It’s getting closer to crunch time on Nashville Star, which means it’s time to start separating the contenders from the pretenders. In that spirit, two acts will be going home this week, based on last week’s voting results. One of them won’t even get to perform this week. Immediately, Tommy Stanley and Melissa Lawson are asked to go to the front of the stage. One of them was the top vote-getter for this week and the other is going home. If you don’t know which is which, you haven’t been watching Nashville Star this season.
Tommy’s gone, leaving Melissa to knock yet another song our of the park — which she does with Anne Murray’s “Danny’s Song.” Both Jewel and John Rich say the song started out a little low before Melissa came out soaring, but it really just seems like they wanted to offer something constructive. Jewel also questions whether Melissa’s family can handle the stress of a country music career, to which Melissa responds that they’ve been waiting 19 years for the opportunity to find out. Man, those kids sure looked young for 19 last week … Our rating: 4 stars
Laura & Sophie are up next and, as much as we enjoyed their performances before last week’s meltdown, we’re pretty surprised that they’re safe during a double-elimination week. After a tear- and tantrum-filled rehearsal montage, they do a decent version of “Walking After Midnight” by Patsy Cline. The judges don’t focus as much on the performance as they do the flare-ups in the video footage but, regardless, it’s clear that at least John Rich and Jewel want to see the girls go home — for their own good, they say. We tend to agree that they shouldn’t last much longer, but it has very little to do with saving their friendship. Simply put, the competition is getting better and they aren’t. Our rating: 3 stars
Gabe Garcia is the next contestant to take the stage — and he’s been taking dance lessons! Gabe’s been good every time out, but this might be his best performance of the season. He’s singing Keith Urban’s “Somebody Like You,” and it’s the least inhibited he’s been onstage by far. Some of his moves still seem a little too premeditated, but the crowd certainly doesn’t seem to care. The judges love him, and rightfully so. Our rating: 5 stars
Somehow Shawn Mayer has made it through another week. Now that Alyson Gilbert is gone, we’re expending all our energy on rooting for Shawn to be shown the exit. We find out from the rehearsal footage that Shawn has fired John Rich as her mentor in favor of Jeffrey Steele — because John Rich made her cry. Well, that sure shows the kind of mental toughness necessary to succeed in the music business. Under Jeffrey’s direction, Shawn sings a very Shawn-like version of “The First Cut Is the Deepest” by (take your pick) Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart, Sheryl Crow, etc. It’s plodding, melodramatic and completely undistinguishable from any song she did on John Rich’s watch. Hmm … maybe he wasn’t the problem after all. Our rating: 2 stars
Country or not, Coffey is safe this week, too. While it’s great to see that he survived John Rich’s assault, this means that either Pearl Heart or Ashlee Hewitt is going home this week, and that ain’t right. But more on that in a moment. Coffey’s performance of “Proud Mary” isn’t going to win John Rich over, but clearly the fans’ is the only opinion that matters. Coffey’s as good as he’s been all season, and he’s the most natural performer by far in this competition. We would like to see him take Jewel’s advice and show that he can sing a ballad — and there’s still a lot of room for improvement — but, for now, we’re just happy to see him deliver the type of performance of which we’ve always known he was capable. Our rating: 4 stars
Ashlee Hewitt is the first to perform of the Bottom 2 (or technically Bottom 3, if we’re still counting Tommy). It would be a shame if she didn’t move on, since we just got on her bandwagon within the last week or two. She’s doing “Take the Money and Run” by Steve Miller Band, and she’s doing it barefoot — which we have to admit is kind of hot. Ashlee seems to be feeling more and more at ease onstage each week. We have a feeling that if we were to view this performance and her first one on the show back-to-back, the transformation would be shocking. Right now, after another solid showing, Ashlee belongs in the Top 2 far more than she belongs in the Bottom 2. Our rating: 4 stars
How Pearl Heart finds themselves on the chopping block is beyond us. The trio of sisters has yet to deliver a subpar performance, and this week, their version of Garth Brooks’ “Ain’t Going Down ’til the Sun Comes Up” is a showstopper. It’s not just the performance of the night, it’s quite possibly one of the best we’ve seen this season from anyone. It’s certainly, as John Rich suggests, their best performance. If they go home tonight, anyone who voted for Shawn or Laura & Sophie last week should hang their head in shame. Our rating: 5 stars
Ashlee and Pearl Heart take to the stage, one for the final time. And it’s Pearl Heart who gets the ax. There was no good possible outcome here, but it seems especially wrong to send Pearl Heart home mere moments after what was inarguably an A-plus performance. We’re not sure they had a chance to win it all this season, but they should have been around for at least another two or three weeks.
If we’re handicapping the race the rest of the way, we’d have to say Melissa is the favorite, with Gabe and Ashlee posing the biggest threats — assuming the voters get their act together. Coffey remains a dark horse, while Shawn and Laura & Sophie have done little to suggest that they should still be in the competition now, let alone when all is said and done.
As always, let us know what you think in the comments section below. We’ll see you next week.