Reality Show Recap
Parton Me: 'American Idol' Top Nine Performs
Michael Johns and The Davids are stand-outs
Singer: BROOKE WHITE
My Take: Even Dolly can't deny the honesty of America's Nanny. Strumming the guitar, Brooke doesn't stray very far from the original melody and arrangement of what is -- if I were forced to list such things -- probably my favorite Parton song. I'm not sure she exactly gets the song's tone of melodic regret and pleading -- ain't nobody capable of stealin' Brooke White's man, no suh -- but it's simple and not-unpleasant. One of these weeks, Brooke's going to have to put just a little bit more out there vocally.
Hoss, Little Joe and Simon Say: Randy thinks she could make an album like this, but despite pitch and pacing problems, it was only aight for him. Brooke thanks him sincerely. Paula thinks Brooke has an emotional connection with every song she picks. Brooke sends her a very sweet "Thank you" note and the two women proceed to rave about each other's hair. Simon goes back to the evergreen "busking" analogy, saying he didn't see any connection. Brooke sends him a muffin basket to show there are no hard feelings.
Singer: PRESUMPTIVE AMERICAN IDOL WINNER DAVID [COOK]
Song: "Little Sparrow"
My Take: The producers of American Idol should be embarrassed by how they're letting random websites spell out the terms of a half-hearted controversy about David "The Leader" Cook's borrowing of different arrangements. This is a competition for cover artists and 99 percent of the performances on the show are borrowed from somebody or another. Yes, the artists behind the arrangements should be credited, probably, just so that they can get some benefit, but regardless of what Chris Cornell thinks, he couldn't have gotten any more credit last week than he did. Nobody else is being forced to bend over backward like he is, so David's making a special point of emphasizing that this week's version is all him. Well, mostly it's Dolly, actually. David thinks a bit more of his falsetto than I do, resorting too much to pushing high notes that, by the last one, betray him completely. Still, he makes the song sound contemporary and masculine, which is admirable.
Hoss, Little Joe and Simon Say: You know what Randy loves? He loves David's range. You know what Paula loves? David's haircut. They both rave about his "false," which means they need to listen to the last one on replay. We know that Simon has problems with songs about birds, but even he's enthusiastic.
Singer: RAMIELE MALUBAY
Song: "Do I Every Cross Your Mind"
My Take: Oh, Little Ramiele. You've got so much spunk, but why can't you choose a song that fits your voice properly? By the half-way point this jaunty track gets close, but for the first 30 seconds or so, she's mumbling notes that are much too low for her to enunciate. And that's a third of the song. Do we forget about that just because she sounds fine by the end? I don't. I defy anybody to tell me what this song is about or what its tone is based on Ramiele's performance.
Hoss, Little Joe and Simon Say: Check it out! Randy isn't jumping up and down, but he isn't mad at her either, giving her a 6.5/10. Paula's proud and thinks it was a great minute-and-thirty-seconds. Simon speculates we won't remember this in 10 years.
Singer: JASON CASTRO
Song: "Travelin' Thru"
My Take: Way to go, Jason! I wouldn't necessarily have thought the theme song from a movie about a transgender parent's pre-surgery odyssey could be transformed into something perfect for the next Muppet movie, but there it is. Did the band start out too fast or did Jason on his guitar? There's what seems to be a dramatic tempo swap early on, but maybe that's part of the song? I'm grading Clifford the Muppet on a curve this week because he's been so very, very bad the past two weeks. This week, he's less bad, though the funny faces are still there in spades.
Hoss, Little Joe and Simon Say: Randy figures that by the end of the song Jason worked it out. It was one of Jason's strongest performances for Paula. Simon jeopardizes his season pass to Dollywood by criticizing both the song and performance.
Singer: CARLY SMITHSON
Song: "Here You Come Again"
My Take: I'm a little concerned as Carly starts out, because this is a song I know in a more upbeat version and she's taking it as a big-voice ballad, perfect for shouting. It's actually a nice arrangement because it lets her sing out, but it's low on the bellowing that has sometimes plagued her, though it may ultimately be a bit too muted. I'd have preferred if the song had started slow and then sped up, which might have made it a bit more memorable. Carly's been going with billowing costumes in recent weeks, prompting those pesky pregnancy rumors, but she looks better tonight.
Hoss, Little Joe and Simon Say: Randy's loving Carly again, speculating that it'll be one of the night's best. Paula dubs it "glorious" and raves. Simon goes "good-not-great" and warns her to start looking more like a star. Carly looks genuinely perplexed how to handle that critique.
Singer:[PRESUMPTIVE AMERICAN IDOL WINNER DAVID] ARCHULETA
Song: "Appalachian Memories"
My Take: This is a great and entirely predictable song choice for David. It's a song that can only be performed with the weary, misty eyes of a 17-year-old and that seems to require the sort of been-around-the-block nostalgia best delivered Utah-born stage kid. When I watch him, the artificiality is irksome, but when I only listen, it's clearly his best vocal turn since "Imagine," even if it's the exact same sort of vocal turn as "Imagine." Does that make sense? David does one thing very well and after a couple weeks away, he's doing that one thing again. David Cook may have briefly shaken up the leaderboard last week, but I'd bet Archuleta returns to the top with voters after this one.
Hoss, Little Joe and Simon Say: Randy very quickly has to take back calling Carly the night's best. Paula loves David's glorious aura. "Absolutely on-the-money," Simon says.
Singer: KRISTY LEE COOK
Song: "Coat of Many Colors"
My Take: Last week Kristy told the country that by not supporting her, they may be supporting terrorists. The producers probably signed off on that accusation because otherwise Dolly Parton Week would have gone off without a single genuine country singer. Indeed, her tone is fairly natural on what is not one of my favorite Dolly songs. But while she looks beautiful and sounds in her element, Kristy lacks that thing that people love about Brooke and David Archuleta, where even if they don't really have an emotional connection to the song people believe they do.
Hoss, Little Joe and Simon Say: Randy agrees that this is Kristy Lee Week. Paula calls it her best performance. Simon says it's "pleasant, but forgettable." Kristy blows Simon a kiss.
Singer: SYESHA MERCADO
Song: "I Will Always Love You"
My Take: Syesha takes over for Archuleta in the category of Most Inevitable Song Choice. It's a weird combination of the Dolly and Whitney versions, starting more Dolly and moving into Whitney territory by the end, where she gets to do all of the runs and power notes that Whitney forced upon the song. It don't think those diva notes are as pure as they should be and after the understated start they feel even more out-of-place in Syesha's cover. It would have been smarter for Syesha to have cheated expectations entirely and just done the Dolly version. It isn't quite the showcase, but it's still a beautiful song and nobody can walk away going, "Well it was good, but it wasn't..."
Hoss, Little Joe and Simon Say: Randy thinks she did "pretty good" with what he calls "the biggest tiger of the night." Paula thinks Syesha is growing and growing and growing. Simon's got this one right, saying Syesha would have been better off getting a different and less pre-determined song.
Singer: MICHAEL JOHNS
Song: "It's All Wrong, But It's All Right"
My Take: Which is more surprising: Michael's genuine humility at meeting Dolly or his willingness to keep much of the country edge of this song? The show has tried to make him into an Aussie rocker, but Michael sounds like a fine Southern blues singer tonight and looks comfortable in the role, closing the show well.
Hoss, Little Joe and Simon Say: We're running out of time, so Randy gets out "blazing hot," Paula stutters for a while and Simon gets in "best you've sounded in the competition." Will Ryan's rushed phone number presentation cost Michael? I wonder.
TONIGHT'S BEST: I'd put Michael at the top this week, with the dueling Davids a bit behind and Carly a bit behind that.
IN DANGER: Will Kristy suffer a "We brought you back and this is how you repay us?" let-down this week? Performance-wise, I'd put her in the Bottom Three with Ramiele (she's there every week at this point) and Jason, though after he made an unexpected trip to the Bottom Three last week, though, I can't see the Muppet returning. Figure Ramiele, Kristy and Carly in the Bottom Three.
Agree? Disagree? What'd you think of Dolly Week?
And check out all of our Idol coverage in Zap2it's Guide to American Idol.