There's a reason "American Idol" has country-themed shows, pop nights, singer/songwriter visits and even mentors from the world of Broadway: The best way to judge who might survive in the unpredictable music world is to test their range in every way possible.
Last week, the Grand Ole Opry did in Alexis Grace, who might have kept on chugging had she made it through to this week's challenge: the classic songs of Motown. The question is, who will soar singing the songs of Smokey, Diana and Marvin on Wednesday night (March 25), and who will be sent packing on Thursday?
Here are our predictions for what tonight's show might bring, with some additional expert opinion from the founder of one of the most popular "Idol" blogs, MJ Santilli of MJsBigBlog.com:
Scott MacIntyre - The piano man has gotten mixed reviews for his ivory tickling so far — Paula Abdul urged him to step out from behind the keys, Simon Cowell told him it was just fine to stay put — but his penchant for sappy, middle-of-the-road ballads might give him a bit of trouble this week. "He's probably going to pick a ballad, and he'll sound exactly the same way he did two weeks ago," Santilli predicted. "And I think he'll get through again because he's got that adult-contemporary niche."
Lil Rounds - We don't want to say Motown night will be a cakewalk for the spunky singer with the giant voice, but, well, it should be. "This is hers to lose," MJ said. "This is right in her wheelhouse. There are so many good songs for her to choose from that would fit her vocal style. She should be able to knock it out of the park."
Anoop Desai - 'Noop Dogg has had a good run of it, and he made a nice rebound last week with "Always on My Mind." His goofy R&B-lover persona seems like a good fit for Motown week, though he could suffer in comparison to stronger personalities. Santilli said that since his audition, Desai has built a strong, loyal fanbase that has given him an advantage through some iffy performances. "He's on the brink now," she said. "If he continues to pick good songs, he could pick up some new fans. It could be a fantastic week for him if he picks [the right] song."
Michael Sarver - Though Texas roughneck Sarver has proven to have a remarkably soft, sensitive touch, his spot in the bottom three last week might be a harbinger of things to come. "He likes to sing soul, but he's so similar to other contestants who are better than him and more popular," MJ said. "The only thing that can save him is if he picks a really good song and sings it well."
Danny Gokey - Like Rounds, Gokey should be in his sweet spot with the Motown catalog. His mixture of blue-eyed soul with a gospel edge could be a high point. "He sang a Motown song for his audition ['I Heard It Through the Grapevine'] and he did a good job. He and Lil should sail through this week."
Megan Joy - The tattooed single mom has been great at injecting her quirky, chirpy vocals and hippie-shake dancing into a variety of settings so far, but this could be the stage where her shaky voice comes up short against the stronger competitors. "I think she's going to have a hard time," MJ said. "People compare her to Amy Winehouse, but I don't think she's very soulful. She has an interesting vocal style, but doesn't know how to interpret [songs]. I think she'll struggle this week."
Matt Giraud - Matt stumbled out of the gate, but has been gaining steam ever since and with a good song choice this week he could set up a serious run at the title. "I think he has the most commercial sound out of all of them," MJ said. "I could hear him on the radio. He's beginning to develop a fanbase, and Motown could be the breakout week for him."
Allison Iraheta - The teenage phenom with the voice of a 45-year-old soul veteran has proven pretty flexible so far — though she did take a trip to the bottom three last week. Like Desai, a good song choice could keep her in the running. "Ugh. Between her and Megan I don't know who will go first," MJ said. "I would love to see her last a few weeks longer, but she probably doesn't know the genre and this might not be one she's comfortable with."
Kris Allen - He's got the looks, the piano chops and a renewed interest from Simon, but Allen's soft edge could make him seem a bit out of his league among some of the more powerful singers. "He has shown some potential and had some really bright moments, but I don't think the charisma is there yet," MJ said. "If he picks a ballad this week ... people respond to him singing ballads ... but on the other hand, that could be a trap for him. He's on the brink of maybe being a dark horse, but he's been really inconsistent."
Adam Lambert - Who knows what Lambert will pull out this week? Perhaps a township jive version of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine"? A hair-metal take on "My Girl"? Either way, the audience — and most of the judging panel — seem to love him. Consider him through to next week. "What's fun about Adam is that I have no idea what he's going to do next," said MJ. "It could either be spectacular or another 'WTF?' moment. I'm looking forward to it, whatever it is."
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