JANUARY 18, 2007


Season Three Nashville Star blogger (and full-time music/TV junkie) Lyndsey Parker is back! And she's brought her characteristically strong opinions about this year's show with her. Whether you agree with her or not, you've got to admire her enthusiasm.

Hey, everyone. Thanks for returning to read my second blog after my War & Peace-length, three-part manifesto last week. There was a lot of ground to cover for episode 1 -- new contestants, new judges, new co-hostess, plus I'd drank a LOT of Red Bull that night -- but this week I'm going to try to keep it short and (semi)sweet for those of you who suffer from computer-related eye strain and/or have actual lives...

All right, so seven sad days have passed and I am just about over my loss -- the loss of my fave also-ran Tim "LaRock" LaRoche, that is, who got the boot last week. Thank you all for your flowers and letters of condolence, they really helped. I admit I still harbor some resentment over the fact that viewers never got the chance to vote for Tim (as are many LaRock fans, judging from this week's messageboard activity), plus I'm a little bummed that after Tim's ousting, there's no "maverick" contestant this year. I mean, without Tim, who'll be the Natasha Valentine, the Jody Evans, the Matt Lindahl of season 5? Those eccentric underdog types always keep things interesting. And they always get my vote. But hey, I need to move on already, before I exceed my newly mandated word-count.

All right, so tonight's show has begun, my popcorn is popped, my laptop is fired up, and I'm ready to blog. But before I dole out my perhaps unsolicited opinions on the remaining eight finalists, it's time to get reacquainted with a familiar face: former Nashville Star finalist and this evening's special guest performer, Miranda Lambert. Her appearance offers some hope to this season's contenders -- even the hapless one who'll get sent home tonight -- because she's proof that even when you lose, sometimes you win. Like American Idol's Clay Aiken, Chris Daughtry, and Jennifer Hudson, Miranda's career hardly ended when her Nashville Star tenure did; in fact, she's the show's biggest success story so far.

And I'm personally digging this song she's belting out, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." Oh, not that I can relate to the subject matter personally or anything like that. Cough. But it's a good woman-scorned anthem, and wow, she sure is a looker, isn't she? Who did this gal lose to again? Buddy Somethingorother? Guess it doesn't matter. She's undoubtedly a winner now. And her band is probably the only band in existence that features both a gray-haired banjo player and a dude with a mohawk. Nope, you don't see that every day. That's pretty nifty.

Hey, speaking of my eyes deceive me, or is that Bo Bice cheering in the audience? I swear it is. What's he doing in Nashville? Y'know, he ought to make a country album. It'd surely be better than that Goo Goo Dolls-lite crap his label forced him to record last year.

Speaking of Idol stuff (again), I gotta wonder if our hostess with the mostess, Jewel -- who, despite my loudly vocalized misgivings last week, is admittedly doing a pretty good hosting job so far -- wishes she could be as opinionated as she was when she guest-judged on American Idol this week. Sitting alongside Simon, Paula, and Randy this past Tuesday, she had the freedom to come right out and say, "Gee, that pretty much sucked!" But now she must smile benignly and hold her tongue. Must be killing her.

But I digress. How unlike me! It's now time for seven of our finalists to perform, before the unlucky eighth one gets kicked off. And judge Anastasia Brown minces no words, challenging the males with, "I think the girls came out on top last night, so it'll be up to the boys to pull out ahead." Yikes, that's a sexually charged double-entendre if I ever heard one. Good thing this show is on after 10pm!

Which reminds me, it's getting late and I have a day job to get to tomorrow, so here, finally, is my breakdown of the contestants' performances:

Joshua Stevens
Well, last week I made it clear that Josh was not one my faves. Which shows I do not have my finger anywhere near America's pulse, as he is the first finalist called to the stage tonight. I assume this means he got the most votes, so clearly the people have spoken. I must admit Josh wins me over tonight, but not necessarily with his merely adequate performance of Brooks & Dunn's "Ain't Nothing 'Bout You." And it's not with his look, either, because Josh just looks so damn...beige tonight. Khaki vest, earth-tone jeans, golden hair, faux-tanned complexion...he's so monochromatically bland, for a moment I think the color tube on my TV is busted.

Anyhoo, what I do like about Josh tonight is his little pre-performance video segment, in which he takes a yoga class to improve his breathing technique. His ability to maneuver into a pretzel-like lotus position is undeniably impressive, and hey, it's rare for a man in country music to be so willing to get in touch with his feminine side like that. But I should've known, looking at Joshua flat-ironed coif, that he'd probably have no problem with such fouffy matters. Anyway, he also score points with me for admitting that he was a saxophone-wielding band geek in a previous life. Now, if Josh just takes up judge Blake Shelton's dare to try ballet, he'll be my new fave. Something tells me Josh would look mighty perdy in ballet-slipper pink. More so than in beige, anyway.

Whitney Duncan
The fact that this one made it through is no surprise. After all, what red-blooded heterosexual male viewer wouldn't vote for this fine filly? In her video interview, Whitney announces that she intends to smile more onstage. Heck, if I looked like her, I'd smile all the damn time. Oh, but now I'm reading in her bio that she had heart surgery at age 2 and kidney surgery at 17. Damn, I feel bad now. Here I am, assuming she's led this cushy life of back-to-back beauty-pageant and homecoming-queen victories, when actually she's had her share of hard knocks (knockout looks notwithstanding). No wonder she doesn't smile all the time.

Anyway, she takes the stage and -- now, I don't want to go into too much in-depth fashion critique here, since Jeannie Mai is already doing such a fab job of that elsewhere on this site, but -- what in gawd's name is Whitney wearing? That patchwork denim outfit really ain't working for her. She looks like a cast member from an off-off-off-Broadway production of Hair. And you know, she still ain't smiling! But maybe she's just pissed that the show's stylist put her in that outfit. I certainly would be. Whit's performance of Don Williams' "Tulsa Time" is a bit underwhelming -- she did better last week -- but I give her props for strumming that low-slung guitar. She looks cool with it dangling around that swanlike neck of hers; who cares if she's only been playing guitar for nine months? But if she expects to stay in this race, she needs to stop relying on her looks (I know she'd deny that she's doing any such thing, but I can't shake the feeling that she is); keep refining her guitar skills; and, yes, smile more.

David St. Romain
Again, last week this guy did not impress me. I can't pinpoint why, but he bugged me. But this week, it's a whole different story. He's wise to ditch the guitar (he doesn't look as cool playing it as Whitney does), and his choice of tune, the Billy Currington ballad "Doin' Something Right," showcases this nice smoky quality to his voice that I completely missed last week. And doesn't mention his baby and hottie wife once, which is refreshing. (I'm sorry if I sound like I possess a heart of granite, but that mush got old after about 30 seconds.) So yeah, I'm digging David a lot more tonight.

I think Blake does too, although he seems conflicted. He says, "I've got a problem. Since I can remember, I've liked girls...but the way you sang that something, I felt something!" Wow, David is responsible for making Blake question his he must be doing something right! My one piece of advice to Dave is to lay off those zany Saints football chants -- when you break into one of those onstage tonight, you seem positively deranged, and poor Jewel looks frightened for her life.

Kacey Musgraves
This is just a textbook case of pairing the wrong singer with the wrong song, period. Kacey is barely 18, and here she is, trying to warble a whiskey-steeped ballad like Hank Williams' "You Win Again." She claims she's been cheated on before, but c'mon. Does that mean the boy she had a crush on asked another cheerleader to go steady instead of her? The high school quarterback checked the "NO" box on one of those "Do you like me?" notes that kids pass in class? What does she know about real down 'n' dirty, Hank-style heartache? Plus, she's wearing a cocktail dress that it looks more suitable for strolling on the Love Boat's Lido Deck circa 1979 than for performing a gritty Hank tune.

Sorry, Kacey, I liked you enough last week, but this week you're in over your pretty little head. And whaddya know, honorable judge Randy Owen agrees, saying, "I'm concerned that song is too mature. I don't think you've lived that song." Poor Kacey seems deflated -- these young ones take rejection hard. But hey, at least she doesn't burst into tears like Rickiejoleen.

Angela Hacker
Yay! I am not even going to attempt to hide the fact that Angie's my fave. And allow me to unabashedly gloat for a minute and point out that when Jewel introduced the contestants at the beginning of the show, my girl Angela got the most applause. There's a reason for that. People identify with Angela. The woman is straight-up real. I hope this show doesn't change her much. When she is shown shopping for some glam, non-Wal-Mart threads (in response to Anastasia's not-so-constructive fashion criticism last week), and she's getting all gussied up in bizarre raccoon coats and rhinestone-cowboy Nudie suits, I'm thinking, what the fudge? Just be yerself, Ange.

Thankfully, that is precisely what she does tonight, wrapping her raspy voice around the Linda Ronstadt classic "When Will I Be Loved?" When she croons couplets about being cheated and mistreated, I believe her. I hear the pain in her voice. And that's the difference between Angela and Kacey tonight. This woman has lived, and it hasn't always been a shiny happy life. The judges sure appreciate this: Anastasia says Angela "fills a void in country music," and Blake is grateful that she's brought back the "man feeling" that David St. Romain's sexually stirring performance recently stole from him. That's a compliment, I think. So, when will you be loved, Angela? That's a silly question. Hell, you already are!

Zac Hacker
Man, is it just me or is there is something so Taylor Hicks-ish about this guy? He's just so damn likable. I want to pinch his chubby cheeks. Plus, he's got soul -- you can really hear it tonight now that he's chosen a ballad, Earl Thomas Conley's "Once In A Blue Moon." And a talent like this comes along once in a blue moon, indeed. Zac is quickly gaining ground on his big sis Angela. This sibling rivalry is heating up.

OK, a quick break to reflect on the final two contestants on the chopping block, Dustin Wilkes and Meg Allison. First of all, I cannot resist another fashion critique right now. Is Meg going to be a bridesmaid in a wedding immediately after this show taping? Does she have a cotillion or prom to rush off to? How else to explain that floor-length gown? It's just so inappropriate, and as Meg sits awaiting her fate, already looking bummed as if she assumes she's getting cut, that dress makes her look like a girl sitting alone at the high school dance without a date. Not a good look, Meg. She seems to think she is already going home. Sadly, she's probably right. I love Meg -- I think she has maybe the best voice out of all the females this year -- but she her lack of confidence and city-girl pedigree don't exactly make her a crowd favorite. Not over a Marine like Dustin, anyway...

But then Cowboy Troy opens the envelope containing the name of tonight's reject...and SURPRISE! Meg is staying, and Dustin is the one to go. Guess the voting public didn't take the slogan "Support Our Troops" too literally. Dustin looks shocked. It's a true deer-in-headlights moment. I'm a tad shocked as well. I thought Dustin would stick around longer -- the whole Marine thing should have given him an edge, plus I thought he was one of last week's stronger male vocalists. But that's the crazy world of reality TV for ya. And so, without further ado, it's on to Meg's performance...

Meg Allison
Meg isn't winning me over just yet. Aside from her aforementioned fashion faux pas, I'm annoyed by the fact that throughout her video interview, she prominently and surely not coincidentally holds a supersized soda cup from Nashville Star sponsors Sonic. Gee, that wasn't obvious. Why don't you just put her in a Sonic T-shirt and shove a burger in her mouth and be done with it? But...then Meg performs.

First of all, she's improved massively in the last week: Her amazing voice (Anastasia calls it "special") is still like buttah, but now, from seemingly out of nowhere, she's got oodles of confidence, too. And second, I give her major props for her supercool song choice, "Oh Atlanta" by Alison Krauss. Meg performed a Patsy Cline classic last week, so with this tune she is perhaps shaping up to be the season 5 "maverick" I so desperately longed for. Too bad Randy didn't like the tune (which he admits he's never heard before), advising Meg to sing songs with greater mainstream appeal. Now, I never though I'd disagree with the wise, wise Randy, but...BOO! Alison Krauss is frickin' awesome. How can anyone not like Alison's songs? Don't listen to Randy, Meg. You just keep doing your thang. You do it so very well.

And then there were seven. Randy said this is the week when people would start picking their favorites -- and who are mine? Angela and Meg, for sure. Thanks for askin'. Hopefully America agrees with me. And if you're wondering who I think will go next week, well, based on tonight's performances, I predict it'll be poor little Kacey. But hey, no worries: That rejection will simply give Kacey the hardscrabble life experience she needs in order to sing with conviction, and then she'll end up launching some Miranda Lambert-style superstar career and we can all say we knew her back when she was just starting out. Stranger things have happened.

But we won't know who's really getting axed until the public votes, so pardon me while I go program Angela's number on my speed-dial. See ya next week, and in the meantime, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the Nashville stars.

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