It was week three for the "Nashville Stars" and the theme was Pop Goes Country.
Overall, I found it really fascinating to hear familiar songs bent into country tunes. It made me really appreciate what makes country country and it emphasized the storytelling that is so prevalent in the songs. Did all of the tunes make great crossovers? Nope, but there were quite a few hits.
The night started off with the group singing Madonna's "Like a Prayer" which was pretty awful all around. Then they shook things up by calling Gabe and Tommy to center stage only to announce that Gabe was the top and Tommy was in the bottom. I'm not sure why it was necessary to do this up front when they usually whittle down to the bottom two but it made no real difference in the long run.
Gabe Garcia took it up a notch with "Living La Vida Loca." Not a hard song to turn country since it already has a Latino flair and he did a decent job.
But let me stop right here and say, ditch the dancers! These back-up dancers add nothing to the performance, they actually distract from it and most of these singers don't have a strong enough stage presence to compete with gyrating booty dressed in PJs behind their backs. No More Dancers!!
Pearl Heart was up next with a bluegrass version of the B-52's "Love Shack." Loved the arrangement but I'm still not feeling these girls. They sound so tentative in everything they do.
Alyson Gilbert was a train wreck with "I Think We're Alone Now." I remember this song from long before Tiffany and I don't know what she was thinking. Of all the pop tunes in the world, there's nothing here. Then her mentor told her to speed it up and rock it and she went the other way completely. She looked uncomfortable. She was off balance in her shoes, not a good night for Alyson.
Ashlee Hewitt took a risk last week with "Ring of Fire" and did it again this week with Britney's "You Drive Me Crazy." It was a nice piece. She's cute and has a good country twang. It didn't give me chills but so far no one else has either.
Coffey sang "Umbrella" for his daughter and this should have been a tear-jerker. It wasn't. There's no doubt this guy has charisma and a voice but he can't get the emotion he needs to connect to the audience and that's hurting him big time.
Sophie & Laura went with Michael Jackson's "Pretty Young Thing" and here the judges and I split. They loved it but I thought it was a mess. Their dresses were ugly and distracting, the harmonies were too much and what kind of a song is that for two young girls to sing!? And let's not mention Billy Ray's Jackson commentary, shall we?
Four left and they take a break to bring on these Pussycat Doll urban clones. What? All the great country acts in this world and this is what we get on "Nashville Star?" Seriously. What were they thinking?
Shawn Mayer took the stage next with N'Sync's "Bye, Bye, Bye." Now, I know it sounds like it would be horrible, but it wasn't. Shawn's performance was a little rough around the edges but overall, a good performance.
Melissa Lawson wowed the judges with "True Colors" but again, I'm not getting her. Lovely voice, no doubt, but I'm not feeling country one little bit.
Now, the bottom two. Tommy Stanley and Justin Gaston. Color me surprised. Not because Justin didn't deserve to be there but because he's adorable and I thought Sanjaya syndrome would keep him around for another couple of weeks.
Justin Gaston took the stage first and sang "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." Again, who would have thunk it? Great country arrangement and he actually sounded good singing it. So improved over last week.
Ironically, Tommy Stanley who impressed the heck out of me last week fell flat on his face with "Maniac" from "Flashdance." Again, the arrangement was good, it has a real story in the words that you can't understand in the original version, but he didn't pull it off.
So even though Tommy was the worst of the two last night, it was still Justin who went home. And does anyone else think it's weird that the have the eliminated contestant sing and they put up his numbers to vote even though he's going home? So very odd.
Watch "Nashville Star" every Monday night at 9:00 on NBC.
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