sarver, doing an unusually melodic take of Garth’s “Ain’t Goin’ Down.” This has the potential to be a train wreck.
7:07 – Jim Malec: This lazy performance is the antithesis of Garth Brooks. And what an awful vocal. I sure hope this is a low point for the evening.
7:07 – Karlie: Grand Ole Opry members don’t wear khaki blazers when performing. Fail.
7:08 – Karlie: I’m out of breath for him.
7:09 – Jim Malec: Randy isn’t digging it. It, like, didn’t like, do it, dawg.
7:10 – Jim Malec: Kara is impressed by the song’s “million” words. May I remind you, she wrote “I Kissed A Girl.”
7:10 – Karlie: Every Garth fan knows every word to that song.
7:11 – Karlie: Oh no. We were just called “country folks.”
7:11 – Jim Malec: I would have liked it better if it was in Norwegian, Simon.
7:12 – Jim Malec: On a scale of 1-10, Simon gives it a 1.2. I give it at least a 2.1.
7:12 – Karlie: When does Randy come back on the screen?
7:13 – Karlie: Of all the contestants, I feel like Michael had the most potential to be “country.” I hope I was wrong.
7:13 – Jim Malec: We’re one song in and on to our first commercial break. Michael apparently thinks us “country folk” like them rambunctious bumpkins, but when will contestants on this show learn that Simon is, essentially, always right? That was bad. Really bad.
7:16 – Jim Malec: Brody, from the comments: In the words of Charles Barkley, who doesn’t really have anything to do with country music — or American Idol — that was turble.
7:15 – Karlie:Ohh, Patty Loveless! I’m pleasantly surprised.
7:17 – Jim Malec: Next up is Alison, singing “Blame It On Your Heart,” by Patty. The preview clip seems to indicate that she’s doing a slowed down, bluesy version. Has potential, she she has a rich voice.
7:17 – Karlie: I’m 95% sure Alison had no idea who Randy Travis was.
7:18 – Jim Malec: …But she decided to Rock it up for the show, and I don’t think it works as well. Her voice is pushing too hard and the character gets washed out.
7:19 – Jim Malec: I feel like this is something I’d see at a shopping mall.
7:19 – Karlie: She nails the emotion behind the song…but I don’t think Alison will ever try a cover album called Loveless Nights anytime in her career.
7:20 – Jim Malec: Maybe so, Karlie, but it was a cheesy performance.
7:22 – Jim Malec: Kara and Paula are fawning. Simon calls it “good” but tuneless in parts. I think he’s being generous with “in parts.” Randy, of course, thinks “it was dope.”
7:20 – Karlie: Alison seems like she’d be a cool girl to hang out with, but comes off awkward in her interviews.
7:22 – Jim Malec: Kris Allen is next with “To Make You Feel My Love.”
7:22 – Karlie: Three singers in, and two Garth songs already.
7:23 – Karlie: Kris manages to keep “To Make You Feel My Love” contemporary. Contemporary, but not country.
7:23 – Jim Malec: Kris is doing this as a slightly slicked-up pop ballad, and it works to and extent. A little screechy in a couple of spots, but I think he has the right idea here–turn a country song into his own style instead of trying too hard to fit a form he would never be comfortable with.
7:25 – Jim Malec: Paula is pleasantly surprised. Simon appears to be sleeping.
7:25 – Karlie: Simon looks like he’s asleep.
7:25 – Karlie: Jinx.
7:26 – Jim Malec: “Terrific,” says Simon. “A great, great, great choice of song.”
7:26 – Karlie: Is Lonestar still looking for a new frontman?
7:27 – Jim Malec: Randy likes those tender moments from his dawg Kris. For real, yo.
7:27 – Karlie: Opryland? Do you think Kara hit it up on her tour de Tennessee, along with Dollywood?
7:28 – Jim Malec: An African-American artist named Lil Rounds is up next, and I’m thinking back to my favorite country night performance when season six contestant Melinda Doolittle pulled out the little-known Julie Reeves’ song “Trouble Is A Woman” and gave it an unforgettable treatment.
7:33 – Jim Malec: Ryan asks the black girl what she thinks about country night. Subtle.
7:33 – Karlie: Lil is from Memphis, and she’s unfamiliar with country music?
7:33 – Jim Malec: Lil Rounds is taking on Independence Day, which is actually a smart choice. Gretchen Peters is a bit of a bluesy writer, and this song has some wiggle room.
7:34 – Karlie: Randy Travis has a PhD in Licks and Riffs.
7:34 – Jim Malec: The track feels copycat, though, and I feel like it’s holding back what could be a killer vocal.
7:35 – Karlie: Was that steel I just heard??
7:35 – Jim Malec: And I don’t really feel like she’s connecting with the urgency of the song. She’s singing this at me, but I don’t think she really gets it.
7:36 – Jim Malec: Despite, as Karlie noted, the steel.
7:35 – Karlie: I agree: She’s definitely holding back on what could have been some serious Martina-style belting. In a good way.
7:37 – Jim Malec: The dawg pound is not happy with Randy, yo. He didn’t think that was comfortable on Lil.
7:37 – Karlie: On the AI Web site, Lil said her favorite male artist is Anthony Hamilton, who had a song out with Josh Turner.
7:38 – Jim Malec: You know Paula didn’t like it, because she’s complimenting the singer’s outfit.
7:39 – Jim Malec: Does anyone else notice that Paula’s upper lip is wet?
7:38 – Karlie: “It sounds like you’re singing at a wedding and someone requested that song.” Simon just nailed it.
7:40 – Jim Malec: Simon thinks she should have done a “John Montgomery” song.
7:41 – Karlie: That should be a warning to anybody who takes on a song so closely related with its original singer. That is A Martina Song.
7:41 – Jim Malec: The next singer’s last name is Lambert. Sadly, there is no relation, but Adam did a hell of a take on Michael Jackson last week in what was one of the best AI performances I’ve ever seen.
7:42 – Karlie: Bets on what he’s going with tonight? I’m going with Trisha Yearwood or Dolly Parton.
7:45 – Jim Malec: If he doesn’t sing Dolly I’ll be shocked.
7:45 – Karlie: Oh Randy. Stand your ground.
7:46 – Jim Malec: Adam is doing “Ring of Fire.” With a Middle Eastern flare. Randy says he’s scared.
7:46 – Karlie: “I don’t even know what to say about this boy.” Quote of the night.
7:47 – Jim Malec: Oh lord.
7:47 – Jim Malec: Actually, it’s kinda cool. Blasphemous. But cool.
7:47 – Karlie: I feel like I’m watching Will Ferrell on Funny or Die.
7:48 – Jim Malec: In fact, I like it better as it goes on. It’s very eccentric, and that’s what pop is supposed to be.
7:49 – Jim Malec: You know, I loved that. I actually loved that.
7:49 – Jim Malec: Kara thinks that was country.
7:49 – Karlie: “So, Adam does country music.” – Kara. Wrong.
7:51 – Jim Malec: Wait, has Paula stopped babbling yet?
7:49 – Karlie: I got a Beatles vibe from that. Mad props to Adam for making it his own, although I’m with Randy on this one.
7:51 – Jim Malec: I do agree with Simon that it was indulgent. But horrific? Simon’s wrong on that.
7:52 – Jim Malec: I don’t think pop music is indulgent enough these days. No one is taking chances. That was strange and weird, and probably offensive to most of our readerships sensibilities…but it will be remembered. And that counts for something.
7:52 – Karlie: Is it sad that AI has been infinitely more country than any episode of Nashville Star, even though all of these contestants have said themselves they’ll never pursue a country music career?
7:57 – Jim Malec: The next performer is a guy singing a piano-ballad version of “Wild Angels.”
7:57 – Karlie: Come on Randy: Share that wisdom!
7:57 – Karlie: Scott seemed like the first contestant who was appropriately awed enough to be in Travis’ presence.
7:58 – Jim Malec: This is a little too “hotel lounge” for me, but the guy has talent. And…cue the lights. Now things are just going crazy. This performance went from OK to awful pretty fast.
8:02 – Jim Malec: I love it when Simon and Paula have a lover’s spat.
8:00 – Karlie: I wasn’t surprised at all he chose a Martina song. Martina: 2, Garth: 2
8:02 – Jim Malec: Randy Jackson likes it hot and crazy. Remember that, everyone.
8:03 – Jim Malec: Scott looks like future Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford.
8:03 – Karlie: Scott just said “Back at the Mansion.” Is AI planning a Girls Next Door week, with songs containing the word “p-i-m-p”?
8:05 – Jim Malec: Juli, from the comments: I can’t wait until Hank III night on American Idol.
8:06 – Jim Malec: Don’t forget, Country Universe is Live Blogging tonight, as well.
8:06 – Karlie: Alexis Grace is also from Memphis, so this should be a bluesey rendition of a country song. Or “Maybe it Was Memphis,” please?
8:08 – Jim Malec: Alexis has a cool voice when she’s not pushing too hard. Karlie’s right–”Maybe It Was Memphis” could be a good choice for her.
8:09 – Jim Malec: According to Alexis Grace, all southerners like country music.
8:10 – Jim Malec: She’s doing “Jolene.” Randy Travis calls it “perfect.”
8:10 – Karlie: Wow. Randy Travis just told you that was great. It’s all downhill from there.
8:10 – Karlie: This sounds too old-fashioned, even for me.
8:11 – Jim Malec: Alexis is channeling more Blues than Lil Rounds. This is good, but there’s something about her voice that irks me at points. I feel like she’s not a refined singer.
8:12 – Jim Malec: But when she’s on she’s on. This is a solid ending. This performance got much better as it went on.
8:13 – Karlie: Kara thinks “Last Name” is angsty. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.
8:13 – Jim Malec: Simon loves Dolly, he’s about to unleash his wrath.
8:14 – Jim Malec: Or not. Simon calls it “sound alike.”
8:15 – Jim Malec: Coming up next is Carrie Underwood from Danny Gokey. I can hardly wait.
8:16 – Karlie: The E*Trade baby/webcam commercial is the most entertaining performance I’ve seen so far.
8:19 – Jim Malec: I don’t know Karlie, I was excited about the Wolverine trailer.
8:18 – Karlie: That’s how I would sing in front of Randy Travis as well.
8:20 – Jim Malec: That’s what I was just typing, Karlie.
8:21 – Jim Malec: This guy looks like a younger, more stylish version of Gary LeVox.
8:21 – Karlie: Jim, you’re being silly. No one is more stylish than Gary.
8:22 – Jim Malec: I wasn’t just talking about product, Karlie.
8:22 – Karlie: I’m really enjoying this. This would be huge on contemporary Christian charts.
8:22 – Jim Malec: OK, so Danny can sing power notes. Paula is going to flip over this. But the verse was just bad.
8:23 – Jim Malec: I think Kara is reading my comments on her iPhone or something…I just said that.
8:24 – Karlie: Brady, from the comments: “Here comes Danny.” That sounds like a horror movie tagline.
8:26 – Jim Malec: OK, who else is excited to see that kid from Slumdog Millionaire sing country?
8:27 – Jim Malec: Seriously though, Anoop looks like that kid. And by the way, how did he survive after last week’s horrid take on “Beat It?”
8:26 – Karlie: Anoop in the house. He lives right down the road from me. Will he redeem himself after last week’s atrocious “Beat It”?
8:31 – Jim Malec: Anoop is taking on Willie.
8:31 – Karlie: Uh-oh. I saw Willie on Sunday. Not sure how I’ll feel about this.
8:32 – Jim Malec: I feel like Anoop is really connecting on “Always on my Mind.”
8:33 – Jim Malec: The arrangement bothers me. I feel like this lost some steam in the middle, but he sounds great.
8:33 – Karlie: Best song so far tonight…he makes it “current,” if I may throw around the judges’ favorite new buzzword.
8:34 – Jim Malec: Paula declares that “Anoop is back.”
8:34 – Karlie: Matt C., from comments: Is it just me, or is this not only the first American Idol without a “country” singer but also the first one without a hottie?
8:35 – Jim Malec: Simon loved it. “From zero to hero.”
8:36 – Karlie: Randy disagrees with Jim on the arrangement.
8:36 – Jim Malec: Anoop Dawg? Is he related to Snoop Dog?
8:36 – Karlie: I’m going to offer Randy J. some Mean Girls advice: Stop trying to make “Anoop Dog” happen.
8:36 – Jim Malec: I liked the arrangement, I just thought it fell apart in the middle, like the vocal got caught in a valley between two peaks.
8:41 – Jim Malec: Next up in Megan Joy singing “Walking After Midnight.” Randy Travis is skeptical, but calls it “totally unique.”
8:41 – Karlie: Randy says: “Ummm. Okay.”
8:42 – Karlie: The most country arrangement so far. It’s like coming home to an old friend.
8:42 – Jim Malec: Last week, Megan did a bizarre, showy cover of “Rockin’ Robin.” This reminds me of that a bit–what’s with all the weirdness on stage? This is just a strange performance.
8:43 – Jim Malec: But Karlie’s right–it was cool musically.
8:43 – Karlie: Well. She looks great.
8:45 – Jim Malec: Apparently, Megan has had a terrible case of the flu. She’s coughing on stage. The judges loved this.
8:45 – Karlie: Yeah, I feel like there were some pity coughs in there.
8:46 – Karlie: OK, commercial break poll: If you had one shot at this, what song would you pick to sing?
8:48 – Jim Malec: Since we’re on commercial break (thanks Karlie), don’t forget to check out The 9513’s New American Voices Tour featuring Rodney Hayden and Drew Kennedy.
8:50 – Jim Malec: And we’re back with Matt, who looks like Justin Timberlake, singing “So Small.”
8:51 – Karlie: I like how Randy just danced around telling Matt that was a horrible choice.
8:52 – Jim Malec: I have to say, I like this. It’s kind of gritty–as gritty as you’re going to get with a Carrie song.
8:52 – Karlie: I agree–this comes across as much less safe than Carrie’s version.
8:53 – Jim Malec: It’s like a cross between the lead singer of The Fray and Justin Timberlake covering Carrie. And it really worked.
8:53 – Karlie: Except for the end, where it sounded like he was in pain.
8:54 – Jim Malec: Kara calls it “Amazing.” Paula babbles something that makes no sense.
8:54 – Karlie: Answers from poll: “I Never Go Around Mirrors,” “Knoxville Girl.” I’ll add on “I’ll Leave This World Loving You.”
8:55 – Jim Malec: And that’s all folks. Here comes the recap.
8:56 – Karlie: All in all, better than I anticipated. Not sure it’s the image I’d most like to put out there regarding country music and the Grand Ole Opry, but not too shabby.
8:59 – Jim Malec: I’m not sure I agree with you, Karlie, that it was better than I expected…but it was more interesting than I expected. We saw some actual attempts at artistry tonight. And in that sense, I feel like this is a pretty unique AI cast.
8:59 – Brady: I couldn’t leave Anoop out.
8:59 – Karlie: Agreed: more interesting is a better choice of words.
8:59 – Jim Malec: Thanks for tuning in everyone. You can keep this conversation going in the comments over the coming days. Be on the lookout for our upcoming ACM Awards liveblog, as well as our continued daily coverage of country music.
9:00 – Jim Malec: I’d also like to thank Karlie, and congratulate her on an awesome first Live Blog.
9:01 – Karlie: My pleasure, it was a blast. Now excuse me, I’m off to listen to Pam Tillis sing “Maybe It Was Memphis.”
9:03 – Jim Malec: ‘Till next time everyone–keep on keepin’ it country.
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