Welcome to Nashville Star, where the contestants are forced to take on Carrie Underwood’s music for their final five performances. It seems like an advantage for everyone except one, but let me tell you something, dear reader: The results were surprising! You made me eat my presuppositions, America!
It feels like opening with the contestants singing Carrie Underwood is just mean, you know? Like, it’s Carrie Underwood. Also, while we’re talking about it, Carrie Underwood looks 100 percent fine. Like, whatever happened to her face must have been remedied by a miracle. Della Reese descended from the sky and that angel touched Carrie right in the face scar because it doesn’t look like the woman has even heard of stitches. But, back to the show, the opening number of “See You Again” is actually pretty solid. It does make me miss Carrie Underwood and that time when Idol churned her out.
Also, I need you guys to hit the comments and please give me your thoughts on that strange moment between Ryan and Katy where he was saying how pretty she was and how pretty her mom is without knowing the cameras were rolling, because honestly, I screamed.
But tonight is about Carrie’s songbook and songs dedicated to the final five’s moms.
Michael J Woodard, “Flat on the Floor”
Girl, WHAT? I am, wait for it…floored at the idea of Michael singing “Flat on the Floor.” He could have gone for a ballad, but here he is in denim, denim, denim serving some sass. To date, this is easily the best performance Michael has given, which is surprising. Who would have thought that Carrie Underwood would have been this kid’s wheelhouse? Probably wisely, Michael avoided a song with the big notes and chose something that allowed him to shine in a way we haven’t seen before. There was no rocking or big showstopper notes: It was just a really surprisingly good performance.
Gabby Barrett, “Last Name”
This feels like one of those weeks where Gabby could flip a table on the other contestants and leave them in the dust or get stuck in her own head. Surprisingly, it feels a little bit like neither. It was a good performance, but no better or worse than second or third place tonight. Luke Bryan calls her Carrie Underwood, reincarnated, but I think we should likely wait for round two before we make any big proclamations. Gabby is likely the winner of this season, if her being a woman doesn’t get in her way. Cade and Caleb Lee are her biggest obstacles.
Cade Foehner, “Undo It”
This version of “Undo It” is actually a pretty solid rendition. A little half-baked at times, but I like the idea that Cade had behind it. The completely open shirt revealing a bare chest is a, um, choice, but rockers gotta rock, or so I’ve been told. It’s a little surprising that out of all these performances (and this was the judges’ initiative, not just my wish), they can’t find any critiques for the contestants. Carrie Underwood is a legend, and there’s no way that all of these contestants have hit every note on the head.
Caleb Lee Hutchinson, “So Small”
Baby boy. “So Small?” It’s like begging for a power note to smack you in the face. He takes the safer route, saving his energy for his biggest note. Would I say that it’s ever going to come close to Idol canon? Absolutely not. And Katy finally points it out, arguing that Caleb Lee has to get up and perform because his three previous contestants? They bounced around the stage while Caleb stuck safely behind the mic.
Maddie Poppe, “I Told You So”
Hoo boy, this is the song choice I was hoping for. I write these recaps as a viewer, not a musician. I feel like I have to give that caveat because I can’t explain exactly why I’m saying what I’m about to say: While Caleb’s complacency behind the microphone could be his demise, my biggest fear is to see Maddie try to come from behind it and tear it up. She’s the cute blonde-hair-pesudo-serious girl in the shiny fabrics, but when she sings, there’s a strange hypnosis that happens. She’s able to communicate so much in a single glance, and the biggest notes were still incredibly sincere.
~Interlude~ Carrie Underwood sang “Cry Pretty”
This was just fine. JK, it was stunning, because Carrie Underwood is perfect.
Gabby Barrett, “I Have Nothing”
This. Is. BOLD. On certain notes, it was flawless. On other notes it was…well. I have a theory. You just don’t take on Whitney, kind of like how you don’t take on Celine. With all of that being said, Gabby has everything to be proud of because at this stage in the competition, you have to be willing to make big moves, and with Whitney in tow, she did. Gabby turned out a performance worthy of taking her to the final three, if we all weren’t convinced beforehand.
Cade Foehner, “Simple Man”
Wow, didn’t think Cade writing a letter to his mom would make me cry, but here we are. Outside of Cade being a Certified Good Son, his performance of “Simple Man” is exactly what he needed at this point in the competition. I know that this is supposed to be the “Dedicated to Mom” round, but I swear, it’s a showcase of why these kids are here. Also, just so that it’s on the record, I don’t know if there’s ever been better hair on Idol than Cade’s.
Michael J Woodard, “Still I Rise”
Michael J Woodard is such an angel. But his mom is an even bigger one. If Michael doesn’t win this, I need them to have their own little show together. Him taking her out on the stage where he performs is what really did me in. But for his song, he chooses a Yolanda Adams song, which is honestly such a power move. We know who votes for Idol, and he may not be able to hit that country-itch for the Midwest, but going gospel is the perfect way to encapsulate Michael’s style. Honestly, it feels a bit like a coronation song. The big notes. The finishing line of “And still I rise.” The standing ovation at the end. Michael deserves to be in that final three, just like Gabby. Question is, who else?
Caleb Lee Hutchinson, “Stars in Alabama”
These letters are ruining me tonight! Sweet Caleb is a precious boy. Let it be said that I don’t think Caleb Lee is a bad singer. I’m just using critical judgment the judges refuse to. But even my cold heart is melted watching Piper Hutchinson singing to him from the audience. Caleb Lee’s choice for tonight’s finale is perfect. It’s perfectly within his range, and you can just tell how much the performance means to him. Caleb Lee was never going to be doing the vocal gymnastics of Michael or the guitar smashing that Cade or Gabby want to do. He just loves to sing, whether or not someone is listening, and that? That makes him worthy of being here.
Maddie Poppe, “God Only Knows”
Final performance of the night, and I’m shook to my core. “God Only Knows” is the performance of the season by simply existing and allowing itself to breathe. Maddie’s performance feels like something so personal that we shouldn’t have seen it. And when she comes to the end and chokes up at her own emotion? Well. The purpose of these recaps is to let you know what happened, slide in some jokes and commentary, and call it a day, right? There’s no joke to be made because what Maddie did is…it’s a treat. Maddie is just one of those performers that I think has the ability to transcend time.
Cade Foehner: ELIMINATED
Caleb Lee Hutchinson: SAFE
Gabby Barrett: SAFE
Maddie Poppe: SAFE
Michael J Woodard: ELIMINATED