CLINT COOPER: Nashville's Paul McDonald may have had his best week in "American Idol's" round of 11 last week when he intoned Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "The Tracks of My Tears." Adding the guitar and ditching the odd dancing placed the focus on his voice, which judges compared previously to Rod Stewart and last week to Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. His high, sandpaperish vocals are unlike anything "AI" has ever featured, but only time will tell whether it's an acquired taste for voters. To me, the guys still seem to have the upper hand as Jacob Lusk and James Durbin turned in stellar performances, followed by Casey Abrams - shockingly voted off but saved by the judges - and Scotty McCreery, and then Stefano Langone. In fact, Karen, the judges say this every year, but I believe this group as a whole is the strongest top 10 the show's ever had.
KAREN NAZOR HILL: I agree. The next few months are going to be interesting. But like many "American Idol" fans, I am constantly changing my mind about my favorites. A couple of weeks ago, I said I didn't think America would vote a cowboy to be the American Idol. I now think 17-year-old Scotty has an excellent chance of making it to the top. What was I thinking? Carrie Underwood has skyrocketed in popularity since being named American Idol. I think Scotty may be on the same path. Look at the number of votes he gets from week to week. I also was impressed with Paul. I like his unusual voice. Casey didn't do much for me, but the others were pretty good. Apparently, Casey didn't do much for America, either. I was surprised though, that he was voted off the show last week. I'm glad the judges saved him for at least one more week. And though two contestants will be voted off this week, all 11 get to be part of the American Idol Tour 2011.
CLINT: Rossville's Lauren Alaina Suddeth worried me when she started The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" slowly, but she broke into a faster rhythm and seemed to have a good time with it. I was hoping she'd really let go, but she didn't. Although I think she should be safe for few more weeks, I believe she needs to step it up to make the top five. Here's hoping she does. The biggest improvement of the week, in my opinion, belonged to Naima Adedapo. Her take on "Dancing In The Street" was fun, and her voice even sounded better. Thia Magia thankfully broke out of her somewhat syrupy mold with "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave," but Pia Toscano remained tied to ballads. Both women have beautiful voices but need to be tested further.
KAREN: Naima was the biggest surprise of the night. Honestly, I haven't liked any of her performances until this one. For some reason, I felt as though she was always angry. Last week was different. Her performance, and even her dance, were completely creative and entertaining. Our hometown girl Lauren might be slipping in the voting. She seems very unsure of herself and frankly, scared. Maturity and confidence are important factors, as well as singing, when America votes. I think, thus far, the judges are favoring Pia. But if she doesn't step it up, she might soon find herself in the bottom three. Right now, it's anybody's game.