American Idol Recap: Those 24 About to Rock, We Salute You!

What Thursday night’s American Idol telecast lacked in suspense, it more than made up for in terms of surprise.

Ryan Seacrest pulled a Gwyneth Paltrow and went all Country Strong on us, but not before getting lifted like a set of Jersey Shore dumbbells by male and female contestants alike. Rachel Zevita opened up a commanding lead in the Season 10 Millinery Race. A pissed-off rocker chick took home the prize for Most Endearing Contestant (I kid you not!) by candidly flipping off the Idol cameras. And Sam Cooke’s classic civil-rights anthem “A Change Is Gonna Come” underwent radical plastic surgery — without the benefit of anesthesia!

Perhaps most importantly, though, by the time the judges finished introducing us to this year’s 24 semifinalists, we’d had a chance to hear each and every last one of them singing. Yes, Idoloonies, Nigel Lythgoe & Co. apparently succumbed to our prior accusations of “sabotage!” when contestants like Michelle Delamor or Jeanine Vailes — I’ll pause here so you can go ahead and ask “Who?!” — arrived at the live portion of the competition without having performed a single note for the voting public. And while the New Idol Order doesn’t mean each and every one of the Season 10 semifinalists is operating on a level playing field, it’s better than seeing a handful of contestants selected at random to get buried alive underneath the grass.

So bravo, Uncle Nigel! Mazel tov, Cecile Frot-Coutaz! When it comes to the 19 singers who survived the “Green Mile” in Thursday’s telecast (joining Naima Adedapo, Haley Reinhart, Paul McDonald, Ashton Jones, and Clint Jun Gamboa from Wednesday’s show — read my take on their chances here) we’re not limited to ruminating on the “pop-starriness” of their names or the luxuriousness of their hair. Instead, let’s break ‘em down into six distinct categories, shall we?

MORTAL LOCKS FOR THE TOP 12 (AND PROBABLY SHOULD BE)
* Robbie “Get Me a Buzzcut!” Rosen
: Just in case you hadn’t noticed that the polite, dashing teenager has yet to take a musical misstep this season, Ryan’s voiceover served as a perky reminder: “This 17-year-old seems unstoppable!” And indeed, his stripped down rendition of Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” in the sing-for-your-life round showcased Robbie’s lovely phrasing and penchant for smart vocal risks. I’m not sure he’s quite earned Randy’s superlative label of “genius” (insert eye roll here), but I can definitely get behind Steve Tyler’s assessment: “You sang your [bleep] off!”

* Casey “The Furniture Thrower” Abrams: The season’s most charming contestant got even more adorable tonight, noting that whether he left the Green Mile crying in joy or in agony, he’d still get to hug Jennifer Lopez. “I’m here to prove people like me can be sexy,” he grinned, before taking to his upright bass and delivering a smoldering take on “Why Don’t You Do Right?” I’m not sure a black suit paired with sneakers is heartthrob chic, but that final falsetto note fading into a growl certainly helped support Casey’s thesis.

MORTAL LOCKS FOR THE TOP 12 (WHETHER OR NOT THEY SHOULD BE)
* Lauren “Cute Overload” Alaina: One of the night’s comedic highlights came before the commercial break, when producers juxtaposed the image of a gasping Lauren with the sound of Jennifer Lopez saying, “you didn’t make it into the top 24 this time.” As if! Uncle Nigel spent the last seven years in a laboratory trying to weld together DNA from Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood with a heap of sequins he pilfered from the set of Toddlers & Tiaras. He’d rather toss Thia Megia into a swimming pool of ravenous piranhas than see his Chosen One go the way of Baylie Brown. Yet while Lauren definitely has a set of pipes (and an icky penchant for physical contact with Steven Tyler), did anyone else notice her hiccupy delivery on the chorus of “Unchained Melody” in her airplane hangar performance? “I need your (gasp) love”? Seriously? Cowboy Barbie needs a lot of work in the phrasing department, folks!

* Brett Loewenstern: Sweet, redheaded teenager got lumped together with Colton Dixon and Jacee Badeaux (pictured, bottom right) for the season’s twenty-fourth and last semifinal slot. Yet while Brett has been a consistent presence on the show all season, his original track “Bulletproof Vest” featured the kind of lyrical hokum you’d find at a bad high-school poetry jam. “I look in the mirror and I see a stranger staring back at me”? Gack! Then again, compared to Jacee’s choice of Michael Jackson’s absurd “Gone Too Soon” (with an actual lyric of “born to amuse, to inspire and delight/ here one day, gone one night”) perhaps I’m judging Brett too harshly. He’ll also have to face residual wrath from fans of Colton Dixon and His Magnificent Hair.

SHOULD-BE MORTAL LOCKS FOR THE TOP 12 (BUT HAVEN’T GOTTEN THERE YET)
* Tim “Never Ask a Lady Her Age” Halperin: Of all the original songs we heard performed in the final solo round, Tim’s piano-driven ballad was the best. If it weren’t for Paul McDonald, Tim would have a monopoly on the “sensitive musician hottie” role that’s been a proven commodity on Idol the last few years.

* Kendra “Not Chanterelle” Chantelle: Somewhat to my surprise, I cheered more enthusiastically for Kendra to crack the top 24 than any other contestant tonight. Maybe it’s because I’m still reeling from her haunting, lovely version of “Blackbird” (with Paul McDonald) from Vegas night, or that snippet of “Georgia on My Mind” from Hollywood Week. (Neither of which got as enthusiastic reception from the judges as they warranted.) And now, thankfully I’ve also got Kendra’s sparse, intimate take on Alicia Keys’ “Fallin” to add to my “YouTube obsession” folder. Clearly, this is a woman who’s not limited to just one genre; now here’s just hoping she doesn’t pull a Janell Wheeler and botch her Week One semifinal song choice!

* Rachel “Hat Tricks” Zevita (pictured, lower left): Granted, Idol has been pretty frugal in doling out clips of this little firecracker’s performances, but her “sing for your life” rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Speechless,” while a wee bit theatrical, was also highly entertaining. Rachel can go from a growl to a squeak — and everywhere in between — and her kooky fashion sense should offer  refuge from the onslaught of tulle that Julie Zorrilla and Lauren Alaina are sure to inspire. (Bonus points for the way Rachel’s grandmother macked on Seacrest. ( “What’s the matter? You losing weight?” she wondered mischievously, before telling our host he was looking like a teenager. )

100% PURE CANNON FODDER (AKA “YOU LOOK BEAUTIFUL TONIGHT”)
* MySpace Contestant Karen Rodriguez: She might’ve won over Jennifer at the moment she turned “If You Had My Love” into a tender ballad, but I’m still convinced that the judges put her through to the top 24 under some bizarre, secret deal guaranteeing at least one MySpace discovery in the voting rounds.

* Tatynisa “Hair, 10; Voice, 3″ Wilson: “It’s about not having a bad day,” explained J.Lo, just moments after producers showed the comely songbird double-botch the lyrics to “I Hope You Dance.” And, oh dear, her airport-hangar rendition of “Unbreak My Heart” has us wondering if she’s got anything more than a great set of gams in her arsenal.

* Jovany “now that my pecs have got your attention, please take me seriously” Barreto: “I’m here to sing,” crowed the guy who performed a half-striptease during the audition rounds. “I’m here to win a competition on talent.” Um, unless that talent is strippin’ down to his skivvies and shakin’ what his mama gave him, I don’t really see that happening, especially since his main priorities between Hollywood Week and the Green Mile were centered mainly on the erstwhile shipbuilder “working out and, letting my hair grow out a little.” As Ryan explained, “Now Jovany is in your hands, America. Do with him what you will.” Ew, did you mean for that to sound so dirty, Seacrest?

* Jordan “You Say ‘Aggresive’ Like It’s a Good Thing” Dorsey: I don’t know about you, but the thing I remember most about Jordan’s highlight reel tonight isn’t his rendition of John Legend’s “So High,” but rather, the words that accompanied his runway strut: “I don’t wanna lose. I’m in this to win. I’m confident. I’m aggressive. I like to get things done in perfection, and I’m trying to win this thing.”

* James “Scarf-Tail” Durbin (pictured, upper left): Yeah, Idol reminded us tonight that James is coping with Tourette’s and Asperger’s Syndromes, but those details are starting to look like red herrings to distract us from the fact that the show’s editors are systematically turning the headband-wearing foolio into the season’s least likable contestant. (Or maybe this is all just a long-con bit of reverse-psychology to make us all feel really bad for the dude.) “I started my journey throwin’ my screams in, just like Adam Lambert, and it’s like, what else can I do? They’re just gonna expect it,” James said after catching “Somebody to Love” in the vice-like grip of his “vocalizing” during Group Round in Hollywood Week. As if James’ presumptuous self-comparison to season 8’s wickedly talented runner-up wasn’t bad enough, he then went and took one of Adam’s signature Idol songs — Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” — and violently tore it limb from limb till there was nothing left of it but a bloody, quivering pile of unrecognizable notes. J.Lo made her “I smell something bad” face. Ryan, meanwhile, issued an unmistakeable threat: “We now turn James over to you.”

LIKELY BANE OF MY EXISTENCE/GREAT FODDER FOR IDOLOONIES FOR THE NEXT THREE MONTHS
* Scotty “Nuts of Wonder” McCreary:
Holy baritone, Batman, even Ryan Seacrest is singing “Baby lock them doors”! And while Scotty did manage to remember the words to something other than “Your Man” for his airplane-hangar performance, I am dismayed to report that “Long Black Train” is by the same exact artist — and last time I checked, this wasn’t America’s Next Top Josh Turner Impersonator. Would it make me a bad person to fantasize that the “quarter Puerto Rican” side of this unassuming teenager will lead to a spectacular implosion on “Livin’ La Vida Loca” or “She Bangs”?

* Jacob “No Good Note Left Unpunished” Lusk: If Elliott Yamin’s season 4 cover of “A Song for You” was a perfect summer breeze of a performance, then Jacob’s overwrought rendition was a tornado — powerful, yes, but also horrifying. (Also note Jacob’s tornado like action when picking up Ryan and whirling him around like a tiny and meticulously styled rag doll on the Green Mile runway.) Unfortunately, as he did during Wednesday night’s telecast, Randy once again reinforced all of James’ histrionic habits, declaring Jacob’s Hollywood solo of “God Bless the Child” as “the single best performance ever on Idol.” (I’m not going to even go down the road of refuting such nonsense.) But I do have to wonder aloud if it’s too late for Idol to swap in a sub for Randy? I’d even be willing to consider the other original judge, now that “Paula Abdul’s Thunderdome of Dance” has been canceled.

* Thia Megia: Every season needs a teenage female contestant (Lisa Tucker, Katie Stevens, etc) whose GPS misdirects them to Idol instead of some soul-sucking regional beauty pageant. And Thia, with her somber, tinny take on “You Raise Me Up,” has assumed her role with grace and enthusiasm (although, at this time, not with a sash).

COULD GO EITHER WAY
* Lauren Turner (pictured, top right):
We haven’t really seen enough of the New Orleans housekeeper to get a true gauge on her talent, but she certainly proved she’s got a lot of horsepower with a muscular reading of “Steal Away.” Idol styling team should be on orange alert following Lauren’s parkly silver skirt and unflattering aqua top during the Green Mile. Color me intrigued with a side of hopeful.

* Julie Zorrilla: J.Lo righteously wants to turn the beautiful robot girl into a real-life human being, demanding she start performing from the heart, not just the head. And I have to say, Julie’s attempt to participate in a game of “Lift the Seacrest” was an excellent step toward her campaign for humanization.

* Stefano Langone: Love the vocal oomph and charisma this kid has, but it was hard to find a single individual word or note in that turgid self-penned ballad he performed in the airport hangar.

* Pia Toscano: Hasn’t made a serious misstep during her Idol run to date, and that cover of Alicia Keys’ “Doesn’t Mean Anything” sounded pretty tight. I also liked the way her thank-yous to the judges felt more humble than entitled.

And finally, as we say goodbye to Brittany Mazur, Jimmy Allen, cowboy John Wayne Schulz, Taiwan Strong, Erin Kelly (sorry, we had one of those in Season 9), Jackie Wilson, and apparently Jerome Bell and Aaron Sanders (even though their send-offs weren’t deemed fit for television) let’s check in with rocker chick Jessica Cunningham (pictured, below), who got cut from the Green Mile for the second year running, on her f****** birthday, in her seventh attempt to make the Idol stage, while paired with Thia &^*#?@* Megia. She knew it from the look on Ryan Seacrest’s face that he was nothing but an undertaker. You hear her! Let’s roll the tape: “They ruined my birthday. You know what I have to say to that. [Raises both middle fingers to the camera.] Yeah, you know what it is. Guys, you know you deserve it. You can’t see what it is — probably got American Idol bubbles over these fingers right now, but you ruined my birthday. I love ya, but come on.” Well-played, sister! After seven seasons of rejection, you’ve earned the ability to keep it real, to not have to grit your teeth, smile, and say “it was an honor to come this far.”

Oh, and about the Jennifer Lopez “drama” that kicked off tonight’s episode? Just because Nigel Lythgoe & Co. put it on an endcap and slapped a bright orange ‘SALE’ tag on it doesn’t mean I’ve got to buy it. The woman had an emotional reaction to Chris Medina’s ouster, and the producers chose to repeat the same footage over and over again till it looked like a full-blown emotional meltdown. As for the “production has come to a halt” bit, I’m willing to bet there’s a lull in filming after nearly every contestant receives a “yes” or “no.” Shall we keep pushing our shopping carts and walk on by?

On that note, what did you think of Thursday’s episode? How do you think the Season 10 semifinalists stack up to last year’s crew? Sound off below, and for all my Idol coverage, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

What’s more, if you have some strong thoughts or opinions on anything you saw this week on Idol — pertaining to judges, contestants, trends or conspiracy theories — and you’d like to share them on the next episode of TVLine’s new Idol-related Web series, Idoloonies, email a paragraph or two to idoloonies@tvline.com (and be sure to include a contact phone number). We’ll be selecting a handful of readers each week to join me in cohosting the Webcast via Skype or iChat (to tape on Friday afternoon). We’ll also be choosing a Twitter Question of the Week, so don’t hesitate to fire your best shots to me @MichaelSlezakTV. Be sure to tag it #Idoloonies!

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216 Comments
  1. Valerie Thiel says:

    Michael, you never cease to completely crack me up. You are truly one of the smartest and funniest guys in the business. IMHO, I am just glad to see some actual talent coming our way this season. It should make for a great competition (unless the train wreck factor takes over). I think that the addition of Jennifer and Steven to the judges table was a great move. I can’t wait to hear their critiques week to week. I do have a problem to Adam Lambert’s name (and actual talent) being thrown around in vain by Durbin; in the same manner that he “throws around” the screeching that he does. And it really ticks me off that I am going to have to record each show first, so that I can fast forward through his performances. Listening to him is going to get old real fast, if he doesn’t clean his vocals up and tamper down the screeching.

    • marie says:

      Yeah, I think it was really presumptuous – not to mention RIDICULOUS – for Durbin to liken himself to Adam that way. Absurd.

  2. Lily says:

    Colton Dixon deserved it more than Clint and Jovany put together. ugh.

  3. Wes says:

    I’ve meant to post it for a long time, but does anyone else think of Oogie Boogie from Nightmare Before Christmas when they watch Jacob Lusk sing?… If you don’t know the movie, look it up on Youtube, uncanny!

  4. susela says:

    Where’s Paul McDonald on your list? I’d say he’s a lock for Top 24.

    And can you please let us know how Casey Abrams is doing? Will he be able to perform tonight? He’s the one I most want to see week after week. Please tell us he’ll be okay.

  5. Erix N says:

    Here is where I would place the top 24 in my own four categories:

    Love: Robbie Rosen, Stefano Langone, Pia Tascano, Naima Adedapo, and Ashton Jones

    Like: Karen Rodriguez, Casey Abrams, Lauren Alaina, Tim Halperin, Paul McDonald, Jovany Barreto, Jacob Lusk, Thia Megia, Lauren Turner, and Julie Zorilla

    Dislike: Rachel Zevita, Tatynisa Wilson, Jordan Dorsey, Scotty McCreary, Kendra Chantelle, and Clint Jun Gamboa

    Sanjayas of 2010: Brett Loewenstern, James Durbin, and Haley Reinhart

    Overall I liked most of the judges picks, but there were definitely some that were booted that deserved to go through over others.

  6. Realist says:

    “…here’s just hoping she doesn’t pull a Janell Wheeler and botch her Week One semifinal song choice!”

    I’m 99% sure that the semifinals have been replaced with a single, sudden death make-the-top-12-or-you’re-done performance, with the Top 12 (or 13?) finalists revealed on Thursday, March 3rd.

    The Finals are scheduled to begin on March 9th.

  7. CarolLeslie says:

    Really wish people would back off on the James Durbin/Adam Lambert comparisons. Lambert wasn’t the first big voiced rocker to wail out some oversized high notes. Just because Durbin has the pipes to do so as well doesn’t make him a copycat nor a sound-alike. I actually like James and hope he has the nerves of steel needed to do well on the live shows.
    And in case you’ve forgotten Slezak, you weren’t too crazy about Adam at this point in Season 8 either. Took you several weeks to come around to liking him, and I’m pretty sure he still hasn’t risen to the status of favorite on your list.

    • ErixN says:

      The problem is he has compared himself to Adam Lambert.

    • jonnybo says:

      Can’t really say I’m a glambert but I do like Adam Lambert. All I can say is as a music lover who appreciates Adam’s talent, it is kind of laughable to hear James compared to Adam. If I were a glambert I’d be offended too. James seems like a good kid who is in dire need of some direction, lessons, guidance, mentoring, etc. Hopefully he will find that in AI and not just be cannon fodder… which I think is more likely to happen.

  8. shaunthesheep says:

    It’s pretty funny that nobody, not even Slezak, is even mentioning Naima Adedapo (spelling?) – seeing as she’s going to win the whole thing.

    • ErixN says:

      The list does not include any of the contestants that were picked on Wednesday night’s show. I wish that had been included, but I think Michael left them out because they were picked on Wednesday.

  9. McComment says:

    Scotty McCreary will be featured in Toy Story 4 as the fifth member of Woody’s Roundup

  10. JenD says:

    ah.. jessica, we hardly knew ye. i’m rooting for brett. i love his voice and his spirit. yeah, it was a lame song that he wrote, but he’s 16. of course it’s lame. it’s not a song writing competition. i like pia. it’s so refreshing to see a woman that beautiful and talented who doesn’t think everything should be handed to her in a pink tulle skirt with coordinated stilettos (i’m looking at you julie.) i think pia should just get a recording contract. just skip the show and give her a contract. i like casey too, but didn’t everyone go to college with a casey? wasn’t there always some wack-a-doo trust-fund hippee playing guitar in the dorm’s side stairwell? i think there are some good dark horse contestants, lauren, tim and kendra. but ultimately i call Robbie for the win.

    and i can’t stand julie-bedroom-eyes-at-the-camera-zorilla. this season’s antonella barbra.

    and i’m happy that lauren made it through because now she can get a haircut.

    • hooch says:

      I like Pia as well. She’s got a great figure (god, I sound like my grandmother), she’s beautiful, and she has a nice modest attitude, which is very rare in a girl so pretty.
      Also agree with you on Julie, she acts like she’s got it in the bag already, which is very annoying. I think she heard J.Lo say “winner?” when she was walking out of her first audition or something. Or she’s just used to years and years of getting whatever she wants. But come on, she’s leagues ahead of Antonella Barbra talent-wise.
      LOL @ your comment on Casey. “wack-a-doo trust-fund hippee”! Great image! Totally know the type! (I went to a New England Liberal Arts school so there were a lot of these) I do love him though regardless.

  11. Shannon says:

    It’s perfectly understandable why a contestant would aspire to be like Adam Lambert, but I know Adam Lambert, and James, you are no Adam Lambert. He completely lost me when he said “I threw in my screams JUST LIKE ADAM LAMBERT.” Excuse me???? James has no technique (I bet he doesn’t even know what it means, vocally) and therefore no control. And he just lost all of Adam’s fans by his presumption.

  12. Hooch says:

    I am actually very excited for this season! I think there are so many people in the top24 this year that are better than ANYONE in the top10 last year. I actually have a hard time remembering anyone else besides Lee & Crystal (& Didi — Robbed!!! Nope, not over it yet. Nor Alexis Grace. Grr.) I even stopped watching after the top 6 or so because it was so boring.

    Between Casey, Pia, Lauren Turner (she seems real good!), Lauren Alaina (yes, she is WAY overpimped and Nigel must know her family or something, but really , that’s not her fault, she IS very good, albeit super precocious), Paul MacDonald, and Brett Loewenstern, I’m psyched. Then again, I was excited for Andrew Garcia last year and he was a big let-down so we’ll see what happens.

    I’m looking at Jovany, Scotty McCreery (one trick pony!), Tatynisa, and Thia Megia to be early ousters, if things go well (which they never do, thanks to tween texting), which means that’ll probably be our top 4. Ugh.

    Why can’t AI limit the # of votes like Dancing with the Stars does ? Is it just so Ryan can say “We had 10 gazillion votes this week!”? No one cares about that !

  13. Suncatcher says:

    UPDATE ON CASEY ABRAMS HEALTH! This just in from Hollywood.com:

    “Update: Guys, we can breath a sigh of relief. The best contestant we’ve seen on American Idol, EVER, will still be performing for our votes next week. The fear was that when Casey Abrams found himself in the hospital on Wednesday night, he’d have to drop out of the competition, but luckily Idol spokespeople say he’s on track to return to the show and dazzle us during the guys’ auditions. WOO.”

    We all wish Casey, literally, the best of health and get back to us SOON!!!

  14. Bluz says:

    Colton Dixon as a wildcard? Would think they would pull from one of the eliminated 24…but….BUT….might he be on a westbound plane as we type? Hmmmmm

    • Amy says:

      That’s what I’m thinking. I think he deserves it too. Did no one else notice Steven Tyler tell Colton you are crazy good and then tell Brett he has a great story and then crown Brett the winner.
      Then Ryan said to Bye to Jacee and See You Later to Colton.

  15. Suncatcher says:

    SLEZAK JUST CONFIRMED / REPORTED THAT CASEY ABRAMS WILL PERFORM TONIGHT AND STAY IN THE IDOL RACE!!! : )

  16. agrimesy says:

    Always a pleasure to read a Slezak recap! I’m not thrilled with all the choices for Top 24, but there are enough contestants to hold my interest for a while. The one thing that will stand out this season for me is the elimination of celebrity mentors and the new focus on vocal coaches! When these kids face up to some REAL criticism, the truly talented will up their game. Those who can’t cut it will flounder as it should be. I cannot wait for James Durbin to meet Peggy Blu, (aka the vocal coach from hell). I have a feeling she won’t hesitate to tell him like it is.

  17. Anna says:

    Michael, I’m so happy you’re here to give us your recaps. You totally get it! And I totally love it!

    My thoughts on a few and where they stand in my mind as we head into next week based on my experience as an over-invested Idol-Loonie! :-) Breaking it down by gender, the men’s post first.

    • Casey Abrams: Obvious talent, personality and buzz. I find you could describe him using paralells to other AIers.
    – He’s kind of like a more authentic and relevant Taylor Hicks.
    – He’s kind of like Lee DeWyze with more personality, skill and the ability to show emotion on his face and rhythm in his bones. (
    – He’s sort of like Crystal Bowersox becuase you just know there’s a hippie beatnik thing going on there.
    – He’s kind of like Ruben Studdard cuz he’s sort of a big teddy bear.
    – He’s kind of like Adam Lambert because the press seem to be unanimously picking him as a front-runner.
    These people all did pretty well. Casey’s to loose… or is it too early to start that?

    • Paul McDonald: The guy has style, balls, and he can sang!

    • Tim Halperin: Cute, talented, nice guy qualities that put him just in the middle of the radar in a Kris Allen sort of way:-)

    • Brett Lowenstern: I really like Brett but I think he’s just differnt enough that his talent may not be as appreciated as it could/should be.

    • Robbie Rosen: Robbie has a lovely voice, but call me a shallow bitch… I can’t get past his look. I can’t get through a song without an internal (or actual) eyeroll. He seems a bit shmarmy but I’m willing to let him prove me wrong.

    • Scotty McCreery: I know he can sing, but I’m really not a fan. I think Scotty lives in that 5th or 6th men’s potential slot shared by Robbie, Clint, Jacob, Stefano and Jovany. Maybe… maybe not.

    • Jacob Lusk: On personality alone, he could make the top 10.

    • Jovany Barreto, Jordan Dorsey, Clint Gamboa, Stefano Langone: I think Stefano and/or Jovany would be nice additions to the top ten but Jordan and Clint aren’t my cuppa. I do think Clint has the most recognition out of the four going in to competition night, so if he can hold his own (and people blank out on the fact that he’s an ass-hat) he has a shot.

    • James Durban: I think he has something real and artisitc but unfortunatly for him just too many things going against him. He’s kind of clueless and unlikeable. Not to mention extremely hard to listen to… and watch. Unless Jimmy Iovine and his people can get ahold of him and harness his Jamesness, I think he’ll be gone quicker than you can say AdamLambertmakesitlookeasy…butit’snot.

  18. Anna says:

    The Ladies:
    • Rachel Zevita: This girl has something… I think they call it “it.”
    • Lauren Alaina: I’m going to go out on a limb now and say that TPTB have chosen poorly in over-hyping her. I don’t even think it’ll be a backlash so much as a “we’re just not that into her” kind of thing. If it was 2001 she might stand out more, but she seems a bit lost, dated and messy for 2011. (We already have an excellent Kelly Clarkson… and her name is Kelly Clarkson.) If she does stick around, please oh please send her to style camp. And here’s hoping style camp today is not the same style camp that was foisted upon Allison Iraheta.
    • Naima Adedapo: She’s unique, can sing and has a good back-story. I like her chances.
    • Pia Toscano: She always seems a little nervous to me. If she can own it like she needs to I think she could be a strong contender for the girls. She also seems very genuine
    • Julie Zorrilla & Thia Megia: I think there are other girls who are more talented but one of these two will make the top ten, aka the Katie Stevens slot:-)
    • Ashton Jones & Kendra Chantelle: I personally prefer these two over the previous two and hope they make top ten. The women are always the hardest to figure out. Seriously, why is that?

    Of the remaining girls, Karen Rodriguez, Hailey Reinhart, Lauren Turner and TaTynisa Wilson — I don’t think they have a chance at top ten, but when they all four make it… we will no doubt spend thousands of hours discussing it! :-)

  19. Christina says:

    . I would break the Top 24 down into the following categories:

    Hell yeah: Casey Abrams, Naima Adeapo, Paul McDonald, Robbie Rosen, Tim Halperin
    Things are looking bright: Ashton Jones, Brett Loewenstern, Jacob Lusk, Julie Zorrilla, Karen Rodriguez, Kendra Chantelle, Pia Toscano, Rachel Zevita, Stefano Langone
    I don’t want to like you because the producers love you: Lauren Alaina
    You’ve shot yourself in the foot: Clint Jun Gamboa, Jordan Dorsey, Jovany Barreto, Scotty Mccreery
    and
    Hell No: James Durbin, Haley Reinhart, Lauren Turner, Tatynisa Wilson, Thia Megia

  20. Shannon says:

    I don’t really care that the Idol machine is trying to create an Adam Lambert knock-off [and doing a very poor job it], I’m just glad they’re not trying to carbon copy Allison Iraheta. ::sigh:: But, why would they? She was always under-appreciated. ::double sigh:: Love that girl.

  21. Cy says:

    Great recap as always, Slezak. I mourn the loss of Colton Dixon a bit more than you, it seems, but oh well. There are still quite a few people (mainly girls, surprisingly! Maybe that was the idea behind creating a Top 24 with absolutely ZERO hot guys in it… =__=) I am liking quite a bit, however.
    *
    My Top 12—scratch that—11 would be:
    *
    1. Julie Zorilla – great voice, beautiful girl, very sincere. I like her~ (also, she accompanies herself on piano very well—more cred in my book!)

    2. Robbie Rosen – this kid is like the smoothest “ladykiller crooner” this side of Frank Sinatra. And (to quote Randy) “he’s only 16!!!!” Pretty amazing. Random observation: doesn’t he look like a young, real-life Flynn Ryder from the Disney movie, ‘Tangled?’

    3. Casey Abrahms – you can’t not like this guy. However, how many records is he realistically going to sell after he wins Idol? Somewhere just a tad north of Lee Dewyze’s paltry total, I’d guess…

    4. Pia Toscana – again, a beautiful girl with a fabulous voice she is in full control of, and fantastic stage presence/showmanship.

    5. Tim Halperin – seriously needs to lose the caveman beard, but the man *can* sing.

    6. Bret Loewenstern – sweet kid with a decent voice & musicality, but his tendency toward teen melodrama might become a tad annoying. We’ll see how he handles himself.

    7. Thia Megia – don’t know why you’re hating on this poor girl, Slezak, but she has a solid voice and, like all tweenage girls, really, REALLY wants to be an idol. I think a lot of people interpret her mild, zen expression as blasé, cold or standoffish, but it’s apparent that those around her who have interacted with her directly feel her warmth and seem to like her (note the many, many Thia hugs during the Green Mile eps). Please don’t write her off just because she doesn’t look as big-eyed and bubbly as certain other tween contestants who are genetically favored for working the cutesy-wutsey-ness…

    8. Ashton Jones – we haven’t gotten to see much of her, but I loved her voice in the few performances we *did* get to see, and I applaud her (and her groupmates) for being so compassionate about that headcase Ashley and her drama.

    9. Jacob Lursk – well, I agree that the boy is a bit overenthusiastic with the big notes, but he *does* have talent. And if we’re going to be praising ANYONE on this season for being able to hit Adam Lambert notes, it should be Mr. Lursk, not the shrieking alley cat with the stupid scarf-belt.

    10. Stefano Langone – I don’t care too much about him either way, but I happen to like the Jon Secada song he sang for his final, hangar solo (that was Jon Secada’s “Angel,” btw, Slezak—not an original. It was a Top 10 song back in the 90’s… surprised you missed that, Slezak. :P)

    11. Paul MacDonald – nice voice, but something about him is giving me a bad vibe. Not sure what, so he makes my “to watch” list, but I’ll stick him cautiously at the bottom here.
    *
    *
    Meh:
    *
    1. Naima Adedapo – I like her well enough and agree that she sings well. But she hasn’t quite won me over yet.

    2. Karen Rodriguez – she’s cute, has a nice, bright personality, and sings well enough. Not enough to outshine Pia or Julie, but I wouldn’t be unhappy to see her advance.

    3. Jovany – I just don’t care about him either way.

    4. Lauren Turner – again, I don’t care.
    *
    *
    On Trial:
    *
    1. Clint the Junebug – he has a good voice and sings very well, I’ll admit it. But I’ll have to see whether his douchebaggery on Group Night was really just the work of Evil Idol Editors or not before he has my support

    2. Scotty McCreery – Link Clint, I need to see more to see whether his douchery RE: Jaycee was real or not. I’d cut him a little extra slack because he’s just a kid, but as I really dislike country music anyway, he probably wouldn’t have had my vote even if his character wasn’t in question. :P
    *
    *
    No Votes From Me:
    *
    1. Rachel Zevita – love her clothes, but wow, SO many wild, stray notes coming out of this girl! Versus the vocal polish of the majority of this Top 24, I can only imagine she made the cut over worthier singers because Idol was sick of seeing her audition year after year.

    2. Lauren Alaina – still holding a grudge for her willful exploitation of a sob story (her cousin’s brain tumor) to win sympathy votes. Girl may be able to sing, but nothing she’s said or done has warmed me up to her.

    3. Kendra Chantelle – so-so voice amidst much more polished voices. Nothing standout about her. Bye.

    4. Tatynisa Wilson – again, so many mistakes and bad notes. Definitely unworthy of being in the Top 24.
    *
    *
    On My Black List:
    *
    1. Jordan “Arrogant Creep” Dorsey – and unlike his fellow Group Night douchebag, Clint, he can’t even hit the right notes half the time! Why hasn’t anyone called him on his wild, crazy note slinging?? If there’s any justice in this world, this no-talent douchebag will get his massively oversized ego thoroughly schooled on Idol.

    2. Haley “No Voice There” Reinhart – wow, that is one horribly strained voice. I can’t believe anyone would find her strangled screeches pleasant to listen to, much less worthy of beating out Jessica Cunningham and other decent singers. She needs to go.

    3. James “Shrieking, Out-of-Control Cat” Durbin – apparently, he likes to sing songs about whores. And he disses under-aged contestants whose moms are there to chaperone them because—get this—THEY’RE UNDER-AGED AND THEY MUST BE CHAPERONED. What a creep. And any man who *willfully* puts his hair into that stupid “dollop of cream on top” hairstyle (it’s not *even* a faux-hawk) is obviously not mentally balanced enough to handle the pressures of stardom. Go home before you hurt yourself, Durbin—GO.

    • Ali says:

      I think you are confusing Stefano and Jovany. It was Jovany who sang the Jon Secada song. I guess it was an original song Stefano sang (didn’t recognize it anyway) while playing the piano.

  22. Elizmc09 says:

    Slezak, while I mostly agree with you I think your write up on Jovany is unfair. The guy even said he wanted to make sure he got the ticket before he did the abs thing. It was a bet. He seems like a nice guy with actual talent not just a hot body. Thanks for the great Idoloonies this week even though the videos attacked my computer and I had to restart it to even finish watching. I wish that Sarah would have made it to top 24, she’s amazingly talented.

  23. Shannon says:

    Ok… Show of hands. Who would pick Brett “red-headed flower child” Loewenstern over cuddly, angel-voiced Jacee and sexy, spiky-haired Colton?
    Yeah, me neither.
    I’ll admit that the judges probably did Jacee a favor by giving him a chance to go through puberty and hone his considerable talent, but Brett over Colton?
    Mmmkay… Well, at least Brett has a memorable look and a borderline annoying spiritually centeredness.

    • Shannon says:

      I should’ve said “spiritually *left of centeredness”, because, well, he’s an odd little fellow. And as mentioned by the above poster, a bit melodramatic.

  24. Tammie Milligan says:

    I’ve decided that the judges and producers must all be Republicans
    because based on Molly’s audition performance we should have seen a lot more of that girl and it is a SIN that they totally blew her off!

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Which just goes to prove we didn’t get the memo that we’re all a bunch of racist homophobes, especially based on the Top 24, LOL.

      But seriously, I was admittedly not wild about Molly, BUT…I wanted to hear her sing again because I really wanted to see what I missed since everyone was so wild about her! I’m just as bummed out as you are.

      Last year everyone was crazy about Alex Lambert and I wasn’t. After everyone raved about him and I heard him sing again, I got it.

  25. Rick says:

    Casey Abrams… yes, he’s crazy talented. However, stylistically, he may be a bit too out of the mainstream to sell many records. Millions of people voted for Taylor Hicks and then promptly did NOT buy his CD.

    • Amy says:

      I loved Taylor Hicks performances, but his CD was garbage. I listened to every song of his on itunes, but didn’t buy one.
      It has everything to do with what songs they are given to release as their own.

  26. Ali says:

    So “phrasing” seems to be a buzzword this year. Could anyone enlighten me as to what it means to have good/bad phrasing?

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Phrasing is a bit of an abstract concept and while it may be a buzzword this year it’s sure nothing new in music. In vocal music it’s the ability to sing a song and interpret the song by stringing the correct words and “phrases” together and sing the lyrics so they are pleasing to the audience.

      If a singer has good vocal training and good breath control, and sings using their diaphragm for support, they can extend their notes longer and their phrases can be longer or even more complex (diaphragm refers to the muscles that extend across the bottom of the rib cage – Not the other kind. My science is better than my music).

      too many singers sing from the throat without good support and good breath control. It’s annoying when someone takes a breath in the middle of a phrase. It’s also really hard on the vocal cords to sing without proper support. Someone can have a powerful voice but if they don’t support it with proper breathing and diaphragm support the result can be breathy, hollow, and annoying.

      Mel Torme was considered to be the master of phrasing.
      Listen to Lena Horne sing “Stormy Weather”.

      Much of the music from the 40s has very intricate melodies and the songs lend themselves to interesting and challenging phrasing. Look up Kelly Clarkson’s version of “Stuff Like That There” on You Tube. Or listen to Barbara Streisand sing “The Man That Got Away” – or just about anything, for that matter.

      Now I hope someone chimes in that is smarter than I am and has studied music theory more recently than when JC was walking around in his sandals!

      • Ali says:

        Ah, interesting! Thank you, I now feel enlightened. So nice to hear an adjective other than “pitchy” being thrown around. I’m finding the judges comments so much more interesting this year; it’s like they’ve upped the musicality ante.

        • darcy's evil twin says:

          I kind of wish someone that actually knew something about music would weigh in, LOL.

          “Phrasing” is an actual term – there is no such word as “pitchy”, except on AI. And technically it’s not singing “in tune”, it’s “in key”. Tyler has made several references to singers changing keys (and not when they are supposed to). I think when Randy says “pitchy” what he means is the singers’ notes are either flat (lower than the correct note) or sharp (higher than the correct note). Or both. Lately I’ve heard a few actual references to singers being sharp or flat. I think Tyler and J-Lo have forced Randy to bring a better game to the table. Simon was just looking for a commercial product that could sell CDs.

          One reason I really hope they don’t get rid of “Big Band Night” is the music is not for the faint of heart – the complex melodies and the phrasing required to perform those songs separate the men from the boys (Casey would do very well). Even some of the old Cole Porter and Duke Ellington tunes require above-average talent. The thought of Lauren Aliana singing something like Duke Ellington’s ‘I’ve Got it Bad, and That Ain’t Good” makes me want to keep my thumb on the MUTE button on the remote, just to be on the safe side!

          Okay, that’s about all I remember from high school music theory, LOL.

  27. bing says:

    slezak! a few corrections:
    1. yamin’s from season 5 not 4
    2. it’s tiwan strong and not taiwan strong

  28. Sharleen says:

    I can’t watch Lauren Alaina interact with Steven Tyler without thinking about Miss Piggy devouring Kermit.

  29. ys says:

    I find the comparison between James Durban and Adam Lambert – even perpetuated by Durban himself- to be unfair. Yes, both have an incredible range, but the BIG difference is Lambert was already singing in theatre before AI. Hence, lots of formal training on handling that big voice. Durban- well, we all know his backstory- didn’t have that advantage with unfortunate results. Say whatever you may about his character, behaviour, dress style (or lack of)etc., but there is no denying that he has an amazing instrument. His high notes are all in his real voice, not a falsetto. What he needs is someone who can show him how to harness all that power effectively, emotively, AND melodically. Will it happen soon enough for him to succeed in AI? I hope so, but it’s already starting to look bleak for him, if the negative posts are anything to go by.

  30. ys says:

    Oops, sorry for the misspelling of Durbin.

  31. kayk says:

    *Sad to see Jacee go – bring him back as a wild card please!
    *Bummed to have to put up with Clint JuneBug, Jordan, and James Durbin’s personalities and the way over the top singing of Clint JuneBug and James Durbin for one or more episodes
    * VERY happy to see Brett and Casey make it through!
    *Already tired of the histrionics of Jacob Lusk – we get it, you’re highly emotional
    *Curious about the apparently sudden use of the term “singing for their lives.” I don’t remember hearing that on previous AmIdol seasons…with Nigel back, is it a coincidence that this is a variation on the phrase “dancing for your life” from So You Think You Can Dance? I suspect not…

    • ys says:

      I too was sad to see Jacee leave because there something so sweet and heartening about this fifteen-year-old whose poise and class put some older ones to shame. But perhaps it’s for the best, so that he has a chance of coming back when he is older to win!

  32. JayK says:

    I adore Casey Abrams and Brett Loewenstern to death. And I can already feel the rage building – I’m gonna hate Scotty and Haley.

  33. L says:

    I am pretty happy with the Top 24 this year, with the exception of James Durbin.

    I actually don’t watch AI live and always (always) skip the back stories. I consider AI a singing competition and do not want people’s back stories coloring my impression of them. Regardless of what background they come from, what personality they have, if they can sing, they can sing. Though I know vaguely that James Durbin has some sort of sob story, I pay no attention to that in my opinion of him.

    James Durbin has a natural set of pipes. He can hit high notes and has a good chest voice with a tone that’s generally considered perfect for Rock genre. But I really don’t like him, for the following reasons:

    1. He has no vocal skill. Regardless of his background, I am only judging him for his performance now. I am not going to say something like: oh, he might be really good with some more training in the future. Well, he might be good in the future, but he’s not good now. He’s obviously born with the ability to reach high notes, but that doesn’t mean he knows how to sing. He has very little control when he sings high notes (or any notes to be frank). I have a feeling he can’t even control which key to reach when he’s doing vocal runs. He just does his vocal runs until he runs out of breath. So those notes never make sense harmonically. If Simon were still with the show, he would have totally given him the Von Smith treatment right away (a ten year old learning to sing for the first time).

    2. He has no musicality. If vocal skill at least can be taught, musicality unfortunately is an inate ability. And James really doesn’t have it. He keeps hitting high notes at the wrong harmony to the melody of the song and makes those notes stick out like a sore thumb. He has poor rhythm. He can’t really connect with the music emotionally. These things really can’t be taught and mark the difference between average wannabe singers and truly talented musicians.

    Just look at the way He butchered A Change is Gonna Come. The song’s melody was completely destroyed. He was singing up and down, all around it, with no regard to emotional build up and harmonic progression. His phrasing was terrible. I basically couldn’t find a single good thing to say about that performance.

  34. darcy's evil twin says:

    I must say no one is knocking my socks off this season like Bowersox did last year. Casey has crazygood talent, but I’m more of a rock fan than a jazz fan. The jury is still out for me, but overall the talent is better than last year, the judges are 1000% more enjoyable, and I’m looking forward to picking out my favorites.

    I will say I don’t think people are giving Lauren Turner enough credit. I think she may surprise us all.

  35. McComment says:

    James Durbin has nice natural tone and great musicality. I think he’s like undeveloped Adam from 12 years ago. He’s got some serious issues with his musical taste and vocal choices. His voice gets thinner and out of control in high register.
    This is happening to many gifted singer not smart enough to overcome their flaws and bad habits.

  36. Amelia says:

    Thanks for doing the Idoloonie video recap, Slezak :) It’s fantastic to have a video commentary again, I really enjoyed Idolatry while it was on. I’d prefer to hear more of your own comments and opinions, & less from other random idol fans (via Skype).

  37. Jess says:

    Some of these 24 are quite talented, but I don’t get how they could have chosen this Jovany guy over Colton… He can actually sing wish isn’t the case with Jovany or Scotty not to forget James “Screamer”.

  38. Delon says:

    This year my money is on the holy trinity of Jewish youth: Loewenstern, Zevita and Rosen. I think they are all massively talented. And unlike Slezak who seem to favor his ilk(he is still going on about Yamin), i’m not rooting for the Jewish youngsters because i’m Jewish, i support them despite the fact that i’m Muslim. Take that America! F*ck, yeahhh!!!

  39. D says:

    James Durbin > Adam Lambert. Yep, I said it.

    • agrimesy says:

      You are delusional . . . seriously? LOL . . . to each his own. If you like Durbin, you can have him. I’ll keep my Grammy nominated Adam Lambert. Thanks for the chuckle this morning. :D

  40. L says:

    Love the recaps, but why are the screenshots always fuzzy?

  41. sdmama says:

    I love your review. You always have extra something that other blogs never have, like inviting Sarah to tell us what else went down behind the curtain.
    Though there maybe some disappointing preferential treatment for younger contestants but there are enough good people left this season, and I am more interested in watching it this year compared to last year. These producers know what they are doing. I already had some early favorites.

    Three people I was sad to see go: Carson, John Wayne Shultz, and Colton Dixon. I am glad that Casey is still there.

  42. laurieb says:

    Its funny that just a few years ago, an unknown singing phenom named Adam Lambert was chastised for being “too theatrical” and now more than 90 percent of the contestants are way beyond theatrical, they are downright scary, in their mannerisms and attire. Yes I want to be entertained and enjoy a good performance but if the theatrics are to mask a so-so signing voice, then we might just as well watch Gaga! At least she knows, (at least I think she knows) that she is a complete spectacle, (albeit a very rich one). I was disappointed that Colton was cut and hopes he makes it to the wild card picks. James Durbin just screams so much I have to cover my ears with the couch cushions. Yikes! I hope the vocal coaches can help him, for our sake, as we all know hes going into the top 12. For the rest I will have to watch them progress, or not, on the show to see who I truly like.

  43. Suncatcher says:

    THANK YOU, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson, for taking your job seriously this year and for delivering a crop of exciting talent for Season 10! You cared. It shows. Can’t wait to see the next chapters!

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Here here, Suncatcher, I agree. There are a few in there I don’t care for – but after all it’s a reality show, and as people keep reminding me, THIS IS American Idol! Overall it’s a good group of singers.

  44. Malcolm says:

    Hmm, Lauren Alaina is good, but it is slightly disturbing how she serenades/’molests’ Steven Tyler. But I’m willing to just look past that and see if she brings it in the live shows.

    I’m a big Adam Lambert fan, and to be honest I don’t think James Durbin has no talent; I just think he has an instrument that is completely undeveloped. It’s like what Adam Lambert might have turned out like had he not been trained and had not had experience. I honestly (and no one might agree) think that if the vocal coaches help him and mold his talent, he can make a name for himself on the show. But that’s just my opinion.

    I think I was wobbling, but I’m pretty sure I’m on Team Casey now! :D
    Not sure how well he would do in the recording world, but I’m interested in him for the time being.

    I didn’t appreciate how Jerome Bell, who I – to be honest – would have chosen over Jordan Dorsey, was cut….didn’t even give him much screen time in the end.

    And for some reason I dislike Robbie Rosen. I admit that he has talent, I just feel like it’s nothing incredibly different from what I’ve heard over the years. But I’m open to being proven wrong, by anyone — even James Durbin.

  45. James says:

    God Jessica Cunningham is so hawt…tis a shame see did not make it…as well as Jacee and Colton!

  46. deedee says:

    Michael, Love your recaps and excellent insight, but the video-skype interviews with Idoloonies is horrible. Please just have them join you in your office/studio/whatever!! You can do better than this!

  47. Sophie says:

    How can anyone compare James to Adam Lambert?! The guy has no singing talent, all he does is shouting. Lambert is incredible and way more talented than anyone on the show.
    I think Robbie and Tim are pretty amazing. As for the rest I kinda agree with michael, except I think Scotty is great in his own style. At least he can sing. James and Lauren are the worst.

    • Malcolm says:

      You know, you can compare them because of their penchant for going for high notes. Adam’s infinitely better, but I just think people should wait till after Jimmy Iovine tries to help him. If he still kills whatever song he sings on Tuesday, then I think it’s over for him. Kid’s just a lost, out-of-control (vocally) singer. And do you mean Lauren Alaina and Lauren Turner? Because no way you look at it, Lauren Alaina can’t possibly considered worse than some of the people there.

  48. Lauren says:

    Lauren Alaina looks exactly like my best friend that it’s terrifying. She’s 21 but they honestly could be long lost sisters. I root for her every episode exclusively for that reason – because I get confused and I keep calling her by my friend’s name.

    It annoys me when she speaks though because she has a Southern accent and my friend has a New York accent. I want to keep up the fantasy here!

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