Tonight, the final three contestants for next week's Nashville Star finale were announced, but not before all four singers had to prepare two songs apiece--for performances that would, in fact, determine who wins next week.
Man, that's rough. But them's the breaks in Music City.
So first up was Shawn Mayer. When she came out belting her first song, Gretchen Wilson's "Here For The Party," I was personally happy to see her back in butt-kickin' bad-girl mode, but I was also gravely concerned. I wasn't concerned that she'd be incapable of killing it on that Coyote Ugly-esque partystarter--and she did kill it--but I recalled how back in week one, she sang a Janis Joplin rawker and John Rich barked at her, "We don't need another Gretchen Wilson." Therefore it was a real risk for Shawn to do an actual Gretchen song. But then again, Shawn Mayer has never been a girl to run away from a challenge. (Remember her daring George Jones cover?) And this was another risk that paid off.
Gabe Garcia was next, attempting to conjure up a similar party vibe with a cover of Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett's Club Med happy-hour theme, "It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere." Well, I'm sure it was party time somewhere--but not on that Nashville Star stage, unfortunately. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Gabe...but this was not his best performance. He was still a little too stiff, and he didn't hide his suffering (from a common cold) as well as Shawn repressed her own wisdom-tooth misery. The result was a not-so-caliente performance for Señor Garcia. Jeffrey Steele pointed out a few bum notes, and John, a strong Gabe supporter, seemed so worried that he pretty much begged America to vote for Gabe. Meanwhile, Jewel just reminded Gabe and the rest of America that she's from a small town in Alaska.
Coffey sang next, and his song of choice was "Sweet Home Alabama," a suitably anthemic crowd-pleaser that properly showcased his almost Tourette's-esque tendency to constantly whoop and shout adlibs to the audience. Coffey is a showman more than anything else--he's hardly the best singer on this program, but he's the most charismatic performer--and this tune suited his quirky, occasionally OTT style. John still hated it, though. He looked annoyed throughout Coffey's performance, like he wanted to punch someone (Coffey? The NBC staffers who casted Coffey?), and he pulled out his usual "I don't think you're really country" argument for the umpteenth time.
Really now, John insults Coffey more often than Jewel sings a cappella or mentions Alaska during her critiques.
Jeffrey Steele didn't love it as much, though: He told Melissa he was a little tired of hearing her "big notes." But that made no sense to me. Some belters do oversing and over-emote, trying waaaaay too hard to be the next Celine or Mariah...but I don't think Melissa does that. It never sounds like she's trying too hard; it just seems like those big notes effortlessly emanate from her big lungs. So Jeffrey saying he's tired of hearing her big notes is like him saying, oh, I dunno...he's tired of eating delicious chocolate, or petting cute fluffy puppies, or lying on a big pile of Rascal Flatts-begotten hundred-dollar bills. Makes no sense at all.
So after that first round, it was elimination time. The first singer to make it through and be guaranteed a spot in the finals was...Shawn Mayer! Ooh, she wasn't a shoo-in, so I was happy to see her make the cut. Shawn has worked hard all season long for this, and she's had one of the bumpiest roads to Nashville Stardom of all the contestants. A relieved and delighted Shawn then returned to the stage, where she warbled the Garth Brooks ballad "The Dance" to show off her sensitive side--and while I'm not sure if it was enough to secure her first place in this competition, she should be proud to go home with the silver or bronze next week...and hopefully a few gold and platinum records later on, after some savvy A&R rep signs her.
John Rich sure ate it up, with gusto, shouting at the top of his lungs that this lady had a dang good shot of being the next Nashville Star. Guess he still has a crush on her.
And then it came down to Gabe and Coffey. Gee, I wonder who'd make it? Um, no, there was no upset here, no shocker, no cliffhanger.
I'll miss Coffey, as I've intermittently enjoyed him over this season. I've got mad love for any soulful single dad who can singlehandedly popularize the catchphrase, "Everything's better with a little cheese on it!" But I'm glad Coffey didn't edge out Gabe, if for no other reason than John Rich would probably have punched someone if that had happened. And NBC doesn't need a personal injury lawsuit on its hands, especially right before finale night.
You know, if only some Weird Science-type Dr. Frankenstein could fuse Coffey's charisma with Gabe's vocal talent, we'd have the perfect country star: Coffey Garcia. It has a nice ring to it, no?
...Oh, screw that. Screw being diplomatic. Yes, they're all deserving, but I want Shawn Mayer to win. There, I said it. I know it's probably an unpopular choice, but hey, I've always loved to root for the underdog.
I don't think Shawn is going to win, though; I've got to go with Third Town and say Melissa will probably make it. And if/when she does, I'll be fine with that. She's a worthy contender, too.
- Shawn Mayer
- Gretchen Wilson