“American Idol,” 3/17

It was Grand Ole Opry night on “Idol.” Country legend Randy Travis coached the contestants on their song choices.

Michael Sarver was first, singing “Ain’t Going Down til the Sun Comes Up.” For some reason, Michael _looks_ like a country singer, but he just isn’t one. Travis suggested he work on the words. Randy (Jackson) said: It was a cool song choice but it didn’t show off his voice. Kara said: The song showed off his personality but not his vocals. Paula said: The audience had fun watching him and county suits him. Simon said: It should’ve been good but wasn’t and it was clumsy and karaoke-ish.

Alison Iraheta sang Patti Loveless’ “Blame It On Your Heart,” which I liked, but honestly I can’t remember much about it now. Travis mentioned he’d never heard such a mature-sounding 16-year-old. Kara said: “You could sing the alphabet.” She made the song her own and continues to improve. Paula said: “Another rock solid performance.” Simon said: It was good but a little tuneless in parts. Randy said: “I though it was dope.”

Kris Allen sang “To Make You Feel My Love,” without his guitar. I thought it was really pretty. Travis told him he made it his own and he’s a very strong ballad singer. Paula said: She was pleasantly surprised and it was a “real, honest, pure and vulnerable” performance. It was kind of pitchy but a smart song choice. Simon said: “Terrific.” He said it was a very smart song choice and for the first time he thought Kris could do very well in the competition. Randy said: He took a chance and it paid off. Kara said: She didn’t realize it was a country song – it was “very Kris Allen.”

Lil Rounds wore a fabulous dress and sang an OK, slowed-down version of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” Travis suggested she slow it down and said “she’s got pipes.” Randy said: It was a very interesting song choice and it didn’t feel comfortable. Kara said: It wasn’t her best performance. Paula said: Her vocals were spot-on. Simon said: It was like a wedding singer who had to sing a song she didn’t really know or like. “It just wasn’t you.”

Adam Lambert made Travis speechless with his weird, moody, sitar-laden take on “Ring of Fire.” No joke, Travis said: “I don’t even know what to say about this boy.” I respect him for changing the song into something he could sing, but it still just was insane. Somebody stop him, please? Kara said: “Strange – I don’t even know what to make of it…It was strange but I liked it.” Paula said: He’s true to who he is as an artist. Simon said: “What the hell was that?” Also said plenty of folks in Nashville would be throwing their TVs out the window. “Indulgent rubbish…horrific.” Randy said: It was like Nine Inch Nails doing country (um, has Randy ever heard NIN??). “Young, current, fresh, hot.”

Scott MacIntyre sang Martina McBride’s “Wild Angels” with his piano. Normally I wouldn’t like this, but I thought it was pretty. Travis said Scott surprised him more than any other contestant. Paula said: It was another impressive, lovely performance, but he should stop performing with the piano. Simon said: Paula was wrong about the piano comment – but Scott needs to pick better songs. Randy said: He’s looking for hot vocals but instead gets “nice, good performances” from Scott. Kara said: “Up your game a little bit,” and he also brings class and poise to the stage.

Alexis Grace sang “Jolene,” and it was OK – I can’t say I was crazy about it. Travis said she understands storytelling in song. Randy said: It was pitchy and not that great. Kara said: She lost her edge. Paula said: She thought Alexis was effective because she showed her vulnerable side. Simon said: It was OK, but very copycat and forgettable.

Danny Gokey sang “Jesus Take the Wheel.” Ah, this is not one of my favorite songs, so I can’t say I dug this very much. Travis said Danny’s performance was soulful. Kara said: The chorus was better than the verse. Paula said: “Carrie Underwood will not only approve; she would go out and buy this record.” Simon said: His only problem with Danny was Danny’s outfit (he said it looked like he was going on a polar expedition). Randy said: It was pitchy.

Anoop Desai surprised us all – he delivered a beautiful rendition of “Always on My Mind.” Travis said it’s Anoop’s best performance. Paula said: “Anoop is back!” Simon said: “You went from zero to hero.” Also said it was one of his favorite performances of the night. Randy said: He really showed his vocal skills. Kara said: The song is a classic, almost untouchable, but he was “amazing.” Best performance of the night.

Megan Corkrey sang “Walking After Midnight,” in a really cool, bluesy-jazzy way. I really liked it. Apparently the poor girl has the flu, too. Travis said she was totally unique. Randy said: He was quite impressed and it really worked. Kara said: It was a perfect song choice. Paula said: Megan’s been to the hospital this week and she’s the consummate professional. Simon said: “You should have the flu every week,” because it was so much better than last week.

Matt “Sheena’s Mama’s Favorite” Giraud performed Carrie Underwood’s “So Small.” I loved it. Travis remaked on how Matt made the song his own. Kara said: He’s an artist and true talent; amazing. Paula said: “You’re piercing through so many people’s hearts.” Simon said: They’ve never given him proper credit for his vocals, but he outsang the likes of Danny. One of the best performances and he reminds Simon of Michael Buble. Randy said: It was his favorite performance of the night. “You got it, baby.”

What say you, Scenesters? Who were your favorites?

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