Pop Life

Idol Beat: The Top 11

Traditionally, I've concluded the first Idol Beat of any given week with predictions as to who the American Idol judges or viewing public will send home the next night. This week I'm upending that, and predicting that no one will go home. That's right: all eleven of the remaining finalists are safe as houses.

"But how is that even possible," you ask, you cry, you pound the sides of your PC monitor. Well, the judges have that save - they can snatch any contestant from the jaws of elimination - and frankly, nobody utterly blew their deal this week.

"Country Week" on Idol usually puts the more R&B-inclined singers at a distinct disadvantage, forcing them to grapple with a genre they're totally unfamiliar with. Last night, for example, Lil Rounds took on Martina McBride's "Independence Day"; the result was uncomfortable for singer and audience alike, as the Mary J. Blige-ish belter forced her raw pipes into the song's corset-like confines. But she's so universally beloved that even if America threw her the lowest number of votes, the judges can be relied upon to save her. On the other hand, Anoop Desai made spotlight magic with Willie Nelson's "Always on My Mind," redemption for his cheeky, undistinguished run-through of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" the previous Tuesday. He's not going anywhere. To be honest, I've got no clue what the Sarvernator sang, and I don't know that he was pitch-perfect, but he was having such a blast singing it that the country-lovin' voters will likely lock him down.

Danny Gokey opted to sing Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take The Wheel" - yet another instance of Idol hopefuls choosing songs where they can't quite hit the low/mid ranges required to deliver the verses in a non-embarassing way, but gamble the risk is worth it because they can tapdance all over the chorus glory notes (Lil Rounds, we're looking at you). But America loves his backstory, so we've got his back.

I guess what I'm saying is this: if you've got something better to do tonight than catching American Idol, go do it. Knit. Write your parents a letter. Make love to your significant other. Bake a cake, play Guitar Hero, pay your bills. Because all 11 of these 19 Productions wannabes are gonna be right back up on that stage next Tuesday. Mark my words.

Now for a few of the snarky asides you've come to love and expect from Idol Beat:

*Tonight's guest mentor is country legend Randy Travis, who looks like he's ready to exit the wood-framed, window-studded Idol piano room to go rope some cattle or something. When he grins, look out: you're in for an eyefull of gums! (If you fetishize that sort of thing, rest easy; Matt Giraud's not going away anytime soon.)

*Adam Lambert, somehow channeling Bowie, The Crow, and the singer from The London Suede all at once: Best. Johnny Cash. Cover. Ever. I mean, come the fuck on. Egyptian scales? Sitars? That slow simmering smoulder into a raging falsetto inferno build? The delicious pre-sing tension between conservative-as-hell Travis and black nail polish-wearing gay dude Lambert? Let's just hand him the crown and end Season 8 early already.

*Dear Idol hopefuls: please be aware that Garth Brooks and Martina McBride aren't the only country artists who've written hit songs in the last, oh, six decades.

*The most interesting thing about Danny Gokey Tuesday night was that jacket, which was kind of Roland-Hedley-on-North-Pole-assignment. Am I right, or am I right?

*Crazy clapping fans won't shut up after Gokey's performance! Everybody loves Danny Gokey, for reals.

*Alexis Grace sounded like a smacked-out, nasally junkie whenever she wasn't singing, which was weird. When she was singing - Dolly Parton's "Jolene" - she had a lot of trouble making her voice gel with the arrangement; she seemed kinda lost. Will America dock her for that? Nah.

*Also, last week, when I was going on about Bucky Covington sucking eggs when he came back to perform on Idol? Apparently, he never came back to perform on Idol. My memory was playing tricks on me, I guess.

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Ray Cummings