<em>American Idol</em> Top 9: The Results

Dolly Parton is one of the most talented songwriters in country music history, has a sensational voice and has recorded more great albums than you can shake a stick at.
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The gang sings along to Dolly Parton's classic "9 to 5." That hit film is coming to Broadway in spring of 2009, which should give Dolly another chance to score with that project. I'd say she was robbed when she lost the Oscar to "Fame"." But frankly Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again" from Honeysuckle Rose would have been just as deserving as Dolly's tune. But proof of the tune's durableness is that this is the least tiresome sing-along in memory.

Ryan puts the obvious people on the sofa early on, including Michael Johns, David Archuleta and Carly Smithson. Then, God help us, they take more phone calls. This episode-padding bit of desperation reaches a new low in boredom with virtually none of the questions being provocative and everyone showing how bored they are by giving answers just as dull as the questions.

Clark Brothers -- This group of brothers won The Next Great American Band competition and thank goodness -- they were my favorites from day one, along with that heavy metal group of teen and pre-teen rockers. The Clark Brothers tear through "This Little Light Of Mine," a signature tune of theirs and I loved it. But shouldn't they have covered a Dolly Parton song? It certainly wouldn't have been a stretch given their bluegrass/gospel roots.

David Cook is also safe and pooh-poohs the news reports of his medical emergency. The fact that he's never mentioned his ailing brother on camera the way so many other contestants trot out ailing family members and friends makes me like him even more. Finally, Ramiele and Kristy Lee Cook join the bottom three. When Syesha is called next, both Jason Castro and Brooke White look very anxious backstage since they know one of them will be in the lowest rung. Brooke is the one while Jason is safe and we get a glimpse of his very good-looking friends in the audience.

Dolly Parton -- She sings "Jesus and Gravity" from her new album Backwoods Barbie. After a string of critically acclaimed bluegrass albums, Dolly's aimed right for the heart of country radio with this CD. Between this and the Clark Brothers tune of an old spiritual standard, Idol is setting a record for references to Jesus and God. (Hey, they should do a gospel night one season.) To be honest, Dolly's performance isn't great. But she's a hoot once it's over, shouting out "Hallelujah, Simon, how are ya?" and later saying, "Simon tells the truth; someone's got to do it."

The Bottom Three -- so roomies Ramiele, Brooke White and Kristy Lee Cook are in the bottom three. Brooke is safe and then -- as I and many others predicted -- Ramiele finally says goodbye. The only surprise is that it didn't happen sooner, but she does as good a job as she can singing at the end and can look forward to the Idol tour.


It's Dolly Parton night on American Idol and don't we all have a big goofy smile on our faces? Dolly Parton is one of the most talented songwriters in country music history, has a sensational voice and has recorded more great albums than you can shake a stick at. Plus she's a good actress and will probably conquer Broadway with her musical version of 9 to 5 coming out this fall or next year. It must be fun going through life and knowing that every time you walk into a room of strangers that their faces light up with delight.

Brooke White -- She sings "Jolene." Dolly is seen mentoring her and it becomes clear Dolly fits in the "cheerleader" genre of mentors, people who smile and encourage you but aren't seen really digging in and shaping their singing or overall performances. (No one has equaled Barry Manilow as a mentor in my book -- he changed the keys they sang in, worked on their arrangements and really made them better.) But who wouldn't want encouragement from Dolly? Last week, Brooke failed to realize that "Every Breath You Take" is a tune about a jealous lover on the verge of becoming a stalker. Tonight she bounced happily through a tune about a woman desperately pleading with a femme fatale to leave her man alone. Randy was mixed, Paula rambled on before insisting, "You are...Brooke White" to which Simon chimed in "Yes, she is!" Simon rightly said the song showed no emotion and Brooke as always responded to every negative comment with, "OK, OK, that's alright."

David Cook -- He sang "Little Sparrow" all while growing a goatee apparently. Dolly said that "he doesn't mind reaching for it" which is a compliment about pushing your voice but really a comment about the limitations of said voice. She said polite things to David and he bowed to her! Please don't bow anymore David. His performance was solid and most notable for breaking the emo-rocker moody midtempo mold that Cook had fallen into. Instead of ending with a big rock flourish he ended with a quiet little instrumental run. All three judges were positive, with Simon insulting Dolly by saying if David can make a song about sparrows sound good, then he must really be good. (On Beatles night, Simon mocked Paul McCartney's "Blackbird." Maybe he just hates birds.

Ramiele Malubay -- She sang "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind" when I was certain Ramiele would tackle "9 to 5." "Finally, someone my size!" Dolly joked to Ramiele, who was clearly overwhelmed by meeting her. Ramiele bounced through the tune with pluck, despite being flat or off and hitting several bum notes at the finale when her voice wavered. Flavorless, bland. Randy was negative, Paula said "I'm proud of you" which is her way of being negative and Simon correctly described it as something you'd hear on a cruise ship.

Jason Castro -- He sang "Travellin' Through," the theme song from 2005's Transamerica. Castro is always amiable despite a voice that practically disappears while he was singing. The copious references to God and Jesus might win him a few extra votes from heartland Christians who don't realize the movie is about the dignity of transgendered people. (Dolly was robbed of an Oscar when her song lost to the far inferior tune "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" from Hustle & Flow.) Hilariously, Jason messes up the words. Instead of the couplet ""Im out here on my journey, trying to make the most of it/ I'm a puzzle, I must figure out where all my pieces fit" he sings "I'm a puzzle, I must figure out why I'm a piece of sh--" and then slurs the last word when he realizes something has gone horribly wrong. None of the judges comment on his live almost-cursing moment (maybe they thought Dolly had gone ghetto) but only Paula found something nice to say.

Carly Smithson -- She sang "Here You Come Again," one of Dolly's signature songs even though it was written by Mann and Weill. (Unlike my friend Aaron, I see nothing wrong with the kids choosing a song associated with Dolly even if it isn't one of the 3000 she wrote herself.) I liked the quiet, slow approach to a tune that's usually more upbeat and thought Smithson did a very good job until the end, where she indulged in her usual unnecessary runs and trills. Randy gave the most lackluster endorsement possible. Even though she was the fifth of only nine performers, Randy could only manage to say "I do belive that will probably be one of the better ones of the night." Whew, knock yourself out. Paula of course was nice and Simon was quite negative. I disagreed with him and I haven't been a fan of hers. But it was tiresome to see Ryan asking, basically, "What's your problem?" Simon's problem is just the singing and the fact that he gets the loudest applause of any of the judges should let Ryan know Simon is doing something right.

David Archuleta -- He sang "Smokey Mountain Memories." I worried that a 17 year old would be at a disadvantage since he simply wouldn't know as many older tunes as the other singers and would therefore have a much steeper learning curve to overcome. What do I know, since he's plucked "You're The Voice" out of obscurity last week and this week tackles this Dolly tune like it's an old friend. Dolly really only praised two performers and he was one of them. She seemed to almost tear up during rehearsals and said, "I really think that he has the voice to really become a great, great singer." And then he stepped out and did an admirable job with a song I imagine was not so familiar to most of the people in the audience, though it was right in his comfort zone of quietly inspirational ballads. He was a little breathy and lost his breath completely at the end of one line and still has that problem of diva hands to overcome (his tendency to gesture repeatedly with his hands like some old soul singer). But it was very, very good. His best moment was when David started to tackle the big final notes of the tune and the camera was behind him looking over his shoulder and into the mosh pit. We got a good look at about four or five girls who were gazing up at David with pure, unadulterated adulation. All three judges raved.

Kristy Lee Cook - She sang "Coat of Many Colors," perhaps the quintessential Dolly Parton song and did it in a great, country-ish dress and no shoes. Dolly hugged her at the end of rehearsals and said, "Your mom's going to be so proud," which she meant sweetly but which Kristy rightly pegged as deflating. It's not exactly "wow, you own that song!" is it? She got through it just fine with Randy and Paula being overly nice. Simon nailed it when he said "pleasant but unforgettable." Still, she looked terrific and this is her genre and Middle America loves this song.

Syesha Mercado -- She sang "I Will Always Love You" and who else other than Carly Smithson could have tackled it? Actually, Brooke White could have tackled it if she stuck to Dolly's original plaintive version (which was a massive hit for Dolly and then a massive hit again when she recorded it again for the movie Best Little Whorehouse In Texas and then a massive hit for the ages when Whitney Houston pummeled it into submission for The Bodyguard with Kevin Costner reportedly suggesting she record the tune and even offering up his idea for the arrangement that would have her singing a capella for the first verse of the tune). Anyway, Dolly seemed oh so slightly peeved that Syesha did most of the tiune her way but then inevitably went the Whitney route for the end since the Whitney version is tailor-made for Idol viewers who love their big notes. Syesha looked just lovely in a yellow dress, perched on a piano and sang the tune wonderfully. In the last 30 seconds, she switched from sensitive to diva and sang the heck out of it, hitting that big note triumphantly and doing a generally smash-up job. To my surprise, the judges weren't wildly enthusiastic. Randy was mixed, Paula nice and Simon thought it was good but still paled next to Whitney and didn't do Syesha any favors. I thought it was better than that.

Michael Johns -- He sang "It's All Wrong, But It's Alright." This was the other singer Dolly had nice things to say about. (Maybe she just likes cute guys.) Dolly realy liked his voice and joked that she hopes he becomes a big star because she thinks she could write some really good songs for him. I've never been a fan of Michael. Yes, he did a really good "Bohemian Rhapsody" in Hollywood Week. But other than that I've been almost completely bored by him. Queen rescued him again, briefly, but not in a way that made me rethink my opinion of him. I am tonight. He did a bluesy, sexy version of this song that had more personality and verve than all his other performances put together. Plus, he held onto the mike and avoided those rock star performances. Really the best performance of the night and the judges agreed by enthusiastically praising him.

I predict the bottom three will be Brooke White, Jason Castro and Ramiele Malubay, with Brooke and Ramiele in the bottom two and Ramiele headed home.

NOTE: By the way, to clear up a debate in the threads about this show, at least this week the clips shown at the end of Idol were all drawn from the live performances (including the final number of the night). You can clearly see the audience in some of them and you can always hear them. They might have clips from the rehearsals ready to drop in during the clip reel at the end just in case of technical problems but it really shouldn't be a problem to pull even 20 seconds from the last song during the minute or so of judge comments.

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