We're down to the Final 9 contestants (pictured) on "American Idol," and we're gearing up for the first mentor of Season 7. And that's none other than country music legend Dolly Parton for tonight's competition (at 8 p.m. on Channel 40).
OK, I'm already hearing groans out there. I know - you can't imagine resident rocker David Cook putting his unique spin on "Mule Skinner Blues."
Otherwise, I'm sure Kristy Lee Cook will continue to avenge her Beatles bashing from several weeks ago. She could pretty much tackle any Dolly offering - from "Coat of Many Colors" to a rollicking rendition of "Jolene."
What should the contestants avoid? If it were me, I would forget "I Will Always Love You" was even a Dolly song. Why? Because the queen, Whitney Houston, sang the daylights out of it on the 1992 "Bodyguard" soundtrack.
In other words: Don't go there! But, I'm sure the vocal coaches have persuaded someone - maybe Syesha Mercado - to take on the challenge.
Last week's eliminated contestant, Chikezie, had planned to sing "9 to 5," so I don't know if another singer swooped on that happy-go-lucky tune. And there's always "Islands in the Stream," but Dolly did that so well with Kenny Rogers that it might not work as well as a solo.
Meanwhile, save this date: Next Wednesday is the second annual "Idol Gives Back" charity show (from 7:30 to 10 p.m. on Channel 40). And it will be a star-studded affair. Who's showing up? I hear Bono, Brad Pitt, Reese Witherspoon, Miley Cyrus (she's everywhere), Mariah Carey (also a mentor this season), QB bros Eli and Peyton Manning, Fergie, Season 4 rocker Chris Daughtry, and winner Carrie Underwood. There's also Annie Lennox, John Legend and Snoop Dogg.
The show is a U.S./international benefit to raise money for underprivileged children in America and to battle poverty and disease in Africa. In 2007, the show raised more than $75 million.
There's a good chance we'll see a clip of Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks, who traveled to Ghana in February with President Bush and first lady Laura Bush to distribute bed nets in the fight against malaria.
Anyway, last year the show aired with six contestants instead of the eight who will perform next week. No word yet if the eight will be safe (out of the kindness of their hearts) for a week, with two to get kicked off the following week.