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'Nashville Star' recap: Patricia Heaton and Sinbad watch this show?

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Nashvillestar_lLast night’s Nashville Star saw the final four return to their hometowns to put on a concert, be treated like a rock star, and if you’re Coffey, to meet fans Patricia Heaton and Sinbad. Heaton said she’s been watching him every week; Sinbad insisted that he’s been voting. (How hard did NBC have to work to find out that Sinbad was a Coffey fan?) Our thoughts go out to those celebs this morning because their pick got the boot. Let’s break the performances down.

Shawn Mayer
At the risk of appearing as transparent as John Rich, who once again gave Melissa Lawson a standing ovation, I totally voted for Shawn last night. Twice. But for once, John and I agreed on Shawn: At the beginning of the competition, we never would have told her to do a Gretchen Wilson song. But she made “Here for the Party” her own. She sounded great. She worked the stage like a pro. She peaked at the right time. The Top 3 got to perform a second song, and she did Garth Brooks’ “The Dance.” It wasn’t her best vocal — Jeffrey Steele made sure we knew she was dealing with a bad wisdom tooth — but it was another ballsy choice. You might think of Shawn as mini-Gretchen, but she’ll keep you on your toes. (She’s taken on George Jones and Randy Travis this season as well.) I want to see what a producer can do with her when he gets her in the studio and she has her own songs to sing.

After the jump, Gabe Garcia, Coffey, and Melissa Lawson.

Gabe Garcia Gabe ended up in the bottom two with Coffey, presumably because his nerves kept him from connecting with the audience last week. He continues to improve (to about 90 percent comfortable), but I found him a little shaky on his first song, Alan Jackson’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.” (Jeffrey made sure we knew Gabe had a cold.) His second song was Kenny Chesney’s “Living in Fast Forward,” which was a good choice in that it gave him a chance to get the crowd clapping, but a bad one in that Gabe is no Kenny. I do not believe that Gabe is a hillbilly rock star out of control. I do, however, believe John when he says that Gabe will get a record deal whether or not he wins the show. John can’t be the only one looking for the artist who can represent the Hispanic market.

Melissa Lawson Melissa has an amazing voice, but “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” sounds like a karaoke song now even when Pat Benatar sings it. Am I wrong? While Jeffrey noted that the rest of the competition is creeping up on her, John unabashedly pimped for her as usual: air-guitaring during the song and floating her a question that she could hit out of the park after it. (She wants to be the next Nashville Star more than anything because it will not only change her life, but the lives of her five sons, who, okay, were pretty adorable toasting with soda in the limo during her hometown visit). My issue with Melissa can be summed up in the selection of her second song, Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel.” She’s just so predictable. Like Jeffrey, I don’t want to hear her build to the big ending in every song. Truth be told: I think Melissa is the only one in the final three ready to perform at the Olympics (a perk for being on NBC) and to headline the tour that all four finalists will be on this fall. But is she ready to make an album that feels necessary in a world where Martina McBride and Trisha Yearwood exist?

Coffey Again I ask: Am I the only one (besides Sinbad and Patricia Heaton) who actually likes his voice? The judges kept saying it was his charisma that kept him on the show this long. Let’s give the man some credit — he’s not Sanjaya. He can sing. (He can also sweat.) I liked his rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama.” That’s another karaoke song at this point, but his runs made it somewhat fresh. That’s why I like him: Shawn is a mini-Gretchen. Melissa is a mini-Martina. Gabe is a mini-George Strait. Who is Coffey? Even if you can say a mini-someone, that someone isn’t going to be from the country genre — which makes his sound unique for the market if you get him to sing a country song. I don’t think unique is a bad thing. Then again, I’m not trying to sell records.

Who will be the next Nashville Star? And from which of the final four would you buy an album?

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