The nine remaining contestants on "American Idol" Tuesday night welcomed talented country singer and songwriter Dolly Parton to the stage. Though a household name to many, the contestants seemed to find it difficult to fully connect with a song. Maybe it was the county theme that tripped up many, or maybe it was that Dolly Parton's songs are not among the most familiar to today's generation. Even the judges, particularly Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell, fell victim to the twang and giddiness of the country selections, criticizing nearly every performer who took to the stage. Whatever the reason, each performer gave it their all Tuesday night in order to keep their spot in the competition.
Jason Castro sang "Traveling Through" that resembled nothing more than Simon's overused label "cruise ship cabaret." While I personally haven't been a fan of Jason's from the beginning, it's obvious his talent is limited only to the guitar and safe songs. His endearing stage presence seems to be his saving grace each week and once again, and Jason Castro earned a spot in the next round.
David Cook took his own route with a unique rock-like version of "Little Sparrow" complete with his own arrangement. Unlike Carly Smithson's version of the Beatles' "Blackbird," Simon seemed to enjoy this particular song about a bird and gave David Cook valuable feedback.
Kristy Lee Cook's performance of "Coat of Many Colors" and Ramiele Malubay's version of "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind" were both decent, but teetered on the edge of boring. While Kristy's biggest setback is her song choices, Ramiele never felt the need to move around on stage during her performances. After finally gaining the courage to try a different style, it arrived too little, too late.
Brooke White's take on "Jolene" was obviously not her best performance ("Let It Be" anyone?), but featured unique characteristics such as the band and the implementation of the guitar rather than the piano. While not among America's favorite performances, America kept the sweet singer around for another week.
Syesha Mercado gave a jaw-dropping performance of "I Will Always Love You" that was absolutely incredible. Despite Simon criticizing that "it paled in comparison" to Whitney Houston's rendition, I am firm in my belief that her performance was with out a doubt the best of the night. While it's usually an unwritten rule to not sing songs by Whitney Houston and Celine Dion, Syesha was confident enough in her talent to take such a risk. Hopefully Simon reviews Tuesday night's performances once more and eventually gives Syesha the credit she deserves.
Carly Smithson took on the slow ballad "Here You Come Again" and proved her voice is one of the best in the entire competition. While it may have been a risky choice to sing a slow song, Carly pulled it out and moved on to next week's round.
What else is left to say about David Archuleta? While he may not give spectacular performances each and every week, he sure does blow away the competition regardless of his song choices or forgotten lyrics. While his Tuesday night's performance of "Smokey Mountain Memories" featured several strained and pitchy notes, David easily took a song written for a woman's voice and effortless turned it into his own. As Simon stated, he was "right on the money." My favorite, America's favorite, who doesn't adore David Archuleta?
After his stellar performance of "It's All Wrong, But It's All Right," Michael Johns made evident his progress throughout his journey on "American Idol." Simon fully supported my opinion by stating it was one of the best songs he had heard him sing this far. America agreed and kept Michael Johns in the running for the coveted "American Idol" title.
Thursday's elimination segment continued the country theme with "The Next Great American Band" winners The Clark Brothers singing their own rendition of "This Little Light of Mine." "American Idol" also caught up with former contestants in Tennessee such as Bucky Covington, Phil Stacey and Bo Bice. While Bucky and Phil recorded their first albums, Bo found himself in the hospital enduring an intestinal surgery. After a two-month healing process, Bo started his own record company, recorded his own album and was even blessed with a son. After the former contestant update, Dolly Parton, looking like a glittery snow bunny, rounded out the evening with her newest single "Jesus and Gravity" from her upcoming album Backwards Barbie.
Brooke White, Ramiele Malubay and Kristy Lee Cook, ironically all roommates, found themselves in the bottom three that evening. While I do not believe Brooke should have been part of the lowest votes, Simon said America finally got it right. After the votes were tallied, unfortunately Ramiele's dream to become the first Asian "American Idol" came to end. With eight left, the competition only seems to get more difficult and the fight to the top even more intense. With four guys and four girls, it is still anyone's race.