Do The Math (Episode 4-3)

USA Network’s celebration of country music and cross-promotion continued on this week’s episode of Nashville Star. USA plugged its Monday night wrestling program, and, after the other contestents performed, Monique LeCompte was eliminated from the competition.

Kenny Rogers got the show off to a surreal start, as his bad plastic surgery distracted from an uptempo, solo version of “Islands in the Stream.” He closed out the show with an uninspiring new song, “I Can’t Unlove You.” Perhaps he can rework the song to promote his chain of chicken restaurants: “I Can’t Unroast You.”

To promote USA’s Monday Night Raw, the reigning WWE champ, John Cena, filled in as guest judge. Kudos to John for showing up despite having taken multiple blows to the head from a sledgehammer the night before.

Last week’s guest judge, Larry the Cable Guy, contributed nothing to the show. But John Cena earned his place at the judges’ table when he told the evening’s first performer, Jared Ashley, “I’ve watched this show the last two weeks, and TV does you no justice.” It was nice to see a guest judge who’s actually been following the competition.

Cena wasn’t afraid to criticize contestants, either. After Kristen McNamara’s rendition of “This One’s for the Girls,” he told her that he didn’t believe her performance. “You’re singing about women’s empowerment. I didn’t believe you felt it.”

Judge Anastasia Brown handed out some criticism of her own. She urged Matt Mason to stop picking songs just because he likes them, and start thinking about what his fans want to hear.

Casey Rivers made the bold decision to perform without the backup band, and the judges felt the gamble paid off. Later, Chris Young gave what Anastasia called a “smooth” performance, but she said, “Casey took the bigger risk. There’s only one winner, so you do the math.”

Chris’s style and vocals still make him the lead contender among the men, with Nicole Jamrose is at the top for the women. She’s the only singer with anything close to gritty vocals, she hits no sour notes, and her authentic country style is a far cry from the pop polish of her female competitors.

Next week, Sara Evans performs and Naomi Judd serves as guest judge. Matt could be on the chopping block after his nasally performance this week, as could Jared, who always sounds like he’s doing an impression of a song’s original vocalist. Or it could be Melanie Torres, who’s talented, but can’t compete with Nicole’s vocals or the buzz Kristen is generating.