This Tuesday night's American Idol performances were a little bit country, a little bit emotional roller coaster. It's anyone's game now, according to TV Guide Channel's resident Idol alumna, Kimberly Caldwell, who cohosts Idol Chat Thursdays at 8 pm/ET. Here, she offers TVGuide.com her astute analysis of how the Nashville-Philly combo played toward each of the singers' strengths and weaknesses, and what suddenly made Baby V. so vulnerable on stage.
TVGuide.com: How did everyone do overall on Tuesday?
Kimberly Caldwell: All four of the contestants are great performers and singers. I don't think any of them nailed both of their songs. There was at least one that each of them really shined on.
TVG: Who did best in the Nashville theme?
Kimberly: Obviously, Carrie Underwood had maybe even an unfair advantage with this. [This theme] was obviously directed toward Carrie. I would have been kind of upset if I were a contestant. At the same time, you've got to be able to fit into every kind of genre. She sang the song better than anybody, but it's not Nashville Star. You need to be able to jump from genre to genre. There's no way anyone can deny her talent and her stage presence. You've seen her grow so much over the time she's been on American Idol. She used to just stand there with a mic in her hand, and now she's really comfortable. And she was in her comfort zone as well; I'm sure that she's sung [the Dixie Chicks' "Sin Wagon"] 400 times before.
TVG: Any of the others surprise you with their country ability?
Kimberly: I loved Bo Bice's grandma. She was hysterical. I don't think he did a fantastic job on the first song, but he nailed the second song.
TVG: As a former contestant, do you have any insight into Vonzell Solomon's teary breakdown?
Kimberly: It rips my heart out. Someone just sitting in the audience might be thinking, "Hold it together. Wait until you get off stage to do that." I'm telling you, I've broken down before on Idol — when Julia DeMato left. It's just one of those things: You're not with your friends, you're not with your family for months on end and you're a woman! Sometimes you can't hold the tears back. I think she was probably having a bad day, and that's the bottom line. I hope that people don't look into it and get into her privacy. When you're on that show, it doesn't have to be a huge, dramatic event for you to break down. At the same time, I've been told that, no matter what, you wouldn't see Jennifer Lopez crying on stage. To be really honest, I still think both of [Vonzell's] performances were better than any of the others added up.
TVG: Did you agree with Simon that Vonzell's second performance was a little manic?
Kimberly: That's the problem with breaking down in front of the audience. The audience is there for you to entertain them. If they know that you're having a bad day, it's difficult for them to sit there and openly enjoy you. They know that you're not having a good time when you're up there singing and dancing, that it's fake and manic. Everybody knew she didn't want to be up there. She wanted to go have her own time. She knew she had to nail the second song, and she did that, but it was difficult to watch her.
TVG: Who did the best with the Philly songs by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff?
Kimberly: I think that Bo absolutely and totally nailed ["For the Love of Money"]. His look totally rocking, and I think he's been watching Idol Chat — because he straightened his hair and he looked a little bit cleaner! If you listen to the crowd whenever Carrie or Bo finish singing, they don't stop cheering. I truly think we're going to wind up with Carrie and Bo in the finals, even though I personally think Vonzell should be the winner.
TVG: Was it wise for Anthony Fedorov and Carrie to choose the same song, "If You Don't Know Me by Now"?
Kimberly: It's a personal no-no. I had a couple of opportunities to do that, but I stepped away from it. Anthony is lucky he went second, because his arrangement was way better and he actually did a better job than Carrie, which I think shocked everybody. I just think it's a no-no. You have hundreds of songs to choose from.
TVG: Is winning this still in the contestants' control? What do they need to do to gain the lead?
Kimberly: I don't think it's in anybody's control. I think Anthony is the only one who gives it his all every single time and doesn't slack. But I don't think he's as naturally talented as the other three. If the other three come out every week, truly give it 100 percent and know how much is on the line, then any one of them could take it home at this point. You have to go out there and pretend like it's your last performance. You're only as good as your last performance.