The “American Idol” judges are willing to give Anoop Desai one more chance to keep them satisfied.
The 21-year-old college student from North Carolina impressed tough critic Simon Cowell and the rest of the panel with his soulful cover of “Always on My Mind” during Tuesday night’s Grand Ole Opry-themed performance show.
Cowell — who criticized Desai’s rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” last week — changed his tune, saying Desai “managed to go from zero to hero” thanks to stellar vocals and choice of the song. “Always on My Mind” has been recorded by Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley and others.
Desai, who prefers R&B music, told Ryan Seacrest he wasn’t surprised by the positive response. He said he expects “to do the best” he can.
Kris Allen and Matt Giraud also received unanimous love from the judges. Cowell told Giraud, the 23-year-old dueling piano player from Kalamazoo, Mich., that he outsang front-runner Danny Gokey on the top-rated Fox singing contest with his heartfelt take on a Carrie Underwood tune.
“I don’t think you’ve had enough credit, actually, for your vocals in this competition so far because everyone’s been talking about Danny and Adam (Lambert),” Cowell told Giraud, comparing him to pop-and-standards singer Michael Buble.
Not all of the contestants scored such strong reviews. Michael Sarver, the 27-year-old oil rig worker from Jasper, Texas, disappointed judges in a genre he might otherwise have nailed. Rating Sarver’s rendition of Garth Brooks’ “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up),” Cowell said the unassuming singer came across not as a star but “a likable guy who likes country music who is a bit clumsy.”
Lil Rounds fell off her A-game a bit by performing a straightforward cover of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” Randy Jackson said that song wasn’t a good fit for the bubbly 23-year-old mother of three from Memphis, Tenn., who usually gets high marks for her raw R&B edge that was missing this week.
Guest mentor and country singer Randy Travis did not know quite what to make of Lambert, 26, of Los Angeles, who put his own theatrical spin on “Ring of Fire,” giving the Johnny Cash gem less of a country twang and more of an exotic Middle Eastern vibe.
Cowell said Lambert’s performance was “absolute indulgent rubbish” while Paula Abdul praised him for staying true to who he is. Kara DioGuardi said his Cash cover left her “confused and sort of happy.”
One of the 11 finalists will be sent packing on Wednesday’s elimination show — unless judges act on the new rule that allows them to save a favorite contestant they feel has been unfairly booted by voting viewers.
7:57 pm – Three minutes to go! Now’s a good time to shout-out my favorite comment from last week. It was a tough one to pick, what with one commenter complimenting the picture of my adorable cat, but flattery doesn’t get you everything, “cruzceleste.” So instead, I’m picking MTV.COM user “JennCho,” who is a fan of Allison “Not A Cutter” Iraheta. She wrote, “Allison had me rolling with the cutting line. Too bad she just lost the emo vote.” HA!
8:01 pm – And we’re off! That ridiculous voice-over dude is back introducing the judges and Seacrest. I swear, Ryan must have an amazing agent, because you just KNOW that was in his contract for this season. “I want fancy stairs that I can walk down, and a dude with a deep voice must say my name seductively.”
8:02 pm – ACK! Seacrest wishes everyone a Happy St. Paddy’s day and then the set just turned green. If he really wanted to commit, he would have dressed up like a leprechaun, but whatever.
8:03 pm – Paula Abdul is sticking to her “Adam/Gokey” finale prediction. She has ESP, y’all. Remember last year when she critiqued Jason’s performance BEFORE it happened? Mm-hmm.
8:04 pm – The contestants are coming out on stage, and my girl Megan Corkrey looks super-upset. Uh oh! Rumor has it, she suffered a wardrobe malfunction and couldn’t perform during the dress rehearsal. (Thanks for the tip, MJs Big Blog!)
8:05 pm – So basically, the Grand Ole Opry is like The Skulls for the South. You think they have any hazing rituals? “Carrie Underwood, you can make it into the Opry, but first you have to shave Hank Williams, Jr.’s back…with your teeth.”
8:06 pm – Texan Roughneck Michael Sarver is up first. He’s singing “Ain’t Goin’ Down Til The Sun Comes Up.” I wish I could say I know what this song is. According to Michael, it’s “loaded with lyrics.” This week’s mentor, Randy Travis, whose face makes my TV look like it’s on “Anamorphic Squeeze Mode” even though it’s not, agrees that Sarver is doomed if he flubs a word.
8:08 pm – Michael Sarver – 0. The harmonica player (who I thought was Kris Allen for a second) – 1. This is pitiful. He’s overpowered by the female background singers. He’s awkwardly high fiving audience members. This is not going well.
8:10 pm – The judges missed the big notes. No one is calling him out on the fact that he was off the beat half the time.
8:11 pm – Mark 8:11 pm down as the moment Michael Sarver announced he was a country music artist. I KNEW this would happen.
8:12 pm – “If we were all perfect, we wouldn’t need this show.” Michael Sarver is a sass machine. The country folks are gonna love it.
8:16 pm – Allison Iraheta is singing “Blame It On Your Heart,” and in the two lines I heard, the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. I LOVE THIS GIRL.
8:18 pm – Allison’s leather jacket matches her hair, which matches the flower in her hair. Fail.
8:19 pm – Hmm…I wish Allison turned this barn-roof-raiser into a ballad. The rehearsal with Randy Travis and a piano sounded much more interesting to me.
8:20 pm – Kara DioGuardi said, “I’m starting to think you can sing the alphabet.” Wrong, Kara. The correct ridiculous judge’s quote is “You can sing the phonebook.” You have so much to learn.
8:21 pm – Simon wasn’t feeling it. “Precocious,” “it looked like you forgot the words.” But Randy thought it was “dope.” OMG Allison’s shirt has red kisses all over it. It’s not Valentine’s Day! Ditch the head-to-toe red!
8:22 pm – Kris Allen is singing Garth Brooks’ “To Make You Feel My Love.” We’re three songs in, and two of them have been Garth songs. Why not Garth Brooks Night?
8:23 pm – Kris Allen is performing without his guitar tonight. Weird move. He’s sitting on a stool and his right hand is shaking and twitching. I am uncomfortable. But he found his way and delivered a really pretty solid performance. The Kris Allen Fans are gonna melt over that.
8:26 pm – Simon loved it, and gave him the whole “I can see you going far” speech. Kris’ parents are flipping their lids in the audience. Sit down, parents! You’re embarrassing yourselves on television!
8:27 pm – Paula’s earrings look like dangling vaginas.
8:32 pm – Lil Rounds is styled poorly. She looks like Terrance Howard and Rihanna’s love child. Coke Real Talk with Lil Rounds: she’s never heard a country song even though she’s from the South.
8:33 pm – Lil Rounds is doing Martina McBride. Randy Travis told her to “get her licks in.” Dirty old man alert!!
8:35 pm – Lil Rounds is flailing. The verses are a disaster of pitch problems and lack of conviction.
8:36 pm – But oh, that chorus! Sing it, girl! Sing it!!
8:37 pm – First Allison, now Lil. The makeup artist needs to stop putting gallons of glitter on girls faces.
8:38 pm – Randy wishes she sang “I Will Always Love You” or “How Do I Live” instead. And that is why I Randy Jackson is musically irrelevant. Kara respected her as an artist, Paula loved it, and Simon thought she looked uncomfortable. (He actually said something about a friend’s wedding. I didn’t quite follow.)
8:40 pm – I am not feeling Lil Rounds saying “I wanted to show America that I can sing country.” Oof, if that was your intention you failed miserably, Lil. Sorry.
8:42 pm – “Twlight” is coming to DVD Friday! Adam Lambert can’t wait!!
8:44 pm – Quote of the night, from the Mrs: “If Adam Lambert wins, I’m buying stock in flat irons.” HA!
8:45 pm – Coke Real moment with Adam Lambert, who dyed his hair the color of Fruity Pebbles in honor of country week.
8:48 pm – OMG country music’s nightmare just came true. A dude who kisses dudes…in nail polish…turning a Johnny Cash classic…into a middle Eastern sex jam. HAHA!
8:48 pm – IT BURNS! IT BURNS!
8:49 pm – I kid. This was actually pretty amazing, in all its subversive glory (even if Randy Travis’ white-haired mama looked peeved). I liked it more than David Cook doing (Chris Cornell’s) “Billie Jean.”
8:50 pm – So, Adam Lambert just confused all of the South with his “strange” interpretation, while Paula just confused all the Northern intellectuals by saying Adam was both a “born natural” and a “quick study.” How can he be both, Paula?!
8:51 pm – Simon thought it was “self-indulgent rubbish.” Randy thought it sounded like Nine Inch Nails covering a country tune. Wrong, Randy. It sounded more like what Britney Spears would do if she covered that song on tour. Interestingly enough, Johnny Cash famously covered a Nine Inch Nails song. The country and industrial worlds have collided before. It’s not as weird as you think.
8:56 pm – Scott MacIntyre is up next. He’ll be doing “Wild Angels,” and Randy is concerned. Welcome to the club, buddy. I’m concerned anytime this guy opens his mouth. (Sorry Scott fans!)
8:58 pm – In honor of Country Night, Seacrest is standing in a mosh pit full of white people. He likened it to a Jonas Brothers concert, I’m likening it to a Hitler Youth Rally.
8:59 pm – Scott is doing pretty well. I’m so happy this dude got a haircut finally. His Phil Spector hair is long gone. Why do I get the feeling that we’re going to see his “new age” CD advertised at 3 in the morning. Scott Live At The Acropolis.”
9:00 pm – Paula thinks the piano is a crutch and that he’s not connecting with the audience. Scott quips, “We can move it closer.” HA! LOL! ROFLCOPTER!
9:01 pm – Cat fight alert! Simon disagrees with Paula. Meow. Overall, the judges are underwhelmed. I’m happy they’re finally being honest with Scott.
9:03 pm – Paula is still treating Scott like he’s an infant, however. After Kara told Scott he brings grace and poise to the show, Paula babytalked, “YES! YOU! DO!” If she had keys on her person, I’m sure she would have dangled them near his face, too.
9:08 pm – Any “24″ watchers out there? Didn’t the assassin out to get Jack Bauer these past two episodes look exactly like Gordon Ramsey? It totally threw me for a loop.
9:09 pm – Coke Real Moment with Alexis Grace. Seacrest is right. She does look like a young Dolly Parton! Minus Dolly’s, uh, theme park.
9:10 pm – She’s going to sing “Jolene!” Hell to the yes!! I can’t wait to hear this!
9:11 pm – Oh noes! Alexis is just slightly behind the beat, and she’s taking too many liberties with the melody. Even her family looked unimpressed.
9:13 pm – Double uh-oh! Randy and Kara are ripping her apart and the audience is silent. Never a good sign. Wait a second, Paula just said she doesn’t care about “pitch problems.” I know, Paula. I’ve seen your infamous “Vibeology” performance at the 1991 VMA’s.
9:15 pm – Wow. So, do you think the judges might have to save Alexis tomorrow night?? Or will they save Lil Rounds? Or are they saving “the safe” for Hokey Gokey? (I stole that from my friend, Leo. Gotta give credit where credit is due.) We’ll find out. The Gokester is up next, singing “Jesus Take The Wheel.”
9:19 pm – I’m confused by this latest “Above the Influence” ad. So, if you smoke pot you have 900 layers of magical Justice t-shirts on? That sounds/looks fun!
9:20 pm – Danny is bombing in front of Randy Travis. Drama!
9:21 pm – Jesus, take my remote.
9:22 pm – I don’t get this guy. It got MUCH better in the second half. I blame the song more than the performance.
9:25 pm – Simon disses Danny’s “polar expedition” jacket. Maybe heaven’s actually cold?
9:27 pm – Anoop is coming up after the break. I wonder what country song he’ll pound his chest to… Commercial break question: what is more offensive to close-minded country fans? A gay guy singing country or an Indian guy singing country? (Note that I’m not saying ALL country fans are close-minded.)
9:29 pm – Yikes. Random commercial break TMI. My piglet cats have licked their food dish clean and are waiting for tonight’s refill. Except they’re stalking me like I haven’t fed them in days. I’m actually starting to get scared. If I stop live-blogging, the cats did me in. Chill, ladies! I’ll feed you as soon as “Idol’s” over! Gah!
9:31 pm – Anoop’s singing “You Were Always On My Mind.” Sounds promising! Although Randy just mentioned a “lick” again. How many “licks” does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of Randy Travis’ brain?
9:32 pm – “Maybe I didn’t treat you / quite as good as I should have / maybe I didn’t love you / quite as often as I could have…” Is Anoop singing this song to his fans? I think he’s atoning for his past three douchebag performances. It wasn’t a *perfect* vocal, but it was damn close. Well done, Anoop! Love the tender Anoop!
9:35 pm – Simon Cowell: “You went from zero to hero!” Simon loves Anoop now! Rickey.org is going to be so happy tonight!
9:36 pm – D’oh! I hate Anoop again. Seacrest asked him if he was surprised by the judge’s raves, and he responded with a d-bag, “No.” Eww!
9:37 pm – Megan Joy is up next!!! So wait, is it Megan Joy? Megan Corkrey? Megan Joy Corkrey? The Artist Formerly Known as Megan? Hammer? I’m lost. No matter what the show calls her, I call her “adorable.”
9:41 pm – Megan is singing “I Go Walking After Midnight.” If Megan goes walking after midnight, I go stalkin’ after midnight.
9:42 pm – Another “lick” from Randy Travis.
9:42 pm – Holy crap! Megan’s dress is almost obscene! And she has vagina earrings, too.
9:43 pm – That was great! She is totally unique! The arrangement was wack, but her vocals were strong.
9:44 pm – Ack! And she has the flu, too. Color me impressed! Last week she was all “Caw! Caw!” And this week she’s all “Cough! Cough!”
9:46 pm – I’m sorry, I’m still thinking about Megan’s boobs, I mean performance. (Ick, am I a skeevy perv now? At least I didn’t make a “lick” joke.)
9:50 pm – Matt Giraud is in the pimp spot tonight, singing “So Small.” Will it live up to the hype?
9:51 pm – In theory, I should be loving this, but his vocals are a little too over-the-top. He sounds like he just ran a marathon backstage. It’s almost like Fat Elvis singing “Unchained Melody” I’m on the edge of my seat, and not in a “this is great I can’t wait to hear what happens next” but more of a “wow, is he going to pass out before he finishes?”
9:53 pm – Kara: “Matt, there’s nothing small about you!” Woah! Kara, how do you know?!!
9:54 pm – Paula: “What I applaud you most about, Matt, is the authentici…your, the authentic performer, the authenticity that you bring…”
9:54 pm – Simon compared him to Michael Buble. Does that mean he’s going to show up drunk on an “Idol” results show next year?!
9:55 pm – The judges are pimping Matt hardcore. I feel like Danny and Matt are going to split the votes one week. It’s like Season Three all over again, except instead of three Black Divas splitting the vote, we have three jerkface dudes with swagger.
9:57 pm – The phone number montage is depressing me. Michael Sarver? Safe by default. Allison sounds shouty, Lil sounds generic, Scott looks goofy, Alexis sounds confused, Gokey sounds constipated, and so does Matt. Luckily, we had Kris, Anoop, and Adam delivering solid performances (yes, I just praised Adam Lambert!). And Megan Joy (Corkrey)? Stunningly beautiful, flu and all. I’ll cook you soup, girl!