The kids on “Idol” look to the honky-tonk muse Dolly Parton for this week’s theme, which has us worried. . .

Erin: It’s Dolly!

You have to understand, I adore Dolly Parton. For the many people that know me, I understand that this seems strange contradiction to my usual musical preferences, but I adore this five-foot miracle of modern science. I love that she defies physics, I love that she has a theme park, I love that she embraces the fact that not a single part of her appearance was developed outside of a doctor’s office or a wig shop, and I love her down-home attitude. She’s the polar opposite of my other idol, Siouxsie.

See, I have layers.

Anywho…

The kids on “Idol” look to the honky-tonk muse for this week’s theme, which has me worried. Outside of Whitney Houston covers, “9 to 5,” “Islands in the Stream” and snippets of Stallone duets from early morning HBO showings of “Rhinestone,” I think the contestants would be hard pressed to name a Dolly song offhand. Regardless, Her Bustiness has an almost magical effect on the group, giving life to many of the dead-in-the-water hopefuls like an angel in a Lifetime holiday movie. Sure, this doesn’t stop many of them from sucking, but she inspires them to suck in a whole new way.

Kathy: I am not quite the fan that Erin is but, really, what’s not to like? Plus, the woman has written 3,000 songs. That’s a lot of songs, people! And who knew it would take Dolly Parton to salvage this so-far dismal Top 12 portion of the season? After the utter crap we’ve sat through the past three weeks, this was a veritable highlight reel. Most of the kids raised their game. I said most. And we had the first truly memorable perf of the season. Except for Simon’s annual country music hatefest, it was a very enjoyable hour.

Brooke
Song: Jolene (with guitar)
Erin: Now, I’ve riding the anti-Brooke bandwagon ever since the “Love is a Battlefield” Massacre of ‘08, but I think she did a great job here. Really. But for some reason, the judges don’t agree with me. This sets the tone for the rest of the night, in which Randy and Simon pretend not to be dead inside while Paula pretends not to be hammered.
Kathy: I have always loved Brooke and I think she sang this song really well. She did seem to rush it a bit, but it can’t be easy to cut songs down to 90 seconds. It’s not as if they couldn’t give them more time to sing. Maybe cut out one iTunes plug per show? Or one shot of a former “Idol” contestant you refuses to move on? Also, she probably smiled a bit too much for a song about aching jelousy and loss.
Paula “Run-On Sentence” Abdul: “Brooke what’s great about you is that you’re consistent, you are what you are, you put your heart and soul into and you have an emotional connection with each song that you pick I think that’s what record companies and executives want you are Brooke White excellent and wonderful and beautiful.”

Hey, look it’s Vanna White!

David C.
Song: “Little Sparrow” (with guitar)
Erin: Unable to find an emo version of a Dolly song on either MySpace or Limewire, David must develop his own take on the diva swansong. He sounded a little a reformed Christian alt rock band that hides their secret love of Jesus behind a guitar riff. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Puddle of Mud.) But it’s good.
And let’s all applaud his new haircut. The combover is dead. Long live the chunky rocker bangs.
I heard that after the show, he was taken to the hospital, which makes the perf all the more awesome. Way to sing through the pain, kid.
Kathy: Hospital? What happened?!
I’ve been hard on David the past few weeks, mostly because I felt he was turning into a one-note performer. With a gigantic ego. But I gotta admit it, he was great tonight. I’ll even forgive him for working an iTunes plug into his pre-perf interview. Also, it’s becoming obvious that, in addition to his hatred of country music, Simon has something against birds.
PROSA: I like your haircut, I can see your, I like it, YAW HAW…let me tell you something I’ve never heard a guy do that song, it’s so, uh, it was fantastic it’s fantastic hearing you do the and going into your false and with strength and it shows how well rounder you are as an art.

Ramiele
Song: “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind”
Erin: Behold the amazing effects of the great Dolly. Ramiele didn’t drift down the stairs in a dazed stupor, she didn’t lull us into a coma with a dreary ballad, and she isn’t wearing high-waisted pants. On the other hand, she wasn’t good either, but as least she mixed things up. It was a solid mediocre performance.
Kathy: When is somebody going to help this girl pick out her clothes? Everything she picks makes her look like an Oompa Loompa. Her performance was fine though.
PROSA: I’m proud of you, I’m very proud of you because I was a little worried that you that this you weren’t going to connect but I think that you really had a great minute and 30 seconds and you really connected with the audience and you had fun!

Erin: During the commercial break, Dolly reunites orphans with their families, shows Constantine the true meaning of word “friendship” and sends out a message of hope and love around the world through the use of silver lame clothing.
Kathy: Constantine is like that pesky houseguest that just won’t go away. I’m pretty sure the producers must just look at one another every week and say “OK, fess up, who got him tickets this week?” When’s he going to move on and stop riding the “Idol” train? Also, I haven’t forgiven him for calling Erin a vampire.
Erin: Kath, I’ve got your back if Ace ever calls you out.

Jason
Song: “Travelin’ Thru” (with guitar)
Erin: I’m not the biggest Jason fan, but you know who is? That bongo player. The guy has been waiting in the sidelines of “Idol” for seven seasons, and now he is finally getting a good workout this year thanks to the adorable Dead Head. This performance confirms my theory that “Idol” producers will be using Blues Traveler in the finale for the celeb/contestant pair off.
Kathy, why does Jason insist on treating “Idol” like a cameo in a Cheech and Chong movie? I swear, in the next episode he is not even going to hide it. He’s just going to wander onto the stage eating a Moonpie and talking about how “The Dark Crystal” is better than “Akira.”
Kathy: And smoking a doobie. I love that Dolly called him “funky lookin’.” All I have to say is that Simon better watch becaue I think Jason’s crazy, postcard obsessed stalker might hunt him down.
PROSA: To me this was one of your strongest performances you let you seemed so comfortable…you let go your voice sounded so strong and rich and your were confident it was great and I loved it.

Carly
Song: Surprisingly not “I Will Always Love You,” which means Syesha will do it. Instead, it’s “Here You Come Again”
Erin: She was great, although Simon has no love for her, or the wardrobe people. I’m really not in tune with the judges this week. They seem really harsh.
Paula picked a fight with Randy about last week’s perfs, presumably because she had a moment of clarity and needed to get it out of her system before she forgot again.
Kathy: I thought she sang this song extremely well, but a robot brings more depth and emotion to songs than she does. Is it just me? Also, Simon flat out lies and says he loves country music.
PROSA: Carly that was glorious, you are such an amazing talent you are beautiful… that voice of yours ohmygod and you look great.

iTunes plug!!!!

David A.
Song: “Smoky Mountain Memories”
Erin: All over the world, teenage girls are hugging “Tiger Beats” to their chest and planning make-believe weddings as David A. gets back on track as this year’s “Idol” front-r
unner. Yep folks, the kid is back.
Kathy: You know, he hit every note, but I didn’t like it. He’s just a weird kid. He’s like a little old man in a child’s body. I am now convinced that his father is picking his songs for him. Or maybe his great-grandfather is.
PROSA: An amazing tone in your voice, you’re strong, you have a beautiful aura about you, you’re just glorious.

Oh my God!! Michael Kors is in the audience!!!!!

Kristy Lee
Song: “The Coat of Many Colors”
Erin: Yep. Here comes Kristy to ruin another perfectly good hour of “Idol” for me. And since it’s Dolly and country Western music, I had a sinking feeling that she was going to do well. As she took the stage, her eyes seemed to say to me: “You’re in my house now, bitch.” But luckily, her song performance had another message: “Huh?” She was boring and forgettable and I want her to go away.
Kathy: I too, thought “Oh God, this is really going to be Kristy’s week, damn it!” Thankfully, she sucked. If she doesn’t go this week I am boycotting her the rest of the season.
PROSA: You look stunning tonight you really do and you look like a beautiful…you just gave a beautiful performance I think this is your best performance I do.

Syesha:
Song: See? Told you.
Erin: Gag. Syesha talks about the emotional connection she has with the song, which I find a little hard to swallow. Syesha ends the perf by nailing the big note, which is slightly impressive until you remember that at least three contestants in the “Miss America Pageant” master this feat each year. She fails to impress the trio.
A note to future Idols: Never, ever sing Whitney unless it’s a post-Bobby song. You will ultimately fail.
Also, Syesha’s looks like she’s wearing a disc on her head.
Kathy: The second I heard Dolly was coming I thought “Well, Syesha will sing ‘I Will Always Love You’ despite my best efforts to steer her away from Whitney.” I actually thought she did a really great job on this, although that coy little smile didn’t really help her convey the meaning of the song. And, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. No matter how well you sing Whitney, you are standing in the master’s massive shadow and you cannot win. Why won’t Syesha listen to me?
PROSA: “Syesha you look beautiful that color is gorgous on you and let’s talk about your voice, your voice has when you are in that it’s like a velvety tune to your voice that you’re like that’s it for you… I just think you’re growing and growing and growing and you’re connecting with the audience so much more and I love it. . .I love it.”

Michael
Song: “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right”
Erin: Really? An ascot? In this day and age? I thought those things died out with the Scooby Gang, Thurston Howell III and the members of “The Hair Bear Bunch.” Mike does a bluesy cool version of the Dolly ballad. Still a favorite in my book.
Kathy: I’ll tell you what’s all wrong: The dirty thoughts I have about Michael every time he’s on stage. I’m sorry, Erin, I know he’s your man but I can’t help it. I give you permission to sing “Jolene” to me. Also, for me, this was the closest thing to a memorable performance we’ve seen all season. Good job Michael!
PROSA: “I just want ot say one thing it’s interesting tonight all some of you don’t know the songs… I’m going to talk real fast… but because they’re great melodies and great hooks Dolly Parton’s amazing you’re a star a rock star”… and my Tivo mercifully cut it off there.

Best
Erin: David C., Michael
Kathy: David C., Michael, Syesha

Bottom 3:
Erin: Ramiele, Kristy, Syesha (not because it was bad, but because it was Whitney)
Kathy: Kristy, Ramiele, Jason

American Idol: By golly, it's Dolly

Fox, Tues 9 p.m.

Production

Taped in Los Angeles by 19 Prods. Executive producers, Nigel Lythgoe, Ken Warwick, Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Simon Fuller; director, Bruce Gowers.

Cast

Related links: Season Pass

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