Episode 2 (3/8): Not a Single Vomit Inducing Performance
Speedbump has handed off the steel guitar and mandolin to me for this week. Not being nearly as much of a fashionista as Mr. Speed, I’ve resisted the urge to tease my hair and shellac it with hair spray. Besides, I’m afraid I might end up looking like Christy if I did. I’m ready to two-step my way through the first elimination where the age old question will be answered, “Is running off the stage to vomit on national television fatal to your chances of gaining a recording contract?”
This Ain’t Your Daddy’s Country
The show opens with Leann standing in the audience wearing a combination tank top/nightie and jeans to introduce the night’s special guests, Montgomery Gentry. They get the show off to a great start with a high energy performance of their hit, “Gone.” The judges clearly enjoy the song, bopping their heads along with the music. In fact, Bret Michaels looks like he’s having a flashback to his metal days and is playing the air drums. By the end of the song, the audience is on its feet and pumped. Once the applause dies down, Leann who has comeback on stage with the contestants asks them to give it up one more time for Montgomery Gentry.
Leann reintroduces us to the contestants one by one and somewhat overly gleefully announces that we will learn which nine contestants are continuing on and who is the first one eliminated. It’s like watching Shirley Temple transform into Jeff Probst.
Let’s Get this Party Started
According to Leann, millions watched the premiere and voted. She then fakes out the audience by asking them who is ready to find out who stays and who is going home. According to Leann, television equals cruelty, so we are going to have to wait to find out who was eliminated. Leann reminds us of the members of this season’s all new judging panel, Phil Vasser, Anastasia Brown, and Bret Michaels. Bret let’s us know that he knows Montgomery Gentry by asking the audience to clap one more time for his “drinking buddies” Troy and Eddie. He then decides to buck himself up for what is coming by telling us that this is a show that actually has talent (at least he resisted the urge to call Simon Cowell out for a duel) and the judges have to be mean. He switches gears and asks the audience if they are ready to party. Why do I have the feeling that Bret burned a few brain cells during his Poison days?
Oh joy, we get our first extraneous interview with the “backstage reporter” Cledus T. Judd. Cledus, who routinely cracks himself up, decides to make fun of last week’s unfortunate barfing incident by introducing us to the Official Nashville Star mop and bucket. Given that Cledus probably makes everyone around him want to barf, he better keep the mop and bucket handy.
Leann reminds us of the tried and true Nashville Star format by telling the contestants that if their name is called they will be performing and moving on. The first to hear the welcome sound of his name is Jody Evans, the Buddy Holly/Elvis channeling policeman. All the other performers give Jody a big hug. We learn that Jody was concerned about his ability to keep his job while appearing on the show. The Chief of Police in his small town went to the City board and got special permission for other officers to donate vacation days to Jody. Jody realizes he owes the other officers a lot.
Jody chooses to perform Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” while accompanying himself on guitar. He sounds good and demonstrates a lot of energy but doesn’t do anything to establish his own style. Scarily, Bret Michaels agrees with me. He tells Jody that Elvis and Buddy have been done and that next week he needs to show a little more of him. Anastasia and Phil echo Bret’s comments.
Tamika is the second to learn she can stop holding her breath. She tells us that she really wants the record deal. Tamika has had enough of playing bars and driving town to town. She has decided to put her hair up for this week’s show. It makes her look a little like a Lhasa Apso who has just returned from the groomer.
Tamika belts out “I’m Alright” which was the title track of a Jo Dee Messina Album and just happens to have been written by none other than------Phil Vasser. Tamika sounds great. I could have done without the little squeal and leg kick that ends her performance and continues the small dog theme though. Leann decides to bring up Anastasia’s comments about Tamika’s wardrobe last week. This week she is wearing jeans and what Tamika calls her butterfly shirt. This time her wardrobe gets universally praised. Phil not surprisingly likes her song choice and the other judges have fun calling her a suck up. Tamika says there is a story behind the song choice which the judges want to hear later. I want to hear it too darn it. Phil and Anastasia tell Tamika she has the best voice in the competition so far. Bret tries to come up with a criticism and tells her next time he wants her to bring every bit of her heart and soul. He does it in a semi-articulate manner which causes Leann to say, “You want to feel her up?”
We are again sent back stage to Cledus. I really need a drink whenever he is on camera. Cledus tells us that the barfing incident has caused controversy with the home audience. Many people thought Jenny Farrell should have been given an opportunity to perform after she finished emptying the contents of her stomach. Cledus then tries to convince the remaining performers to say that it wouldn’t have been fair The performers are smarter than to say anything other than that she should have been given an opportunity. Given that the eliminations are determined solely by audience vote, I’d say that was a good idea.
Brother, Why for Did You Choose that Song?
Justin is the third to hear his name. He tells us that his e-mail inbox has been jam-packed with messages since the last show and that some girl wants to come back as his personal microphone in the next life. Eww, just eww.
Now, I like most bluegrass and don’t mind a little twang, but its not exactly mainstream country. On a show where you only get to perform one song per episode and that performance is what the potential voters will hear, why would you do a bluegrass tune? Justin forgot to consult with me and comes out strumming a mandolin and sings, “I am a Man of Constant Sorrow.” At least he didn’t have soggy bottoms. Leann questions how he feels about the current state of country music given that last week he did Johnny Cash and this week he chose bluegrass. He hems and haws a little. The judges’ opinion is split. Anastasia dug his playing but tells him this week his pitch made her ears bleed rather than her toes curl. Phil liked his performance better than last week. Bret tells him he’s just cool.
Leann asks the contestants backstage if they are ready for some more good news. The next performer to be revealed is Erika Jo, the youngest finalist. She tells us that there is Erika and there is Erika Jo. Erika is the normal teenager at home and school. Erika Jo performs country music on the weekends and gets up on bars and tables. She doesn’t mention whether she dances with poles.
Erika Jo performs Gretchen Wilson’s “Here for the Party.” Erika Jo shows not only a nice strong voice but performance skills way beyond her tender years. She bounces around, goes into the audience and plays to the judges. I’m trying really hard to get past her Julia Roberts’ horse mouth. Bret, a little too enthusiastically, tells her that there is a party on his bus after the show. Anastasia says that Erika Jo is a fabulous vocalist and that she just needs to live it next time. Phil is clearly enthusiastic and a little amazed she is only 18.
I’m a Little Bit Country
After yet another commercial, we return to the increasingly anxious remaining six contestants who have been dragged on to the stage with Leann. She waits no time in announcing that Casey will be the next to perform. Casey tells us that she is a goof off when she is not on stage but that she turns a switch when she performs or rehearses.
Casey decides to slow things down, singing Kellie Coffey’s ballad “Whatever It Takes.” Casey has a very traditional country voice. She does a nice job with the song which is frankly a little boring. When she’s done, Leann tells her she did a good job. Anastasia comments that she’s not sure Casey is a true artist, but she is definitely a pretty singer. Bret starts to deliver what sounded like it was going to be a criticism but ends up instead saying “She’s hot.” I guess this being mean stuff isn’t so easy after all.
The next contestant to learn he hasn’t been eliminated is Jason Meadows. Jason is a cowboy’s cowboy. He’s outfitted in tight jeans, cowboy boots, long sleeve shirt, and of course an enormous belt buckle. He also has a nice drawl. Jason tells us that he didn’t come to Nashville to lose. He’s been married for 10 years and this is the first time he’s been away from his wife for this long.
Jason decides to perform Tracy Byrd’s “I’m from the Country.” Jason’s performance is as traditional as his outfit. His voice reminds me a little of George Straight and Clint Black. Bret calls him George Straight on speed. Anastasia makes a song request. She wants him to perform a love song next week and make the judges swoon. Bret approves of the idea, squeezing her hand. Phil decides to tease Jason asking if they really have his patterned shirt in the men’s department.
Once more we are subjected to Cledus. He has gathered the final four backstage and again asks about Barfgate. He wants to know if Christy thinks it would be unfair if she is eliminated and Jenny goes on despite the fact that Christy performed her whole song and Jenny didn’t. Christy turns on the cornball accent and says, “Honey, its America’s opinion.” Cledus finally decides to ask Jenny if she would think it was a sympathy vote or that she deserved to go on, if she’s not eliminated. Jenny tells Cledus that “Either way, she doesn’t care.”
Dolly Parton Redux
Leann has once again brought the final four back out on stage. They look like four deer in headlights. We learn that the next performer will be Jayron Weaver, the devoutly religious bear of a young man. Jayron is a little out of his element coming to Nashville Star. He says that the experience has taken him away from church and what he’s used to. He feels though like he has a good foundation and that he’ll make the people at church proud. Jayron wants to win.
This week Jayron plays guitar while performing Rascal Flatts’ “Bless the Broken Road.” I frankly think Jayron will get eliminated somewhere near the middle of the pack. Not because he’s not incredibly talented. I just can’t see him winning. Then again, I was shocked last year when Matt and his washboard continued to avoid elimination. Phil tells Jayron that he sings great. He thinks it’s amazing to have that cool high voice coming out of such a big guy. Anastasia gives Jayron a hallelujah. She tells him that she loves his voice, but he needs to do a better job of making eye contact. Finally, Bret tells him that he’d pay good money to have half Jayron’s voice. Bret wants Jayron to own it and be a superstar next time.
Much to my dismay, our eighth performer is Christy McDonald, she of the over-the-top personality and untrimmed poodle hair. Christy tells us that it hit her last night that she has a shot to win. She’s managed to convince herself that all the country superstar divas have big hair. Maybe that was true 20 years ago but not so much in 2005. Bad hair, thy name is Christy.
Christy takes a risk with her song choice. She sings Martina McBride’s “Where Would You Be?” To me, it was a mistake. Her voice isn’t as strong as that of the other female finalists. Christy should have stuck with something more upbeat that required less range. Leann asks her if she’s worried about her big personality turning off some of the viewing audience. Christy, never the one to compromise, tells Leann that “Honey, you have to be who you are.” Not everyone is going to like it. Anastasia says that Christy could be a modern day Minnie Pearl but that the song revealed a bit of a vocal limitation. Phil chimes in that it’s tough to sing Martina and that he could see Christy in a sitcom. Bret sticks up for his party girl and tells her that he knows about ‘80s big hair. I’m beginning to think Christy reminds him of his favorite groupie from his metal days.
Leann takes us to commercial while the final two of Jenny and Josh wait to see which one will get to perform and which one is eliminated.
Barf Before Beauty
When we come back from the final commercial, Leann is holding the envelope of doom which will reveal who received the least number of votes last week and has been eliminated. Without much ado, Leann announces that Josh Owen has been booted. Jenny and Josh share a hug and Leann gives him his exit interview. Josh who looks like he’s all of five years old says that he made a poor song choice last week, and he’ll just keep keeping on.
Jenny steps up with a smile on her face to talk to Leann. Jenny makes sure everyone realizes she had the flu last week. It wasn’t stage fright that caused her to bolt. She was really hoping America would give her an opportunity to show what she can do. Jenny steps up to the mike and belts out a nice performance of Brooks and Dunn’s “Can’t Take the Honky Tonk Out of the Girl.” During the performance, we see Jenny’s mom in the audience holding a sign and cheering enthusiastically. Leann, apparently not one to shy away from the obvious, tells Jenny she was glad she made it through her performance and then asks her what she thought. Jenny exhibits a sense of humor, saying it was a lot longer. Anastasia says that America gave you the benefit of the doubt and I’m glad they did. You were banging. Bret basically agrees. Phil says I’m glad we got to hear the whole song. It was great.
Next week, it’s Outlaws and Rebels week. The episode gets under way with a performance by Charlie Daniels and we find out who is the second to go.
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