On 'Idol's' Country Night, Simon Is the Man in Black

By Robin Givhan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"American Idol" judge Simon Cowell -- the one who should be known as "he who speaks the truth" -- lashed out last night like a pit bull protecting his turf. It was Sanjaya Malakar's head that he ultimately clamped down on. But he took a nip out of almost all of the contestants' hides.

Sensing that Sanjaya-mania has gotten out of control, he spoke truth to power and told the seemingly unstoppable Sanjaya that his performance of the Bonnie Raitt hit "Something to Talk About" was "utterly horrendous." And that was just the beginning.

It was country music week with guest mentor Martina McBride. And as all "AI" fans know, Simon hates country music. All those twangy melodies combined with Sanjaya's wispy vocals and Breck Boy hair shenanigans had Simon so agitated that his head was practically spinning on his neck and pea soup was threatening to come spewing out of his mouth.

"That was as bad as anything we see at the beginning of 'American Idol,' " Simon spat as Sanjaya stood grinning on stage. His hair was whipped into a bouffant of spiral curls and tied back with a bright red bandana. (Frankly, we'd been hoping for Willie Nelson pigtails.) "It was a ridiculous choice of song," Simon growled. "It was hideous."

The thrashing would have continued but host Ryan Seacrest stepped in and ended the beat down.

Phil Stacey, dressed in all black and looking like he'd stepped from the crypt of Johnny Cash, sang "Where the Blacktop Ends" by Keith Urban. He got raves from judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul. Simon declared country his genre but doubted enough shows are left for Phil to prove himself worthy of the "Idol" title.

Jordin Sparks sang "A Broken Wing," which is a Martina McBride song. She sang it wearing what appeared to be a red iridescent nightgown. When she opened wide for the big notes, we noticed she has the most perfect teeth we've ever seen.

Randy said, "It's the bomb." Paula said, "You look gorgeous tonight." Simon, once again proving he is the only on-point judge, said, "This is the first time since we've met that, based on this performance, I believe you can win 'American Idol.' " Jordin glowed. Her teeth glistened.

LaKisha Jones, hoping to catch a little bit of "AI" winner Carrie Underwood's mojo, chose "Jesus, Take the Wheel." She made Martina cry in rehearsal. When she performed, she almost brought the judges to tears as well, but for all the wrong reasons.

Chris Richardson sang the Rascal Flatts song "Mayberry" and Martina told him he has the chops to be a country singer. The judges said, mmm, not really. Chris gave a shout-out of love and support to his friends at Virginia Tech.

Melinda Doolittle went sassy with "Trouble Is a Woman," a song so obscure that not even Martina has heard of it. She wowed everyone. But Simon warned her to stop looking so darned surprised every time someone gives her a compliment. Or else. (Okay, the threat was implied.) But still, thank you, Simon.

Blake-the-human-beat-box-Lewis closed the show with a Tim McGraw song, "When the Stars Go Blue." He was the only one who managed to inject a bit of his own personality into a song, but thankfully he did not start beating, scratching or spitting into his hands.

Randy was enraptured, dawg. Paula loved Blake. Simon took the opportunity to offer condolences to the students of Virginia Tech and their families.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company