American Songwriter Watches American Idol: Hello, Nashville

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Midway through watching last night’s American Idol, “Nashville Edition,” I had a revelation. “Hey, I know that guy.  I’ve been to his house!”

The guy in question was Paul McDonald, of local rock band Grand Magnolias. A few months ago, I caught a showcase they put on in their basement-slash-rehearsal studio, where they raised the roof. I knew their lead singer was talented, but it never occurred to me that Jennifer Lopez or Steven Tyler might see things the same way. But McDonald impressed the judges with his breezy rendition of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May,” enough to get a golden ticket to Hollywood.

Nashville’s auditions gave the show one of their biggest-ever turn outs, as thousands of hopefuls lined up to become the next Corky Underwood or Justine Bieber. For every well-trained singer with a dream and a twinkle in their eye, there were more than a handful who had no idea what they were doing; misguided souls who couldn’t sing their way into a paper bag, let alone out of it. Nashville had it’s share of freaks, too: the dude in the body suit, the dazed and confused dental assistant, “Younique.” (Next week they go to Austin, where it should get plenty weird. That’s Austin’s whole thing.)

Country music was part and parcel of last night’s auditions, but didn’t dominate the evening. 15-year-old Lauren Alania powered her way through Faith Hills “Like We Never Loved Before,” and the dental assistant butchered Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.” (Randy Jackson: “Really? Really?“) The judges seemed to be the only ones to think that Rob Bolin and Chelsee Oaks, the young country music couple who can sing in perfect harmony, but couldn’t keep their relationship together, we’re destined to reunite. The awkward looks on the contestants’ faces seemed to indicate otherwise.

The episode’s most affecting moment came from Adrienne Beasley, the African-American adopted daughter of two white farmers from Wickliffe, Kentucky, whose unusual upbringing was explored in a behind-the-scenes segment. Her radiantly soulful, no-b.s. rendition of Lady Antebellum’s “American Honey” made the judges’ hair stand on end. Moved to tears by her own performance, her joyful reaction upon learning that she’d passed the audition was the best thing about the show.

What did you think of American Idol’s Nashville episode? Let us know in the comments.


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  1. I love the new American Idol. It is much easier to watch,
    and I love Steven Tyler with the contestants, he is a great
    judge. I also like the mix of the 3 Jennifer, Randy and
    Steven, they balance each other out without fighting or
    yelling or name calling. A MUCH BETTER IDOL and I look
    forward to watching it each week.


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