It’s been a lot of fun watching this first season of the USA original series, Nashville Star. There have been a wagon-load of wonderful performances, funny moments, and nail-biting vote reveals over the course of the competition. The format of the show proved successful, and we will likely be hearing from several of the more talented contestants in the coming months and years. There was a lot of ground to cover in this finale, and USA did a great job of packing every minute with quality material. It’s almost hard to believe they fit so much into just an hour.
Roll Out The Red Carpet
The show kicked off on the red carpet outside of The BellSouth Acuff Theatre in Nashville. Nancy O’Dell was there with a toothy grin to welcome the night’s celebrity guests, Clint Black, Trace Adkins and Jo Dee Messina. Then there was a quick red carpet meet-‘n-greet with the final 3 contestants, John Arthur Martinez in a fancy studded jacket, Miranda Lambert in a fancy black dress, and Buddy Jewel in a casual tan-colored suede pantsuit. It seemed a little odd to have an Academy Awards-type red carpet procession for only 6 people, but the contestants seemed really excited to experience it and the fans were all very happy to get a closer look at their Nashville Stars.
Once inside, the 3 remaining contestants took the stage and were joined by all 9 of the eliminated finalists to perform a group version of “Next Best Thing”. John Arthur, Miranda, and Buddy all had mini-solos, and interestingly enough, Jamey Garner was given an opportunity to dazzle us with another harmonica solo, (I’m guessing that Tracy Gershon made good on her vow to sign him and that’s why he got a little extra face time). It was great to get to see everyone again. It made me remember the ups and downs of the season, and what an unpredictable ride it’s been.
Once the group performance was over, the 9 eliminated finalists took their seats in the front row and were given a demonstration of what it takes to make the final 3. John Arthur Martinez was joined on stage by Clint Black for an electrifying version of “Nothin’ But The Taillights”. John Arthur was as energetic as we’ve seen him. He and Clint harmonized well, and seemed to have a wonderful time on stage together. John Arthur’s warm personality comes across no matter what kind of song he sings, but this experience made him beam even brighter than usual. When the song was over, Nancy O’Dell chatted with John Arthur’s mom in the audience. In her soft-spoken proud-mother voice, “I didn’t dream he would make it this far, but yes, I could see the talent in him very young. I’m so proud of him.”.
Next up was Buddy Jewel and Trace Adkins for a power duet of the song “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing”. Both of them have very strong voices and they sounded great together. They harmonized well, and traded off solos with very apparent mutual respect. If these two decided to hit the road together as a team, Brooks and Dunn would be countin’ the days ‘til retirement. In my opinion it was one of the brightest spots of the entire season. When the song came to an end Nancy was in the audience with Buddy’s family. Buddy Jr. said, “…I’m really proud of him, and I love him a lot”. Buddy’s wife commented on Buddy making the final 3, “It’s awesome, it’s just incredible. God has blessed us tremendously.”.
The final duet of the evening was “Bye Bye”, performed by Miranda Lambert and Jo Dee Messina. They also harmonized well together, but Jo Dee was a bit of a spotlight hog. The song sounded great, however Jo Dee didn’t give Miranda much of a chance to sing solo. When the song was over she was so self-absorbed she seemed hesitant to acknowledge Miranda was even there. I had to kind of chuckle, because the lovely and talented Miranda Lambert has had a lot of exposure over the last 9 weeks and I’ve never heard of this scary old broad named Jo Dee Messina before. I felt a little bad for Miranda, but she was very poised and seemed to enjoy the experience. Miranda’s mom commented on her performance with Nancy after the song, “We’ve seen her star potential since she was eight years old, and we’re glad the rest of America is getting to see it tonight.”
Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged
After the contestants performed their duets, it was time for a little surprise. Judge Charlie Robison took the stage to perform one of his original songs, “Right Man For The Job”. Judge Tracy Gershon and her shiny red guitar shared a microphone with Judge Robert K. Oermann and his ukulele as they sang back-up harmony. Talk about a role reversal! Miranda, John Arthur, and Buddy were looking on in a serious manner from the judges table, occasionally jotting down notes. We also got a glimpse of the other finalists as they reacted to Charlie’s song from the front row. I had never heard Charlie sing before, and was quite surprised at the sound of his singing voice. He didn’t sound as I would have imagined, it’s like his voice jumps to a higher octave when he sings. I liked the song, it was a lightweight and fun little country diddy and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Tracy Gershon looked as if she was really playing the guitar, while Robert K. Oermann looked like he was just having a goofy good time faking it, (of course Robert always looks like he’s having a goofy good time faking it, so who knows?!?).
When the song ended, Charlie had to face “the judges”. John Arthur started off the panel critique with a hilarious impersonation of Robert. With grandiose gestures he boomed out, “I love you” and went on to ramble a bunch of nonsense. In other words, the impersonation was smack on target, and the audience ate it up. Next we heard from Buddy. He immediately began stuttering out his Charlie impersonation. Charlie laughingly interrupted him to let us know that he loves Buddy’s impression of him. Buddy went on to trip over his words in the same excited way that Charlie always does when he’s ecstatic about a performance. Buddy nailed it. Everyone was cracking up. Miranda threw in her 2 cents with an impersonation of Tracy Gershon. Although she didn’t necessarily have the speech pattern down, her words were right on the mark as if she had plucked them straight from Tracy’s mouth, “You have a great style. It’s really not about the vocals with you. You were pitchy at the end of some of your notes.” Which leads to more excited laughter and applause from the crowd. Nancy joined Charlie on stage as per her usual routine after a contestant sings. She thanked Charlie for being a good sport. Through a beaming and blushing smile Charlie shot back, “Judge not, lest ye be judged”. There have been some funny moments this season on Nashville Star, but this was really an unexpected and riotously funny turning of the tables.
And Then There Were Two
It was time to announce the third place finisher. Nancy had the 3 remaining contestants join her on stage. It was nice to see such mature anticipation from them. It was pretty obvious we wouldn’t be seeing any kind of Brandi-breakdowns that night, and I couldn’t have been happier about that. Nancy breaks the news, “Finishing third…Miranda Lambert”. The audience jumped to their feet to give her a standing ovation as Nancy told her, “You are going to be a huge, huge star”. Miranda reacted quite professionally for such a young lady. She said, “I think third out of 8,000 ain’t bad! Thank you so much for everything. God bless all ya’ll.” Talking to her parents she said, “Mom and Dad, it’s gonna be a long, hard road. I’m glad y’all are beside me, I love you.”
Tracy summed up the judges’ feelings for Miranda. “From the first time we saw you in Texas at the regionals, we knew you were very special, and every week you have continued to impress us with your poise, your vocals, your song-writing ability and your dedication to traditional country music. There are no bigger fans than the three of us up here, and I’ll tell you what - we will be the first ones to buy your record. I guarantee you, there will be a record from Miranda Lambert.” I tend to agree with Tracy. Miranda has the looks and talent to make it big someday. She has come a long way in this competition as a 19-year-old, and I can only imagine her getting better with age and experience.
A Second Look At The Final Two
I was so happy that we got to see another performance from Buddy and John Arthur. This was really their night and I couldn’t get enough. John Arthur went first. He was described, in a pre-taped introduction, by the 9 previously eliminated finalists - Amy Chappell: “If I had one word to describe John Arthur it would be ‘kind-hearted’. If you’ve known him for two minutes, you want to give him a great big hug because he’s just a nice guy.” Anne Louise Blythe: “Giving” Kristen Kissling: “Thoughtful” Jamey Garner: “He has a really great ability to write from the heart.”
When John Arthur Martinez took the stage, he began a speedy tongue-twister of a song called “The Armadillo Song” which I believe to be a John Arthur original. His energy was through the roof. It was a joyous and silly song and he performed it with an enthusiasm that I would be hard pressed to compare to anything I have ever seen before. Anywhere. He had some mighty fancy footwork too. This was truly John Arthur’s moment to shine is the competition. When he stopped long enough to take a breath, he asked the audience to join in…and then he took it to double-time. It was unbelievable. The crowd went nuts, just as I did on my couch at home. With that performance he proved that he was deserving of his final 2 finish, and I was so happy for him.
Buddy’s pre-taped introduction was next. What did the other contestants have to say about Buddy Jewel? Tasha Valentine: “He’s a great writer”, Anne Louise Blythe: “A genuine person”, Travis Howard: “He has a humility that reminds me of home”, Kristen Kissling: “I think everybody can look up to him as a father figure.”, Prentiss Varnon: “I love the dude”, Jamey Garner: “He’s like a diamond, man. He’s a jewel.” Tasha Valentine added: “He rocks all of us. He’s the best.”
Buddy Jewel took the stage to sing his original “Abilene”. It sounded the same as it did in the regional finals, and when he sang it again a couple of weeks ago. I was pretty disappointed that he didn’t choose to sing something we had never heard before. I can understand though. It’s pretty obvious that he would be getting some kind of record deal at this stage in the game, whether he took home the Nashville Star title or not. Why not sing a song we’ve heard a couple of times to firmly plant it in our minds? I’m sure he realizes that song recognition = record sales. That’s the only reason I can see him making that “safe” decision.
And The Winner Is…
John Arthur joined Buddy and Nancy on stage. She wanted to know how they were feeling and Buddy answered for both of them, “We’re doing great, Nancy. John Arthur and I are great friends, great Christian friends, and we’re doing wonderfully.” How sweet. Now Nancy was ready to announce the winner, “Our very first Nashville Star is…BUDDY JEWEL!”
The confetti rained down as the audience came to their feet in raucous applause. Hugs and tears were contagious in the Acuff Theatre, as Buddy Jewel took the microphone. “First, I want to say thank you to Jesus Christ for blessing me, and I want to give him all the honor and the glory. I want to tell all you folks thank you so much for believing in me and voting for me, and thank you to all my 11 great friends out there.”
Clint Black then joined Buddy on stage to present him with a special Nashville Star plaque engraved with the words, “Your platinum record here”. Clint told Buddy, “I’ll make you a deal. You put a platinum record there, and I’ll give you one of my own signature model guitars to write that new song on.” Uhhhh, gee Clint, if the record you produce for him turns platinum, I’m sure the last thing he’ll care about is a free guitar, but OK.
Buddy went on to perform his crowd-pleasing first single “Help Pour Out The Rain, (Lacey’s Song)”. You know the one..that sappy Christian song inspired by his daughter that we heard a couple of weeks ago? (Yeah, yeah, OK…song recognition = record sales) It was announced that his single would hit the country radio stations on Monday, May 6th. As the show ended, Buddy went on to sing “I Want To Thank Everyone Who Ever Told Me No”, and the confetti continued to fall. Emotions were running deep and everyone joined Buddy on stage to congratulate him.
What an amazing season. We saw so many wonderful performances that it’s easy to let the poorer performances fade into distant memories. It would have been interesting to see how things would have been different if Amy and Jamey had stayed in the competition a little longer, but hopefully they will use the exposure they found on Nashville Star to find their own success in the music industry. This finale was better than I could have ever imagined when I first started watching the show 9 weeks ago, and I can’t wait for next season.
Stay tuned to The FORT for news about future seasons of boot stompin’ Nashville Star, ya’here? Yehaw! Getalong li’l doggie.
Have a comment on the recap? Contact Zhora@fansofrealitytv.com
**A note from the recapper**
The final segment of Nashville Star made me flash back to about a month ago. I had been listening to a syndicated Family Channel re-run of Whose Line Is It Anyway from another room. I wasn’t paying attention as the show ended and the next show started. I then heard someone in a rather excited voice say something about a newsflash from the war. I thought that programming had been interrupted for some important piece of news from Iraq. I went running in to the living room expecting the worst. Well, in a way it was the worst. It was intro for The 700 Club. Hallelujah brother, praise The Lord.