They're a LITTLE bit country -- But shouldn't ''Idol'' just retire this genre? There's ''Nashville Star'' for that, says Nicholas Fonseca

By Nicholas Fonseca
July 04, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
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They’re a LITTLE bit country

What does it say when one of the better performances on the second full week of competition of ”American Idol” comes via the much-maligned, much-detested, much-annoying Amy Adams? If you ask me, it says that perhaps ”Idol”’s producers — who were more than happy to trot out season 2’s flag-waving country boy Josh Gracin to plug his new album of, uh, country — should think about retiring this particular hour. Really. People who want to vote for country-music singers can just tune into USA’s ”Nashville Star,” can’t they?

I realize that a large portion of America, including, to my dismay, my own mother, enjoys and listens to country music, and I’ve been known to dig a few tunes myself. But the problem with forcing a bunch of Gen Y-ers to sing songs by the likes of Randy Travis is that THEY CAN’T DO IT, for crying out loud!! Something tells me that very few of last night’s contestants really FELT the songs that they were singing, and it showed in a so-so night of performances. Speaking of which…

Diana DeGarmo Luckily, the ever-perky Diana kicked off the show. My friend Scott has dubbed her ”Lil’ Spitfire,” and really, could there be a better moniker for this little one? She opened her version of Martina McBride’s ”A Broken Wing” perched on the side of the stage (sooo Elizabeth Dole!), a nice touch that meshed nicely with the night’s theme. One of the things that I love about Diana — and one of the things that will certainly keep her in this competition for a long while — is the way that she keeps her cool when she’s emoting so powerfully. Simon spoiled the fun when he said that she has yet to find her connection with the audience, which sort of mystifies me considering the fact that she just exudes innocent joy when she’s singing.

George Huff I wasn’t sure if George, with his Southern gospel background and raspy soul voice, could pull off his version of ”I Can Love You Like That,” and he sure seemed unsure of himself when he began. It didn’t get much better from there, but Paula was right: He’s got a? well, he’s got a voice. Dunno if ”sexy” is the term I’d use to describe it. I was thinking, oh, emotive?

Fantasia Barrino Bobo came next, and I’d first like to give a shout-out to the audience member who was holding up the sign that read FAN OF ‘TASIA. Excuse me, girl, but if you are reading my column, could you please do me a favor and have that very phrase printed onto a baby tee for my best friend? She’d really appreciate receiving that for a birthday present. A lot of people seem to have issues with Bobo’s young motherhood/hard-assed attitude, but with that Nell Carter-like voice and a performance that proved that she can exercise elegance and restraint, I can’t see how such quibbles should matter.

John Stevens He wisely chose an older country song (”King of the Road”) set to a doowop-style beat, and it fit his retro tastes to a T. But does anybody remember what I wrote in this very column last week? My worry is that John’s adherence to crooning might trip him up as the competition winds into its home stretch, and it’s hard for me to imagine how he can keep butchering popular music in this style before somebody shoves him off the stage and back onto the high school cafeteria stage where he belongs. This is just not a style, my poor boy, that American radio embraces anymore. Of course, I write this as Kimberley Locke’s dreadful ”Eighth World Wonder” oozes from speakers nationwide, so maybe I’m not the best expert on who’s got the pipes that’ll win this competition.

Camile Velasco Hey, Camile? One name for you: Leah LaBelle. Hope you two enjoy commiserating about your short-lived tenure on the third season of ”American Idol.” Now go take some public speaking lessons, PLEASE!

Jennifer Hudson I’d like to believe that the rest of America loves Jennifer as much as I do, but considering her dismal wakeup call last week and a so-so performance of Wynonna’s ”No One Else on Earth” this week, it’s hard to think that many more will come to my side. I’m still convinced that there’s a powerful performer hidden under layers and layers of nerves, and I’m prone to agree with Paula (a first!), who told Hudson, ”I want to get your personality back. The real Jennifer is not punchin’ through.” It’s true, Jen: You showed more chutzpah in the early episodes when you were bossing around your trio in the hotel! What happened?!

Jon Peter Lewis JPL announced, to the surprise of absolutely no one, that he was ”loud and obnoxious” as a child in order to garner attention. Then he contradicted himself by saying that he had ”no fun” as a child. The only thing he didn’t say was that he obviously suffers from some sort of split-personality disorder. No matter, though: He came on out with his perfectly styled coif and made a valiant attempt at making ”She Believes in Me” sound like a halfway entertaining song. He didn’t exactly succeed, mind you, but his clear, clean voice and winning stage presence proved why Simon Cowell had to take a deep breath and give him a half-hearted compliment like ”America seems to have fallen in love with you.”

Jasmine Trias I never thought I’d say this to Jasmine (arguably last week’s best performer), but doll, I’ve heard Faith Hill sing ”Breathe” 5,206 times, and you, baby girl, are no Faith Hill. That said, you get a free pass from me because (1) you were so damn excellent last week and (2) your natural effervescence will definitely carry you through another week. But you just didn’t sound like you gave one whit about singing this song. Did you?

Matt Rogers Matt, in his amazingly prescient fashion, further debased himself in my mind (though, granted, that’s not hard to do) by choosing yet another of my least favorite songs in the entire universe, Lonestar’s ”Amazed.” The song clearly works for Josh Gracin, v. 2.0, but it didn’t work for me. Two of the judges (guess who) quickly followed with the usual empty compliments — he may be Randy’s idea of a ”man’s man,” but he’s certainly not mine! Yet Simon seemed to say it all when he looked off into the ether and gave a deep, defeated sigh.

La Toya London And now we come to the moment when I say what nobody wants to hear: La Toya is overrated. There, I said it. No, I don’t want to see her booted from the competition, and no, I CERTAINLY don’t think she’s incapable of belting out a country song with her usual dollop of class and energy. But again, was I the only freakin’ person who seemed to notice that she didn’t seem to be able to keep up with the frisky pace of Garth Brooks’ ”Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)”?! Am I the only freakin’ person who thought, for the second week in a row, that her voice was sorta, um, flat in some sections? And am I the only freakin’ person who thinks she’s paying off those judges to trip over themselves when they assess her performances? Please alert me if I’m crazy here, folks. I’d like to be proven otherwise if that’s really the case, because right now, I’m not feelin’ the love. And trust me, it’s not for lack of trying.

Amy Adams If you couldn’t pronounce the word ”music” and subsequently asked your mom for a mullet-style hairdo as a child, then I don’t want you as my American Idol. So, Amy, you might want to reconsider exactly how much you’re giving away about yourself in those pretaped video intros. Still, since you ARE from the country-music capital of the West Coast and your performance of ”Sin Wagon” WAS pretty decent, it’s no surprise when Randy Jackson is calling you a ”natural.” But that was last night. Prove to me next week that you can tackle a totally separate musical genre, and we’ll see where I stand. Oh, and please ask Mom and Auntie to immediately cease the streaking parties. Pretty please?

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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