FEBRUARY 2, 2007
JUDGES CHOOSE, CONTESTANTS LOSE
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.
Well, this was the week we'd all been waiting for -- the week when the finalists' fate was thrust into the grubby little hands of Nashville Star's judges, who were solely in charge of choosing the songs for this make-or-break episode.
No doubt the contestants fretted like crazy during the past seven days, fearing the worst. Would a vindictive Anastasia Brown force respiratorily challenged Joshua Stevens to sing all 87 or so bars of "Bohemian Rhapsody," just to be mean? Would troublemaker Blake Shelton make Meg Allison do an Alison Krauss B-side, just to get Randy Owen's goat? Would David St. Romain, who's admitted that guitar playing ain't his strong suit, be required to play the entire 12-minute solo of "Free Bird"? Who knew what was in store for these poor guys?
Anyway, I too spent my between-blog downtime contemplating this all-important issue of song selection. I kept imagining that Anastasia and company were no doubt relishing their sudden surge in power (after all, I remember their barely concealed delight when they used their power to send Tim LaRoche and Rickiejoleen packing in week 1). And I couldn't help but be, well, a little envious. I mean, I certainly would love to be in their position. And that got me thinking...what if I got to choose who sang what? What would my song picks be? Hmmm...
Now, it'd be all too easy for me to suggest normal country songs for these folks. But that's not very creative, is it? No, if it were up to me, I'd give 'em a real challenge, something that'd separate the amateurs from the pros: I'd have the finalists take non-country songs and "countrify" them, make them truly their own. You know, just like Jack Ingram covering Hinder's stadium-rock power ballad "Lips Of An Angel," Mark Chesnutt singing Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing," Johnny Cash reinterpreting Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt," or the Dixie Chicks doing Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide." Any contestant who managed to pull that off would definitively prove that he/she could sing just about anything; and hey, if a contestant failed, at least it'd make for an amusing, YouTube-ready trainwreck, right?
Therefore, I put together the following wishlist of unexpected songs I personally would've chosen for each contestant. My choices may seem a bit insane, but I swear, there is a method to my madness. I guess, as Ricky Ricardo would say, I have some 'splaining to do. So let's compare and contrast my song selections with the judges' choices now...
MY CHOICE: Elvis Presley, "Burning Love"
JUDGES' CHOICE: Montgomery Gentry, "Something To Be Proud Of"
In my blog last week, I explored some of the juicier conspiracy theories I saw posted on the Nashville Star messageboard, but there was one I didn't get around to writing about: that the Hackers are supposedly distant relatives of the King himself. I'm not really sure about that, but after watching Zac cut loose in a rhinestone-festooned Vegas jacket to "Memphis Women & Chicken" last week, I wouldn't be surprised if this rumor was true. So I thought it'd be a kick to see Zac tear it up with a real raucous Elvis number.
Sadly, 'twas not meant to be. Instead, Randy mandated that Zac sing a ho-hum Montgomery Gentry tune. Zac wasn't thrilled about the choice, and Randy subsequently wasn't thrilled about Zac's supposed attitude. But I think the judges were overreacting a bit. OK, more than a bit. C'mon, it wasn't that bad. It's not like Zac threw a TV out the window or punched a hole in the wall or hit someone over the head with a cell phone or anything like that. He simply got a tad sulky for about 15 seconds, then he got over it and pulled himself up by his bootstraps. Eventually he had a total turnaround and said he finally connected with the song, but oddly, the judges opted not to mention that. I wonder why?
Anyway, I think Zac did the best he could with what he had to work with. Unfortunately, I don't know if his best was quite good enough this week. His lack of enthusiasm did come through in his somewhat lackluster performance; there was little of the Hacker swagger from last week, at least not until the song's climax, when he finally belted it out in a way that would've made Elvis himself proud. I'm just hoping Zac's shaky start, combined with his "attitude problem," doesn't hurt him in this week's voting round. (I'm telling you, Zac, you should've done the Elvis song. You would've brought the house down.)
MY CHOICE: Justin Timberlake, "Cry Me A River"
JUDGES' CHOICE: Alabama, "I'm In A Hurry"
OK, in past blogs, I have admittedly made several boy-band references regarding Josh, whether it's about his snazzy stylist-appointed wardrobe, his impeccably moussed coiffure, or his lilting vocals. So who better for him to cover than the ultimate boy-bander-turned-credible artiste, ex-*NSYNC heartthrob Justin? Really, I'm being serious here. "Cry Me A River" is in fact a classic you-done-me-wrong breakup ballad in the same vein as many cry-in-yer-beer country tearjerkers, and since I think Josh definitely shines brightest when he's singing five-hanky weepers (like the lovely Vince Gill number he did last week), I can really imagine him working some magic with this maudlin tune. Plus, let's be honest, the girlies would totally swoon for it.
Apparently the judges didn't want to see Josh bring sexy back to Nashville Star, but I think he did an all right job with the Alabama tune he was stuck with instead -- especially since it's such a difficult, breathless song to power through. Seems like all those breathing techniques he learned a couple weeks ago in yoga class worked. Namaste, Joshua. You did good.
David St. Romain
MY CHOICE: Hall & Oates, "Family Man"
JUDGES' CHOICE: The Doobie Brothers, "Listen To The Music"
Now, I've given Dave a hard time about his constant fawning over and babbling about his white-hot wife and infant daughter. But I suppose I should cut the guy a break; his daughter was only born a few weeks ago, which means he's still in that gooey-brained, new-parent stage when he probably thinks every detail about his baby is utterly fascinating and assumes everyone is clamoring to see his accordion-folded walletful of baby pictures. My point is, he's a proud family man right now, but what will happen if he wins Nashville Star and has to go out on the road for months at a time, where he'll be pursued by sex-starved groupies 24/7? Will he remain a dedicated daddy then, and resist all those scantily clad homewreckers throwing their panties -- and themselves -- at him? Most likely. He know he's got a good thing going, and he wouldn't want to mess it up.
So I believe this monogamy-minded Hall & Oates song (about a married man who is tempted by, but ultimately turns down, a wanton 'n' willing floozy) will surely put his wife's mind at ease and remind all those potential groupies that he's an upstanding, one-woman man. Plus, it's a fun, nervy little song; I could see David totally rocking on it.
Turns out he rocked out on the judges' choice anyway. He really seemed to be having fun with the Doobies tune they gave him. Of course, it was pretty obvious that he'd performed it before, which gave him somewhat of an unfair advantage, and hey, whaddya know, he also didn't have to play guitar. So he was one of the few contestants who actually got a lucky break this week.
MY CHOICE: INXS, "Suicide Blonde"
JUDGES' CHOICE: Dwight Yoakam, "Ain't That Lonely Yet"
I merely chose "Suicide Blonde" because after her dismal performance last week, I was convinced that Whitney had committed career suicide. Oh yeah, and also because she's, well, blonde. After wincing through her dishwater-dull rendition of "The First Cut Is The Deepest" (a Cat Stevens classic that, incidentally, Sheryl Crow quite capably countrified a couple years back), I was sure Whitney would be the one to go this week. Turns out I was wrong -- go figure. Think her looks had anything to do with why she made it through another elimination? Um, could be. Blake even flat-out said this week, "Everyone's talking about how hot Whitney is, but make sure your singing is at that level also." Ouch.
This week was no different -- she looked hot; even Randy said so -- but then she delivered yet another blah performance. To her credit, Whit did seem to make a little extra effort this week; at least this time she didn't stay rooted to one spot on the stage, she worked the crowd, and she even managed to crack a smile or two. But still, it was nothing special. She probably wouldn't have done that INXS song any justice either, come to think of it.
MY CHOICE: Donna Summer, "She Works Hard For The Money"
JUDGES' CHOICE: Barbara Mandrell, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool"
Honestly, I really could've picked a song out of a hat for Ange. Heck, I could have asked her to sing a few pages from the Yellow Pages (or even "Mary Had A Little Lamb," a song she ruefully joked about on this week's show) and she would've made it sound great. I truly believe she is incapable of ruining a song. But I picked this Donna Summer anthem for working-class women because, well, Angela's led a rough life. She's slaved, she's scrimped, she's saved, and she's sacrificed. No doubt she could've really related to this tune's lyrics. Plus, I know Angie has the vocal range to pull off an octave-straddling powerhouse number by a diva like Donna.
Guess that's why Angela was slightly disappointed by the less showy song selected for her this week -- although, once again, I think her reaction was completely over-criticized by the judges. Er, Anastasia telling her that she "needs to be spanked"? What is up with that? I don't get it. Since when did having an opinion equal having a "bad attitude"? Anyhoo, Angela needn't have worried. Turned out she kicked butt on that Mandrell tune. I'm telling ya, the lady can do no wrong. No matter what kind of 'tude she and her brother supposedly have, I'm still a Hacker backer all the way.
And finally, Meg Allison, another one of my faves, got cut this week; sadly, this means she never got to sing whatever song the judges' had planned for her. (However, looking at some of their other song choices this week, perhaps that's a blessing in disguise.) But in case you're curious as to what my choice would've been for Meg, it was Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." Actually, at first I was going to go with Fergie's "Fergalicious" (retitled "Megalicious"), but then I realized that only a pro like Cowboy Troy himself should attempt to mix country and rap. Also, I figured the Fergie song might be a little too PG-13 for a nice family-fare show like Nashville Star. Anyway, my intention was just to get Meg to loosen up, to be a little silly and carefree.
I know Blake said he found her nervousness endearing, but apparently the voting public didn't agree, and it was probably her reserved demeanor that sabotaged her in the end. It certainly couldn't have been her creamy singing voice, which was always pretty darn flawless if you ask me. Sigh...I'm sad to see Meg go, and I do hope this girl goes off to have fun in her career. Hopefully she'll leave the show inspired by this week's performances by the Wreckers (featuring former pop princess Michelle Branch) and Nashville Star's own Jewel, because those crossover acts both prove it's possible to successfully branch (no pun intended) the country and pop worlds. I think that's something Meg is fully capable of, as long as she just lightens up a bit. Then she truly will be Megalicious.
And then there were five. Who do I think will get cut next week? Well, if the voters pay too much attention to the judges' sniping, it might very be Zac. But I really hope not. I do think Whitney is still in danger, perhaps even more so now after delivering two yawn-inducing performances in a row. I think viewers are coming to the realization that it's not enough that Whitney's easy on the eyes; the next Nashville Star has to be easy on the ears as well. So yeah, I'll predict now that Whitney's going down next week. Will I be right this time? You'll have to tune in next week to find out. Until then, keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the Nashville Stars.