Unlike last week, the four “American Idol” judges actually considered using their one-time-only save on Wednesday night to spare a contestant from elimination.
But in the end, pint-sized powerhouse Alexis Grace’s second attempt to impress them with her cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” just didn’t do the trick.
It was a sad ending for the 21-year-old judges’ favorite, who should have flourished during Grand Ole Opry week considering she’s an avowed country-music fan from Memphis, Tennessee. But 31 million votes and the judges’ decision to hold on to their lifeline will keep the young mother from spending the summer on the road with her fellow finalists.
It was a long night for Grace, who first had to participate in the obligatory, embarrassing sing-along — this week, to Elvis Presley’s bouncy “Trouble” — followed by the other necessary piece of official business, the Ford music video. This time, the promotional clip was cued to OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again” and involved the contestants having a water-balloon fight on a city street, which … well, we’re not sure what it had to do with the Grand Ole Opry.
Then it was time to start handing out the good news/ bad news. First to pass into safety — and onto this summer’s “Idol” tour of the top 10 contenders — was Danny Gokey, followed by fellow judges’ fave Lil Rounds and suddenly resurgent Anoop Desai, who redeemed himself on Tuesday night after a disastrous Michael Jackson week performance that nearly saw him sent home.
Teenager Allison Iraheta and Texas roughneck Michael Sarver were the first to take seats in the bottom three after performances that split the judges. But confirmed for the summer tour were Scott MacIntyre and Megan Joy (who has reportedly dropped her ex-husband’s last name, Corkrey). Like Desai, Matt Giraud had a come-from-behind night on Tuesday and got a ticket to the tour, along with Kris Allen and Adam Lambert, who survived despite Simon Cowell calling his Middle Eastern-tinged take on Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” simply “dreadful.”
That left Alexis Grace center stage in the bottom three, where she remained with Sarver as Iraheta was swiftly waved back to safety.
When the judges were asked before the elimination if they would use their single season save for either remaining contestant, Cowell said one of them might merit it. With Sarver waved to safety, Grace was left facing elimination. Cowell revealed that she was the one they’d consider saving, so her performance would be the deciding factor.
Grace gave Dolly Parton’s iconic “Jolene” another try, pouring her heart and soul into the song, her voice filled with a pleading edge and a defiance that sometimes led to her vocals cracking. But despite spookily resonant lyrics (“My happiness depends on you/ And whatever you decide to do”), the judges were unmoved.
“We’re kind of unanimous on this, it was good, but it wasn’t good enough,” Cowell said. “Thank you for the opportunity,” Grace responded, keeping her emotions in check. “I learned a lot about myself and me as a singer. I wish I could have done better, but, you know, things happen for a reason.”
The show also featured performances by Brad Paisley, performing his new single, “Then,” and former “Idol” Carrie Underwood, who took the stage with this week’s mentor, Randy Travis, for a duet of his #1 1988 hit “I Told You So.” The song also appeared on Underwood’s smash album Carnival Ride. Just months after a country DJ in Cincinnati created an unofficial mash-up of the two versions that became a radio sensation, the duo recorded an official version that was made available after Wednesday night’s performance.
For the second time this season, “Idol” will be bumped to a Wednesday/ Thursday schedule next week because of a presidential address on Tuesday night. The top 10 will celebrate 50 years of Motown on Wednesday, with performances on Thursday by Motown icon Smokey Robinson and former “Idol” winner Ruben Studdard, who will sing his new Stargate-produced single, “Together.”