American Idol Episodes

2002, TV Show

American Idol Episode: "11 Finalists Compete"

Season 8, Episode 21
Episode Synopsis: The Top 11 finalists perform, choosing songs from the country genre. Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson are the judges.
Original Air Date: Mar 17, 2009

American Idol Episode Recap: Top 11 Perform Season 8, Episode 21

This week, the remaining 11 Idols will be singing country songs that celebrate the Grand Old Opry with help from mentor Randy Travis.

Welcome back everyone! Are you ready to hear some country music tonight? I'm not sure that I am, because it's freakin' St. Patrick's Day! Why couldn't they sing Irish songs? Now that would be a challenge.

I'm pulling double duty tonight, covering a Battlestar Galactica event at the United Nations and recapping Idol, so I'm going to make this short and sweet. I know you'll have plenty to say in the comments below.

Michael Sarver
Michael sings the ultimate good ol' boy song: "Ain't Going Down (Til the Sun Comes Up)." While it's kinda the perfect song for him to sing, it's not all that challenging vocally. Randy isn't very impressed, and Kara likes seeing his personality but misses the big notes she knows he's capable of singing. Paula says the song allowed him to have a lot of fun and that this genre suits him well, while Simon says he couldn't understand a word he was saying.

Allison Iraheta
Randy cautions Allison to just use her pipes to show off her singing ("Blame It on Your Heart") and not to be too cutesy with her Ashlee Simpson hoedown dance moves. Luckily, she listens to him and just rocks the crap out of that country song. She also looks phenomenal! Kara says she really made that song her own and that every week she gets better and better. Paula says it was another rock-solid performance, and now she wants her to experiment with songs that allow her to be vulnerable. Simon says it was good, though tuneless in parts, and verging on precocious. Randy thinks it was "dope"!

Kris Allen
Kris is also singing a Garth Brooks tune, but is slowing things down a bit with "To Make You Feel My Love." Randy says he made the song his own, and Garth would be proud of that. Aw. It's a lovely, quiet but well-sung performance. Paula says she's pleasantly surprised and thinks it was an honest and vulnerable performance. Simon thinks it was terrific and a nice choice of song with lots of control. He also admits that for the first time he thinks Kris could do really well this season. Randy loves his "tender moments" and Kara says it was very "Kris Allen." Whatever Kara.

Lil Rounds
Wow, Lil looks so different this week! Though the dress is heinous, the color is lovely. Lil is singing "Independence Day," and Randy thinks she has the pipes to pull it off. The beginning is just OK for me, but since she loves to sing big, it improves during the chorus. Did she seem a little stiff, or is it just me? Randy says she struggled in the beginning, and she never really seemed to be in her comfort zone. Kara says they all know she's a great singer, but we didn't see it until the end of the song. Paula says she should have stuck with one verse instead of two, but by gosh she looks pretty (excuse me while I roll my eyes). Simon says (after the great "Lil-Little" debate) that she sounded like a singer at a wedding who was forced to sing a song that someone requested.

Adam Lambert
Adam is singing Johnny Cash's great hit "Ring of Fire," and has struck Randy speechless and gives him points for being "unique." Awesome. How the heck is this a country song with this arrangement? I guess there are no rules for how the song is arranged. But holy moly, this felt like a bad SNL sketch about some Emo kid singing in the basement about his pain. Kara says it was all a little strange, but she kinda liked it. Paula says he's someone who stands out and is true to himself. Simon says, "What the hell was that?" He thinks it was complete indulgent nonsense. Randy says it was like Nine Inch Nails doing a country song.

Scott MacIntryre
Scott is singing Martina McBride's "Wild Angels" with his piano. He sounds really nice singing the song, but like last week, is nice enough? The song does pick up near the end and shows off more of his range and ability. Paula says it was another impressive performance and but that it's time to lose the piano crutch. Simon says that Paula's idea is stupid, and the piano suits him. He thinks he's choosing the wrong songs, and Randy and Kara want him to up his game next week.

Alexis Grace
Alexis is singing Dolly Parton's "Jolene" and Randy really thinks she understands how to tell story with a song. I really like Alexis and think she's talented, but the beginning of the song sounded off to me. When she was able to belt it out a bit more, it sounded much better. Randy says it didn't quite work and was pitchy. Kara thinks she lost her edge by choosing this song, but Paula thinks it worked because she showed her softer side. Simon thinks it was OK, but forgettable.

Danny Gokey
Danny is so nervous with Randy that he has trouble getting out any of Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel." But Randy thinks that if he can pull it together, his soulfulness will really come out. Like many others tonight, the beginning of the song is so rough, but he's able to rock the chorus. Kara didn't like the front end, but loved the second part, while Paula thinks the beginning was helping him build the story of the song. She also thinks Carrie Underwood would love his version and buy a record of it. Simon agrees with Paula about building the song, but hates Danny's white jacket (as do I). Randy thinks he needs to work on the verses (the beginning) of the songs because they were a tad pitchy.

Anoop Desai
Anoop is singing Willie Nelson's "You Were Always on My Mind," and Randy thinks people will rethink his capability as a singer... in a good way. I think 'Noop Dog did a great job with this song. It's one of those iconic songs that is kind of iffy to tackle, but he made it his own. Paula says Anoop is back and is proud of him for picking a song that fit him like a glove. Simon says Anoop went from "zero to hero" and that it was one of his favorite performances of the night. Randy says he showed he really can sing, and he loved the arrangement. Kara says he did an amazing job taking an untouchable song and making it his own.

Megan Joy (Corkrey)
Seriously, she's dropping the Corkrey already? Ugh. Megan chooses "Walkin' After Midnight," and although Randy is hesitant about her song choice at first, he enjoys her take on it. Oh jeez, what is she wearing? My shock over her dress is only slightly distracted by her vocals, which are inconsistent and pitchy. And, seriously, ditch the awful hip-shaking. Randy must be on crack because he thinks it all worked. Kara thinks her song and her look are perfect (says the chick wearing the Xanadu outfit). Paula talks more about her having the flu and being a fighter than her actual vocals. Clearly, they are all impressed with her for hanging in there while she's been so sick, and I give her props for that. But her vocals were not all that!

Matt Giraud
Matt's singing Carrie Underwood's "So Small," and Randy really surprised him with his soulful version. I think he nailed the performance. He told the story, and really showed his range. Kara says, "There's nothing small about you!" Paula says "You're piercing through so many people's hearts, and you pierced mine." Oh, Paula. Simon says Matt doesn't get enough credit for his vocals, yet tonight, he out-sang Danny. Randy says it was his favorite performance of the night, and that "he's got it going on tonight."

Who do you think rose to the occasion on this country-themed night of competition?

For the latest on American Idol, tune into TV Guide Network's Idol Tonight every Wednesday at 8 pm/ET and Idol Wrap every Friday at 8 pm/ET with co-hosts Kimberly Caldwell and Justin Guarini. Plus get more on your favorite Idols every Friday with American Idol Rewind at 7 pm/ET.

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This week, the remaining 11 Idols will be singing country songs that celebrate the Grand Old Opry with help from mentor Randy Travis. read more

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Premiered: June 11, 2002, on FOX
Rating: TV-PG
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Premise: The smash reality series showcases wannabe pop stars competing for a record deal by crooning for a panel of judges, including, most entertainingly, the acid-tongued Simon Cowell, who departed the show in 2010 after serving for nine seasons. The judges review a performer's talent (or lack thereof), and at-home viewers then vote for their favorite potential star. The show helped launch the careers of such artists as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson and Adam Lambert.

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