American Idol results show is kind of like a trip to the dentist’s chair: The faster you get through it, the better. But Thursday night’s two-hour extravaganza — in which the crop of 24 season 10 semifinalists was dramatically culled to a field of 13 — proved the exception to the rule. Okay, sure, that brief clip of Ta-Tynisa Wilson’s “Only Girl (In the World)” felt like the haunting touch of a dentist’s drill without the benefit of novocaine. But on the whole, the two hours zoomed right past, fueled by a laughing-gas giddiness that this year’s finalists, as a whole, are infinitely more appetizing than the curdled glass of milk Idol served up in season 9.
That said, the night was not without its frustrations: Kendra Chantelle was robbed of a Wild Card berth into the finals despite owning “Georgia on My Mind” harder than Steven Tyler did his pink ruffled lady-pirate shirt. Lauren Turner suffered the indignity of getting a group heave-ho alongside inferior beings like Julie Zorrilla and the aforementioned Ta-Ty-no-no Will-not. And Nigel Lythgoe missed an exciting opportunity to employ a jaunty trap door and unceremoniously swallow Clint Jun Gamboa and Jordan Dorsey in one giant gulp against d-baggery.
Most of the opening hour was spent recapping the Tuesday- and Wednesday-night performance shows, airing new (and artfully shot) interview footage with the Top 24, and watching Ryan call up the hopefuls in groups of two or three, then reveal whether or not the Idoloonie Nation had voted them through to finals. In announcement order, these five men and five women included: Scotty “Baby Lock Them Doors” McCreery; Lauren “Chosen One” Alaina; America’s Next Top Pia Toscano; Karen Rodriguez Brought To You By MySpace; Jacob “Don’t Listen to Randy!” Lusk; Casey “Slappin’ Da Bass” Abrams; Thia “Death Stare” Megia; Paul “Chicken Arm” McDonald; Haley “Wait! How’d She Get In Here?!” Reinhart; and James “Na’vi Tail” Durbin. (The three picks for Wild Cards would turn out to be Top American Designer Naima Adedapo; Stefano “Hot For J.Lo, Or Is It The Other Way Around?” Langone; and Ashthon “Respect the Hair” Jones.)
There wasn’t much suspense in the way Ryan paired the “yeses” and the “nos,” and to be honest, it’s not really worth anyone’s time and energy to turn this recap into a court transcript. Instead, before we get to our discussion of the Wild Card round, let’s hand out some lovely prizes to our various show participants. Without further ado…
Best Fashion (Women)
Ashthon Jones’ pink and black knit dress over black leggings (1-800-TOO-DANG-HOT)
Worst Fashion (Women)
Thia Megia’s not-so-amazing technicolor mallrat sweater
Best Fashion (Men)
Jovany’s dark gray buttonless Henley and Paul’s white, sparkly “rose” jacket (Yeah, I know the latter piece was shown briefly in Paul’s “sing for your life” round, but it’s still pretty spectacular, no?)
Worst Fashion (Men)
Scotty McCreery’s grotesque camouflage skull visor (no hair day is that bad)
Funniest Sound Bite (Women)
“If I get cut, America, I know where you live, and I’m gonna cut you!” –Lauren Turner, pondering the possibility of elimination
Funniest Sound Bite (Men)
“Why would I be in Country Living?” –James Durbin, recounting the strangest shout-out he’s gotten from a magazine photographer on the red carpet
“Fundamental Misunderstanding of What Went Wrong” Award
“I would’ve loved an opportunity to get up here and play that song with my guitar. That’s all I wanted to do.” –Julie Zorrilla, talking about her disastrous performance of “Breakaway,” a composition she should never, ever sing — or maybe even listen to — again
“Fundamental Misunderstanding of What I’m Supposed to Do With My Life” Award
“I made it this far, and I’m not gonna give up now.” –Ta-Tynisa Wilson
“If The Judges Won’t Say It, Ryan’s Recap Voiceover Will” Award
“The night got off to a screaming start with karaoke host Clint Jun Gamboa.” (Cue: Excessive holleration on Clint’s rendition of “Superstition”)
“When Someone Pays You a Compliment, Say ‘Thanks’ and Then Shut Your Pie Hole” Award
“I don’t know, I’m just Lauren.” –Lauren Alaina, asked what she thought about original Idol champ Kelly Clarkson comparing her to season 5 country gal Kellie Pickler, and judge Randy Jackson comparing her to Kelly and season 4 champ Carrie Underwood
“A Single Buzzcut Away From the Top 13?” Award
The “Congratulations! You’re Already Being Used on the Idol Soundtrack” Award
Pia Toscano, whose soaring cover of “I’ll Stand By You” played in the background as Rachel Zevita, Lauren Turner, and Julie Zorrilla were shown begging for their Idol lives
Okay, so let’s talk Wild Card. I thought Idol voters did a pretty solid job choosing their five entries on the men’s side, but bellyflopped a little on the women. As I said in my recap last night, I was half-expecting either Karen Rodriguez or Haley Reinhart to sneak into the top 10 under Clause No. 387 of the American Idol Handbook: “Each season shall include one incredibly maddening member of the Top 12 who outlasts far more talented vocalists through the twin powers of good looks and unparalleled determination. (See: Cook, Kristy Lee.)” But seriously, Haley AND Karen, yet no love for Kendra Chantelle, Naima Adedapo, Lauren Turner, or Ashthon Jones. Phooey! Given the fact that there were only six performance slots available — and only three for the ladies — one of those women had to get shafted again, and the dubious distinction indiscriminately landed on Lauren T.
On the men’s side, Stefano Langone and Robbie Rosen seemed like obvious picks for encores, but I’m going to admit I wasn’t mad at the judges for giving the third spot to Jovany Barreto, who may give off a little old-school Anthony Fedorov-style flavor, but rarely misses a note.
What was great about the Wild Card — and what should serve as an important lesson to every member of the top 13 — is the fact that, faced with sudden-death elimination, all six vocalists esentially performed psychic surgery on themselves, hurled their hearts, souls, and other major organs onto the stage, and left no doubt about their desire to keep going where Haley Reinhart will be daring to tread in the coming
months weeks days. To my ears, Kendra and Stefano delivered the night’s (maybe even the week’s) best vocals. The first couple lines of Kendra’s “Georgia on My Mind” sounded almost too low for her range, but she latched onto the chorus with such glorious gusto, and hit such mind-boggling notes in her upper register, that — I kid you not — I threw my right arm in the air, rocked my head back and forth, and began to testify — “Get it, Kendra! You get it!” — for the last 30 seconds of her performance. It was like I’d been transported from my living room couch to a Kendra Chantelle concert! And even though our esteemed judges completely whiffed by failing to make her Lucky No. 13, I have no doubt in my mind that one day, my Kendra concert fantasy will become a reality. (Note to Kendra: That guy in the fifth row who looks like he’s having a seizure? Probably me.)
This isn’t to say I’m not a fan of either Naima or Ashthon, and I’m not going to hold it against these gals that the judges chose their bigger personalities over quiet, retiring Kendra. After ironing out some flat notes in the first verse (probably due to tears), Naima delivered a pretty top-notch rendition of “For All We Know” that she clearly felt all the way down to her guts. (Bonus points for the lyrics of this mournful ballad being very applicable to the Wild Card moment: “For all we know/ We may never meet again/ Before you go/ Make this moment sweet again.”) Ashthon brought a similarly singular conviction to “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” but her sheer force of will/voluminous hair could not mask the fact that she struggled to stay on pitch for at least half the number. Is it crazy that I still like the resident diva and her megawatt swagger anyway? She seems incredibly sweet in interviews, even if she knows how to strut and stank-eye with the best of her generation.
On the men’s side, Stefano was as explosive as Kendra on a stripped-down, piano-driven rendition of Smokie Norful’s religious ballad “I Need You Now.” I’m going to admit I’d never heard this song before tonight, but it only took a few sweet notes from Stefano to sell me on its merits. The handsomest fella in the competition gave one of those transcendent performances where you’re pretty sure the singer has left the building and the holy spirit or some such entity has taken over. J.Lo was left shaking. Dentists everywhere got a chance to examine Stefano’s molars. I was left convinced there wasn’t much Robbie or Jovany could do to top him. And it turned out to be true.
Jovany’s “Angel” showed power and poise and control, but lacked the emotional conviction of Stefano’s performance. J.Lo’s critique was the epitome of a “thanks for playing” sendoff: “You did a good job, baby. You did all you could do.” Robbie, for his part, hit just about every note of Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,” and did so in a way that sounded as pleasing as it did contemporary. But I’d be lying if I said my attention began to drift midway through his number — there was something about the rendition that felt ever so slightly disconnected. Maybe the boy needs a piano to show his true colors?
On that note, let’s get to tonight’s grades…
Kendra Chantelle: A
Stefano Langone: A
Naima Adedapo: B+
Jovany Barreto: B+
Robbie Rosen: B
Ashthon Jones: B-
Now, before we get to tonight’s questions, I’ve taken the liberty of embedding a duet between Kendra Chantelle and Paul McDonald called “Like You Loved Me Then.” (Hat tip to MJSBigBlog for the heads up!) Use it as evidence to curse your fellow Idol fans for failing to support The Lady Chantelle, or use the power of music to soothe your aching soul. Either way, it’s all good.
And now…what did you think of the Wild Card performances? How are you feeling about the Top 13? How do they stack up compared to season 9’s finalists? Is there anyone whose ouster tonight still has you heartbroken? And what do you want to see from the judges and contestants next week? Sound off below! And for all my Idol coverage, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.