Dear Powers in the ‘Verse: Please don’t let there be that many instances of people singing "Sweet Home Alabama," "Brown Eyed Girl," and/or, for all that is good and just, "American Pie" on this, the intro episode of Nashville Star. Thank you.
At the top of the show, host Billy Ray Cyrus appears and introduces the audition montage. They traveled all over the country and listened to duos, trios and individuals. They also held auditions specifically for military personnel on a battleship, which is very cool. Billy Ray also appeared to sing for them.
Another montage gives us the backgrounds of our judges – Jewel, John Rich of the highly successful Big & Rich, and prominent songwriter Jeffrey Steele. John has set himself up to be the tough judge as he won’t abide by people being fake. Next comes the elimination round package where 50 semi-finalists will be whittled down to 12. Each contestant gets one minute to sing for them. After a shaky start, the judges gave the remaining potentials a pep talk which seemed to turn things around. After a difficult deliberation, they final decide on their finalists. But, as hard as it was to figure out the 12, it was even harder crushing 38 the dreams of 38 acts.
So, after a relatively small amount of ado, we’ve finally reached the point where people will actually sing. Starting with a group number of "Life is a Highway" by Rascal Flatts. Not nearly as awkward as the American Idol numbers, thankfully. They all seem genuinely enthusiastic to be there. About five stick out to me immediately but I’ll reserve judgment until their solos.
But first, a performance of "Picture to Burn" by Taylor Swift. She’s got a good head on her shoulders which I appreciate. She advises the contestants to figure out what makes them different than other people and embrace it. Also, appreciate your fans and don’t be a pompous ass.
In case anyone’s wondering what the prizes will be, the winner gets a record and touring contract, a brand new pick-up truck, and a spot to perform at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Ooo…Olympics.
Finally, on to the performances!
1. Pearl Heart (Sisters Courtney, Angela and Amy [the latter two are twins])
Song: "Wide Open Spaces" by The Dixie Chicks
It’s not terrible but it’s not great. Perhaps the nerves got a hold of them? I like their energy but the harmonies were a bit off, which you can’t do with a Dixie Chicks song. They’re still pretty young (the twins are 21 and Courtney is 17) but I’m sure they’ll improve. The judges were surprisingly nice. Maybe it sounded different live?
2. Tommy Stanley
Song: "Walking in Memphis" by Marc Cohn
Tommy’s in the Navy, an engineer stationed in Japan. Impressive. He’s one of my stand-outs. This song gets sung a lot but I like what he did with the arrangement. I really like his voice – it’s got a smokey soul quality to it. He really should go far. Surprisingly, Jeffrey’s not sold on him, but only because he’s not living up to his potential. I thought he was better than Pearl Heart.
3. Shawn Mayer
Song: "Piece of My Heart" by Janis Joplin
She’s a part-time mechanic and works on a hog farm. I like her spunk. She did a very Country-fried version of the song. John told Tommy that he was over-singing a bit, but Shawn really was. But she does have pipes. Jewel told her to not be afraid to stretch her range. Jeffrey told her that she can be better and everyone knows it. I agree with them.
4. Third Town (Toni, Little Toni & Jeff)
Song: "Elvira" by the Oak Ridge Boys
They’ve been together for 14 years. They’re also the oldest people in the competition. John looks a bit tortured through it. They’re singing a little bit in their noses but their harmonies were more together than the first group’s. The prevailing thought of the judges was it was a bit old-fashioned and that they need to decide on a lead singer or at least a more definitive sound. Props on the low notes, though. That was impressive.
Song: "Drift Away" by Dobie Gray
He’s a single father (of a very, very cute girl). He’s another of my stand-outs. He works the crowd very well and I like his voice, though he sounded a smidge nervous (something about the way he was trilling his notes). And he’s got a great personality.
6. Sophie & Laura
Song: "Stand By Your Man" by
They’re very young – they’re still in high school (16 and 18) – but very good. They have a LeAnn Rimes quality to they’re voices. So far, they’ve had the cleanest harmonies. I’m very impressed – they’re also on my Good List. The only thing the judges could tell them was to work on playing to the crowd.
7. Gabe Garcia
Song: "All My Exes Live in Texas" by George Strait
There’s something very likable about Gabe, a similar quality to Coffey. The song choice is apropos since he’s from Texas. John was very pleased with the song choice – he started dancing with Jewel. He’s got a good voice though he, like pretty much everyone else, was a little shaky due to nerves. He should go far too.
8. Alyson Gilbert
Song: "Suds in the Bucket" by Sara Evans
She’s the first one who’s voice didn’t shake but John and Jewel thought she was entirely too pageant-y (over-performing to compensate for nerves). I can see how that could be. But I think she has a great deal of potential.
9. Ashlee Hewitt
Song: "Bubbly" by Colbie Caillat
I think she’s got a lot of potential. It’s a good song choice but I feel like her voice is bigger then the song (Jewel and Jeffrey agrees with me). Her voice has a natural flit to it – similar to Jewel’s in fact. But I do like Ashlee. She one of those people you just want to hug.
10. Charley Jenkins
Song: "I Like It, I Love It, I Want Some More of It" by Time McGraw
He’s tried out a couple times and has finally made it on the show. He’s a literal cowboy – he ropes and rides. He was shaky in the opening number but more solid here. Charley’s got a lot of personality and a solid voice. The judges like him and his voice but didn’t like that he was running around in the crowd.
11. Justin Gaston
Song: "Drops of Jupiter" by Train
Justin is a part-time model, which explains why he owns so many v-neck t-shirts. There is something likable about him though. He’s…okay. Maybe it’s just a bad song choice, but he’s not doing it for me. The judges applaud his bold song choice but the vocals just weren’t entirely there.
12. Melissa Lawson
Song: "Something to Talk About" by Bonnie Raitt
She’s married with 5 boys, bless her heart. Melissa’s number one on my stand-outs list. The nerves have got her a little too but it really didn’t matter. She’s got a strong voice and delivers without over-singing, getting a standing ovation from everyone, including the judges.
Unfortunately, regardless of how much potential some of the contestants have, the judges have to send one of them home tonight. The weakest two were Charley and Alyson.
A very somber Jeffrey voted for Charley. A business-like John voted for Alyson. After some thought and addressing the two of them, Jewel decided to send Charley home. To Charley’s credit, he reacted with grace. From now on, the viewers votes determine who’ll go home.
So, is it just me or is this year’s crop generally weaker than last season’s? I was a little disappointed actually. Who’s your favorite so far? Should Alyson have been sent home instead? Any other thoughts?