Tender Dawg | Rock Candy

Tender Dawg

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Last night, as part of Opry Week, Kris Allen covered what he described as "Garth Brooks'" "To Make You Feel My Love" (while Bob Dylan fans grimaced). He killed, according to the judges, who continue to be stuck on adjectives like "adorable" and "tender" and puppy comparisons. Randy made the inevitable connection between "that performance was tender, dawg" to dubbing Allen "Tender Dawg." And Simon was downright effusive, saying it was terrific and that it might've been the best song choice of the competition.

Entertainment Weekly, which gives more in depth Idol coverage than anywhere else on the web, continues to harbor a deep, deep crush on Allen.

It would be easy to dismiss Kris as ''a tender puppy,'' the way Simon jokingly did while trying to riff on Randy's oddly insistent dubbing of the dreamy troubadour as a ''tender dawg.'' I mean, with those dark and limpid pools of his, and that eager-to-please disposition, Kris is only a cool, damp nose and a wagging tail away from setting up shop in the window of your local pet store. But while it's true that the guy has heartthrob potential — anyone else observe how infuriatingly flawless his skin is, even under the unforgiving microscope of high-def TV? — the true beauty of Kris's performance had nothing to do with his physical attributes.

Instead, it was the gutsy vocal restraint Kris displayed on ''To Make You Feel My Love'' that won me over. And yes, I did say gutsy. Because when it comes to Idol — and what the judges and the show's voters often respond to — bombast all too often trumps vulnerability. And yet Kris didn't oversing a single note of the ''Garth Brooks'' number (*known as a Bob Dylan tune, at least in my house), choosing instead to finesse certain words of the verse down to a whisper, and refusing to indulge in the time-honored tradition of making eye-love to the Idol cameras.

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