Anoop Desai Goes Country, Wows Cowell And Company

The "American Idol" judges are willing to give Anoop Desai one more chance to keep them satisfied.

The 21-year-old college student from North Carolina impressed tough critic Simon Cowell and the rest of the panel with his soulful cover of "Always on My Mind" during Tuesday night's Grand Ole Opry-themed performance show.

Cowell — who criticized Desai's rendition of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" last week — changed his tune, saying Desai "managed to go from zero to hero" thanks to stellar vocals and choice of the song. "Always on My Mind" has been recorded by Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley and others.

Desai, who prefers R&B music, told Ryan Seacrest he wasn't surprised by the positive response. He said he expects "to do the best" he can.

Kris Allen and Matt Giraud also received unanimous love from the judges. Cowell told Giraud, the 23-year-old dueling piano player from Kalamazoo, Mich., that he outsang front-runner Danny Gokey on the top-rated Fox singing contest with his heartfelt take on a Carrie Underwood tune.

"I don't think you've had enough credit, actually, for your vocals in this competition so far because everyone's been talking about Danny and Adam (Lambert)," Cowell told Giraud, comparing him to pop-and-standards singer Michael Buble.

Not all of the contestants scored such strong reviews. Michael Sarver, the 27-year-old oil rig worker from Jasper, Texas, disappointed judges in a genre he might otherwise have nailed. Rating Sarver's rendition of Garth Brooks' "Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)," Cowell said the unassuming singer came across not as a star but "a likable guy who likes country music who is a bit clumsy."

Lil Rounds fell off her A-game a bit by performing a straightforward cover of Martina McBride's "Independence Day." Randy Jackson said that song wasn't a good fit for the bubbly 23-year-old mother of three from Memphis, Tenn., who usually gets high marks for her raw R&B edge that was missing this week.

Guest mentor and country singer Randy Travis did not know quite what to make of Lambert, 26, of Los Angeles, who put his own theatrical spin on "Ring of Fire," giving the Johnny Cash gem less of a country twang and more of an exotic Middle Eastern vibe.

Cowell said Lambert's performance was "absolute indulgent rubbish" while Paula Abdul praised him for staying true to who he is. Kara DioGuardi said his Cash cover left her "confused and sort of happy."

One of the 11 finalists will be sent packing on Wednesday's elimination show — unless judges act on the new rule that allows them to save a favorite contestant they feel has been unfairly booted by voting viewers.

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  • by Anonymous on Mar 27, 2009 at 05:19 AM
    The blonde tatoo has to go. Can't believe she wasn't in the bottom three and Matt was. That's crazy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • by anonymous Location: nc on Mar 26, 2009 at 08:40 AM
    i hope danny wins
  • by Anonymous Location: nc on Mar 23, 2009 at 09:25 AM
    it doesn't matter what the judges say, the teenage text messagers will handle it.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 22, 2009 at 07:57 AM
    Alpha, you're welcome for the smile. I agree that Anoop will not win, however, I'm glad he made it into the top ten and hope he goes far enough to break into something maybe. I've been watching him in Chapel Hill for two or three years and love him. As far as the winner, I have no idea, they are all good. I just don't like Adam at all. Have a good day. :)
  • by Loves Coldplay Location: Greenville on Mar 21, 2009 at 11:16 PM
    I loved Anoop this past week on Idol. No, he didn't go home! I love country music, as well as pop, and blues. I think Anoop did an excellent job! Alexis Grace went.
  • by ~ALPHA female~ Location: O84P on Mar 21, 2009 at 06:54 PM
    LOLOLOL..why are you busting my chops? ...Honestly.. who do you think is going to win.. because you know Anoop's time is ticking... ..Enjoy me being wrong ..THIS TIME.. it won't happen again! ... *Thanks for the smile... I have left you a gift at the end of this post as well* .... ~ALPHA lefts her leg...>flatulence sound<~
  • by Anonymous on Mar 21, 2009 at 04:32 AM
    It's ok ALPHA, everybody makes mistakes. In this case I'm glad you did.
  • by ~ALPHA female~ Location: O84P on Mar 20, 2009 at 08:52 PM
    LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL... I was wrong. You got me!
  • by Anonymous on Mar 19, 2009 at 07:18 AM
    ALPHA female - HA you're wrong.
  • by ~ALPHA female~ Location: O84P on Mar 18, 2009 at 02:51 PM
    WHAT!!! Anoop is outta here... he sounded like someone was beating a hog to he!! ... my ears were bleeding by the time he was finished. ...Welcome home Anoop because tonight you are on your way back to NC.
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