Reality Rocks - Archive

Sorry, Charley: Nashville Star’s First Cut

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

Nashville Star premiered this Monday on NBC. And after a Taylor Swift opening performance so pyro-laden it could've been mistaken for a Poison concert--and a pro-Taylor rant by judges John Rich, Jewel, and Jeffrey Steele so bizarrely longwinded, it could've been mistaken for a Taylor Swift infomercial--the top 12 finally got around to singing for their suppers.

And while the voting viewers will get to choose who is eliminated next Monday, and every Monday after that, this week the judges got to make their first (and only) cut.

Their choice was, frankly, an odd one.

But first, before we get to their decision, among the surefire shoo-ins this week were:

Melissa Lawson, a thirtysomething, proudly plus-sized mother of five boys out to pursue her deferred dream, with a big voice

to match her big frame; she got to sing in the much-desired final slot, and she subsequently capped off the show by getting the only standing ovation of evening.

Tommy Stanley, a Navy engineer whose "Walking In Memphis" definitely wasn't the best of the night, but with the Acuff Theatre auditorium packed with off-duty armed forces members

and with a resulting distinct patriotic vibe in the air, there was no way the judges were going to cut him loose this particular night.

Coffey Anderson (aka "Caw-FAY"), a totally awesome African American country-soulman who dazzled as brightly as his gaudy

rhinestone belt buckle on "Drift Away."

Laura & Sophie, a BFF, bracefaced girl duo who are only 16 and 18, and look like they're 12, and yet harmonized with all the seasoned prowess of two Tammy Wynettes on "Stand By Your Man."

Gabe Garcia, a rare Latino country artist and arguably the strongest male singer in the bunch, who rocked it old-school honkytonk-style on "All My Exes Live In Texas."

Ashlee Hewitt, a comely Joss Stone lookalike whose performance of Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly" was somewhat underwhelming in my opinion, but was much-loved by the judges...especially by Jewel, whom Ashlee kinda/sorta resembled, both visually and sonically.

And finally, Pearl Heart, a teen sister act not quite as button-cute or vocally dynamic as Laura & Sophie, but likely to be kept on in order to attract more tween viewers.

So, those in trouble were:

Shawn Mayer, a tough-as-rusty-nails auto mechanic/ hog farmer/ volunteer fire fighter who rocked it Amanda Overmyer-style on the Janis Joplin classic "Piece O' My Heart," but was callously dismissed by John Rich as "another Gretchen Wilson."

Las Vegas trio Third Town, a last-minute addition to the competition (see their story HERE) who cranked out a rendition of "Elvira" that I thought was good ole-fashioned knee-slapping fun, but that the judges thought seemed like an amusement-park novelty number.

Allyson Gilbert, a pageant-queeny type (right down to her pat interview answers, frozen Pepsodent-ad smile, and sequined outfit), whose "Suds In The Bucket" performance was capable but utterly forgettable.

Hunky male model Justin Gaston, who unfortunately didn't sound nearly as good as he looked, coming across as shaky, nervous, and charisma-less during his blank-eyed version of Train's "Drops Of Jupiter." (The camera loved the guy, but the microphone did not...and neither did the judges.)

And "real cowboy" Charley Jenkins, a lovably hokey singer in the old-style hat-act mode, who deserved an A for effort for the earnestly OTT way he strutted through the theater working the crowd during his performance of "I Like It, I Love It"--but was nastily likened to a "Garth Brooks impersonator in Vegas" by John Rich, who also quipped, "It's Nashville STAR, not Nashville BAR."

Anyway, when the three judges elected their personal bottom two, I was kind of surprised they let Justin off the hook, since they were so hard on him during their critiques. ("When you look that good, you have to sing that much better," Jewel said icily.) But the judges did seem to take Justin's almost total lack of gigging experience into account, and let's face it, they probably kept Justin on the show to attract the lusty lady viewers. Maybe they assume some of those "Cougars For Cook" will vote for Justin in the future, too...but then again, David Cook actually performed well, and based on this one night, that ain't the case with Justin.

I was also a little surprised--pleasantly so, in this case--that the judges spared Third Town, but perhaps they took into consideration the hard cold fact that these alternate fill-in contestants had only flown in to Nashville that morning and had not slept in 50 hours. Plus, the judges might've felt guilty shoving them back on a plane so soon. Third Town should at least have a chance to get over their jet lag before going home!

I also feared the way Shawn sassed back to John Rich after that "Gretchen Wilson" remark would be her undoing, but she was saved by the judges as well.

So ultimately, the judges singled out Allyson and Charley. I was sure Allyson was a goner--as was John Rich, who cast his vote that she should go--but John was outvoted by Jeffrey and Jewel. So Charley got cut instead.

Do I agree with this decision? Um, let's just say I don't like it, I don't love it, and I want no more of it.

OK, so Charley was far from the best this week. There was a certain dorkiness, a certain desperation, to this rodeo clown's trying-too-hard performance, and it was a bit dated as well--which seemed to be the judges' main gripe with him. But he was not the worst. He did know how to perform like an old pro, he was genuinely likable, and let's face it, a lot of people out there in America like dorky Garth Brooks types. I honestly believe that if Charley had been allowed to stay on this week, he would've gotten enough public votes to remain in the race for at least a couple more episodes.

Oh well. So who will get voted off next week, now that it's America's time to decide? Well, Pearl Heart's controversial song choice (a tune by those vexing rabblerousers the Dixie Chicks) might cost them a few votes...but not enough to go home. Some people might have been turned off by Shawn Mayer's backtalk, but other people might appreciate her moxie. So I think it will come down to Allyson Gilbert and Justin Gaston, when the voters have the chance to avenge Charley's early elimination and show the judges that they got it wrong.

Tune in next Monday to see if I'm right!

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