Susan Pierce: This is Grand Ole Opry week on "American Idol," which means "Idol" can showcase its biggest success story: Carrie Underwood.
As Ryan Seacrest revealed last week, Underwood is the voice in the goodbye video montages singing contestants off the show this year with her cover of Motley Crue's "Home, Sweet Home." The song can be downloaded off iTunes, and a percentage of those sales will be donated to the Humane Society of the United States, one of Underwood's favorite charities.
For Country Week, she'll join Opry veteran Randy Travis for a duet on his song "I Told You So," which is her new single. Brad Paisley also will be on this week debuting his new single.
I can definitely see Alexis Grace singing Underwood's "Before He Cheats." I can't even imagine what Adam Lambert will pick, since country is so far from his comfort zone. Megan Joy Corkrey has stated in interviews that she doesn't listen to country, so this may be a make-or-break week for her.
Christine Simmons: I loved Underwood's version of "Home Sweet Home." I may have to go to iTunes and download that one.
The caliber of special guests on "Idol" has really come a long way over the years. Last week we had Kanye West and Kelly Clarkson. I'm happy to see Clarkson back after trying to distance herself from the show. But Kanye West on "American Idol"? Who would have ever imagined?
I love when it's time for Country Week. It seems to really weed out some of the not-so-great contestants. For most, it takes some creativity to make their voices fit into the parameters of a country song. But have no fear, after doing a little research on YouTube, I found that Adam Lambert can pretty much sing anything.
I saw a video of him singing "Dust in the Wind," and it was really good. Tonight I think he needs to stick with a ballad and reel it in a bit. But others like Alexis Grace, Danny Gokey and Matt Giraud will slide into this category with ease.
Susan: I think Rascal Flatts' "Bless the Broken Road" would be a great fit for either Giraud or Michael Sarver. It takes a big voice to fit anything by Martina McBride, but Allison Iraheta could pull it off. I also think Jasmine Murray could have sung Martina if she was still a contestant, but we saw her leave last week with Jorge Nunez.
I hated to see her go. I didn't think she deserved it as much as Anoop Desai. Nunez's choice of "Never Can Say Goodbye" wasn't bad, just ironic, as it turned out.
Christine: I agree. Anoop may be popular, fun and cute, but he's simply not in the same league vocally as some of the others. But we know from watching the show that it's not always about talent.
Iraheta is a good example of raw, untapped talent. This girl is only 16 years old and has really impressed me. How do you sing with that kind of passion and soul at such a tender age? I am keeping my eye on her. If she makes the right song choices (and song choice will be key for her) she could really stand out this season. My fingers will be crossed for her tonight.
Susan: Each week staff writers post a video on timesfreepress.com to accompany their Idol Chatter stories. Be sure to check this week's video, where we'll reveal some little-known facts about Season 8 contestants.
E-mail Susan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or Christine Simmons