ADDED: Dolly is very sweet and incredibly likable, but don't be fooled. She's just walking through this. We see her listening to the contestant play a song once and doing nothing more than applauding and hugging afterwards. Then, in a separate clip she says a few — scripted, I think — words of gentle praise. That is, she never actually mentored the contestant. She never listened critically, never gave any real advice or worked with the singer at all. As an "AI" mentor — and I only mean as an "AI" mentor — Dolly comes nowhere near Barry Manilow. Here's what I wrote about Barry on "AI" in 2006:
I just want to say how much I like Barry Manilow. Not his music, which isn't to my taste, but him as a person. Unlike Stevie Wonder and various other guests, he did not do the show to get the kids to sing his songs, and he took his role as a music teacher seriously. He really analyzed each performance and came up with concrete help and never seemed to be at all about self-promotion. I know you could say that this nice-guy thing is just his gimmick, but if it is, it works well, and maybe more people ought to try it.Lulu and Peter Noone followed the Manilow model last year, so it's disappointing to see Dolly Parton slough it off like this. That she's a bigger star than Manilow, Lulu, or Noone is no excuse. If she chooses to do the show to leverage her popularity, she should play the game.
AND: I'll put tonight's performances in this order: David Archuleta, Carly Smithson, Michael Johns, David Cook, Jason Castro, Kristy Lee Cook, Ramiele Malubay, Syesha Mercado. Now, I think Ramiele will be the one going home, because she sang such a nondescript song, and Syesha got to do "I Will Always Love You," which everyone knows and which gives a singer a lot of opportunity to show off — even if there is also the problem that, note for note, we will compare her performance to the famously brilliant Whitney Houston recording and think over and over again that she's falling short — way short. Syesha will get a lot of votes for singing that song, much as I hated it. But I don't even like hearing Whitney do it. I find it annoying. It's even annoying when Dolly sings it.
OOPS: I left Brooke White out of my ranking! Put her between David Cook and Jason Castro. Oh, now I'm thinking I got the whole thing wrong. Whatever....