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April 2, 2008
Idol Chatter: Dolly delights

kristyleecook.jpg
Fox

Hey, I matched two songs with two of the Final 9 Tuesday night on "American Idol." I'm kind of proud of that accomplishment!

Dolly Parton served as this season's first mentor. A fine choice - Dolly. She was warm and admitted she hadn't been on the show before because she "couldn't criticize or judge someone else's singing."

Luckily, I have no problem with that. Nor do the judges, who offered a mixed bag of positive and negative comments. The word "performance" came up at least 100 times.

Before my wrap-up, I'm gonna throw something out there and see if anything comes of it: I predicted someone would tackle "I Will Always Love You," and I was right that it was Syesha Mercado.

Here's the deal: I thought she did a nice job with that big old song but she got more comparisons to Whitney Houston than Dolly. Well, until Whitney can finally get her act together after years and years of making a mess of her life, I don't think she deserves the pedestal treatment.

But, I digress.

"Idol" jammed nine performances into one hour, and several of the final contestants got little - if any - time with the judges. Probably not a bad thing.
Considering they had to pick from Dolly songs, I thought the Final 9 were spot on (for the most part). I'm going to lump them into groups of three - from best to perhaps tonight's bottom three. Just my opinion, of course.

Top 3:
* David Cook: He sang "Little Sparrow." Dolly gave him high marks for his voice.
Randy Jackson: "You're a rocker with unbelievable range. That was another hot, consistent performance."
Paula Abdul: (She liked David's new haircut, too, which I really didn't notice.) "I've never heard a guy sing that song before."
Simon Cowell: "If you can make a song about sparrows sound good, congratulations."
FYI: This is the second "bird" song a contestant has sung that Simon has dissed. Carly Smithson sang "Blackbird" a couple of weeks ago.

* David Archuleta: He sang "Smoky Mountain Memories." Dolly said it brought back a lot of memories for her.
Randy: "David Archuleta is back!"
Paula: "There's just a beautiful aura about you."
Simon: "I had issues with your song choice last week. This week, it was absolutely on the money."
FYI: Notice David isn't licking his lips as much?

* Michael Johns: He sang "It's All Wrong, But It's All Right." Dolly said if Michael keeps singing, she could write songs for him.
Randy: "You keep bringing it up. That was a blazing, hot performance."
Paula: "These songs have great melodies. You're a rock star and a blues star."
Simon: "It's been an interesting night. That was the best I've heard you sing throughout the competition."
FYI: An "Idol"-watching companion compared Michael to a Jim/Van Morrison combo meal.

Middle 3:
* Carly Smithson: She sang "Here You Come Again." Dolly said she picked the perfect song.
Randy: "I do believe that that will be one of the better performances of the night."
Paula: "That was glorious! You're an amazing talent."
Simon: "I thought it was good, not great. You need to have a word with whoever is dressing you. You need to start looking like a star, and I'm not seeing that progression."
FYI: The show does have stylists, and the contestants do get to go shopping. I agree with Simon that Carly's sleeveless tops and leggings are not very flattering, but the stylist can't force a look on her or on any of the others.

* Syesha Mercado: Again, she sang "I Will Always Love You." Dolly thought she made a good choice and found an emotional connection with the song.
Randy: "You took on the biggest tiger of the night. It was pretty good."
Paula: "Your voice has a velvety tone to it. That's it for you - connecting with the audience."
Simon: "Dolly is a brilliant songwriter. But I almost wished you hadn't done that song. It paled to Whitney's version. It was a good, not fantastic, version."
FYI: See what I mean?

* Kristy Lee Cook (pictured): She sang "Coat of Many Colors." (I predicted this song choice.) Dolly felt she made it her own.
Randy: "Country music is your wheelhouse. It was a very nice performance for Kristy Lee week!"
Paula: "You look stunning! It was your best performance."
Simon: "I totally disagree. Last week was your best performance. This week, it was pleasant but it was forgettable."
FYI: I personally don't care for the whole barefoot thing.

Bottom 3:
* Brooke White: She sang "Jolene." Dolly said there was an honesty about Brooke.
Randy: "This suits your voice. But there were some pitch problems, and you rushed the music."
Paula: "You're consistent and excellent. And you had a strong connection with the song."
Simon: "I totally disagree with Paula. It was lacking emotion. You were busting your way through it. And it was an odd group up there. The weird violin player. It was not one of your better performances."
FYI: I'm sure Brooke will be safe, so don't panic. I put her below Kristy Lee because I wasn't a big fan of the song choice. But a word of caution: Brooke needs to take her dose of judges' medicine and not talk back.

* Jason Castro: He sang "Travelin' Thru.'' Dolly thought it was a nice, sweet piece for him. (I hadn't heard this song before.)
Randy: "It started out rough. But in the middle, you worked it out."
Paula: "It was one of your strongest performances. Your voice was strong and rich."
Simon: "I'll lose my season pass to Dollywood. I didn't like it at all. If it was the first time I'd seen you, I wouldn't get it. The music doesn't suit you."
FYI: I don't think Dolly got Jason's dreads.

* Ramiele Malubay: She sang "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?" Dolly said about the only thing she could say: "The fact that she's little won't stop her from doing big things." Just not Tuesday night.
Randy: "I'm not jumping up and down. You showed signs of strength. I give it a six-and-a-half out of 10."
Paula: "I was worried you wouldn't connect (with this music), but you did."
Simon: "We won't remember this in 10 years. It was cute but forgettable. More like a cruise-ship performance."
FYI: I predict "Idol" voters will give back Ramiele before next week's "Idol Gives Back" show.

OK, let's get real here. Ramiele, Jason and probably Kristy Lee aren't in the same vocal ballpark with the two Davids, Michael and Carly. Syesha and Brooke are somewhere in the middle because they kind of sound the same each week.

On tonight's live results show (at 9 p.m. on Channel 40), Dolly will perform. And get ready for the group sing-along to include some of her duets with Kenny Rogers.

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