Well, I predicted it as much last week: Ashlee Hewitt is the latest contestant to be cut from Nashville Star.
But last night was Original Song Night on the show, so Ashlee at least got to croon her self-penned tune, "Mike's Hard Lemonade," on national TV:
She also got to rehearse it onstage at the legendary Grand Ole Opry, which is a pretty amazing opportunity for a 20-year-old unknown artist. So she should be thrilled she made it this far. Ash shed a lot of tears last night upon receiving the news of her elimination, but she seems to have found an avid fan in judge Jewel (that Jewel-like yelpy yodel in the middle of "Mike's Hard Lemonade" probably ingratiated Ashlee further), so she ought to take Jewel up on that offer to collaborate with her in the future. With connections like Jewel and her Taylor Swift-like good looks, Ashlee might still go far in Nashville.
But Ashlee probably shouldn't expect any endorsement deals from Mike's Hard Lemonade any time soon, after all (in a previous blog, I'd jokingly assumed that Mike's ad execs would soon come courting Ashlee). Because upon closer examination of Ashlee's song lyrics, I realize the entire song is basically a cautionary tale about how this sweet, sweet malt beverage can make a good girl go bad. And that's not a very good ad slogan: "Drink Mike's, ladies! It'll turn you into a slut!"
Anyway, with Ashlee gone, the final four on the floor are Gabe Garcia, Coffey, Melissa Lawson, and Shawn Mayer. Coffey's "Southern Man" was cute, fun, spunky performance that seemed like it would fit right in with Big & Rich's MuzikMafia regime--although John, who's never been a big Coffey fan, snipped that "Southern Man" would never get on the radio. Coffey graciously accepted John's criticism, acknowledging him as the "Donald Trump of country music," to which John semi-jokingly barked, "You're fired!" Dang, that was a little harsh, wasn't it?
Yes, Coffey's song and delivery were a little gimmicky--but some of his gimmicks worked, like the funny fake-fadeout at the end of the song. That party trick kind of reminded me of when performers lipsynched on Solid Gold and American Bandstand back in the pre-Milli Vanilli/Ashlee Simpson-scandal era...when they would awkwardly stand there onstage still trying to mime and mouth along as the record got quieter and quieter. Anyway, Jeffrey Steele also said that "Southern Man was a bit of a novelty song, but his critique was more positive overall. So maybe Coffey will "trump" the competition in the end:
Gabe looked like a real hat act singing his potential hit song "Lost Weekend"--even seasoned pro songwriter Jeffrey was impressed with that number! But Jewel thought Gabe was a bit generic, and John Rich, though he agreed with Jeffrey that the song could be a "big ol' hit," was underwhelmed by Gabe's stiff performance:
I found Melissa Lawson's (co-written) song, "Ready To Stand," a bit dull when I heard an MP3 of it, but when she performed it live last night, she injected it with a lot more life. She looked gorgeous and confident, and it had that "I am woman, hear me roar" anthemic quality of estrogen-powered songs that often get picked up for use in commercials for tampons, birth control pills, hair-removal creams, prescription depression medications, and other products that promise female freedom. I don't mean this as an insult, by the way. Really, couldn't you just picture some unencumbered fertile female singing the praises of low-hormone Yaz while Melissa sings in the background? See what I mean here:
Girl power! Maybe this more PC tune can run in a Mike's Hard Lemonade commercial instead...
Speaking of girl power, the last finalist to perform was perennial underdog Shawn Mayer. When I first learned she was doing a ballad on Original Song Night, I was disappointed, because I wanted to see this black-haired bad girl rock. I didn't think the MP3 of "Not Looking Back" was all that awesome when I first heard it, either. But last night, Shawn's performance of this weepy breakup ballad--inspired by her recent split with the "love of her life"--was her finest moment of the season. She looked like a star, sang from the heart and gut, and stood tall as a role model for any woman out there chasing a big dream. (Shawn had to leave her boyfriend when she decided to pursue a music career in Nashville.) John told her this tune could be cut by Martina McBride or Faith Hill and become a hit now, but I'd personally rather hear it cut by Shawn and become a hit that way.
I know that choosing her music over her sweetheart must have been the toughest decision of Shawn's life, but based on last night's performance, I think she made the right choice in the long run:
And by the way, I agree with Jeffrey: John was a fool to stop mentoring this woman! (Although I still suspect that the mentor switcharoo from John to Jeffrey was all staged, so Jeffrey wouldn't end up protégé-less when Pearl Heart and Laura & Sophie were inevitably axed.)
Soooo...which three will make it to the finale? It's really hard to predict at this point. I think Gabe is a shoo-in, as he's never been in the bottom. Melissa's been in the bottom a couple of times, but I think her fanbase is growing steadily, and she definitely deserves a slot in the finals with that big voice of hers. Shawn should make it too, but she's been in the bottom so many times--even after her fabulously fierce "Before He Cheats" performance last week--so I fear she just doesn't have the fan following to secure enough votes. Coffey's had some questionable performances in the past, but he's likable and original enough that he has prevailed week after week. And the performance he did this week was definitely one of his best, as it really showcased what he's all about as an artist and entertainer.
So if I had to make a prediction, it is with a heavy heart that I guestimate that Shawn Mayer will be unjustly eliminated next week. But it's such a close race now, I wouldn't suggest that any of my reader actually bet any money based on this particular prediction.
Tune in next week to find out who'll make it to the August 4 finale!
SIDE NOTE: Great group performance by the three J's (judges John, Jewel, and Jeffrey), by the way. And considering that Jewel has that super-annoying habit of always breaking into a cappella song in the middle of her critiques, maybe singing onstage last night will help her get that out of her system once and for all!
- Shawn Mayer