Reality Check: Breaking Down the Idol Top 24! Plus: Heels or No Heels? And Who's This Season's Dark Horse?

For those of you who’ve been asking for longer episodes of Reality Check, be careful what you wish for!

This week’s 36-minute, low-fi episode is not edited by our trusty director Jason Averett — and therefore contains a whole lot of mess about Beyoncé’s “Formation,” the etiquette of Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin and the proper pronunciation of the word “me” when it appears in an N’Sync jam. (Also, a sidebar on ladies’ footwear!)

Fret not, though: My co-host Melinda Doolittle and I also take a deep dive into American Idol‘s Top 24 contestants. Who’s the dark horse? Who shouldn’t have made the cut? And which potential winner got egregiously snubbed?

(There are also a few sound glitches and a 15-second break in the broadcast — at the 25:39 mark — for which we apologize in advance.)

Press PLAY above for the full video, then hit the comments with your thoughts on the Green Mile announcement. (AND NO TOP 10 SPOILERS, PLEASE!)

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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64 Comments
  1. Stacie says:

    Jessica Cabral not making it to Top 24 is just unexplainable, just crazy. Especially give a few of the girls that did make it. Right now, even with the absence of Jessica the girls are much stronger than the guys, as a whole. Obviously, as we know, the track record of Idol favors that girls 5-9, so odds will always be a guy winning, but it’s looking good for the girls so far.

    • Lemon says:

      Like everyone else, I have my own theories on this. Everyone’s blaming the judges, when really, it was most likely Borchetta. After his frustrations with Clark last year, he may not want someone well into adulthood, and whose decisions are primarily faith focused. He may be looking for someone to mold. It’s just a theory….who knows.

      • das.bananas says:

        Whoah that makes sense.

      • judgingidol says:

        I think you’re so right about that. Jessica Cabral’s elimination had to be based on some fear of lack of commercial success for Borchetta’s label.

      • daynamonet says:

        Ummm didn’t Nick win last season who was 29? And I believe he clearly knew who he wanted to be as an artist. I don’t think that’s the right argument regarding jessica’s ouster

        • Puchinsmom says:

          I was thinking the same thing. IF Scott B. really tries to rig it with mostly kids than it backfired last year. Guess we will never know what the deal was with Jessica. Maybe Michael could finesse an interview with her? Find out the details so the cconspiracy theorists can relax or storm the castle for revenge!

        • judgingidol says:

          If Jessica was viewed as wanting to make mostly faith based music, I think that was likely an issue for Borchetta. Also, didn’t TPTB seem to want Clark for the win until he wouldn’t go along with their ideas.

    • josh says:

      I agree, Im soooo close to protesting by not watching. Cabral was one, who throughout, i thought was amazing. I just cant process it right now.

    • Jim Bob Thornton says:

      Simple truth is TPTB wanted 8 underdeveloped teens in the top 24 – teens who shouldn’t be there. For all the whining that is going on here, the next few cuts are gonna be severe, because Michael falsely believes there is gonna be a top 12. There isn’t. Five get cut this week, five next week, and then there’s a cut and a wild card round to compose a top 10. All you Idoloonies need to adjust your thinking to that. A lot of talent is gonna go bye-bye pretty fast. Kinda like the mass exodus that happens every year on The Voice

      • Timmah says:

        Yes, I have the feeling there’s going to be more outrage when people find out that 10 more are getting eliminated without any input from the viewers. If they’re trying to make us not miss this show when it’s gone, they’re doing a good job.

    • winipisoci says:

      or, maybe she just wasn’t good enough? for everyone out there, there is at least one person who thinks they should have gone through.

  2. Dax says:

    Love you Michael but miss your editor. To go on and on about something/someone gets so boring and do you know how sick we are about your blathering about Haley? Okay, she’s good, she’s been gone from Idol forever. You’re just Like Scott with Nick F attached to his hip in every picture…..OLD NEWS, move on when you’re on Idol, pimp him when it’s appropriate. Anyway, you 2 need to make this more like speed dating, wham, bam, on to the next subject. J/s

    • carmen says:

      Just because you have no attention span.

    • Lking says:

      Please can we hear les about Hailey and perhaps more about all the contestants. Jessica was good, but her personality did not stand out for me to remember. The younger contestants have a much better chance of being a star in this music climate. I think Tristan might have that star power she’s a beauty, and Dalton has style. Js

      • Dawson says:

        “style” does not make an American Idol. Dalton is only being pushed cause he’s cute and America is falling for it. There are SO many more talented vocalists who don’t rely on half-assed covers to make it through

    • Ethan says:

      Michael- I and many others never tire and fully understand your love for Haley. Even when the show isn’t edited, you and Melinda do a fantastic job and have agreeable opinions and logical arguments. Thank you!

    • were you raised by wolves?? says:

      Randy??? is that you??? You might be sick of their “blathering” but a lot of us aren’t. You need to get over yourself and accept the fact that Haley Reinhart is succeeding in spite of your best efforts to knock her down! And if you don’t like the way they do THEIR show…….go do your own. I loved the unedited version!

      • HTGR says:

        If you look at the poster [dax/mike]’s comments one almost wonders if it ain’t Nigel or Randy or some such hah. (then again “OK, she’s good”, even tossing that in their as a bone seems a little much for Nigel/Randy so maybe not).

  3. del says:

    36 minutes and you couldn’t at least critique ALL the contestants?

  4. Blake says:

    Frenchie Davis, Lisa Leuschner, Felicia Barton, and now Jessica Cabral. The disappointment continues …

  5. Meg says:

    Love you two, but disappointed that a lot of time was wasted. Wanted to hear your critiques about all the top 24.

  6. The Beach says:

    Michael, please turn off your TV behind you. It’s really distracting. Where oh where is Jason??

    • Tom22 says:

      Maybe Michael was going for the News room look. haha. We should have a self-referential “making of reality check” episode and learn some editing techniques from Jason! I wonder how many hours it takes for Jason to edit an episode. It doesn’t seem like a small task but maybe he’s a guru and whips through it in a hour or two ?

  7. trickster says:

    BTW, you can see the full performance of top 51 on Vevo

    • Kelly (not that one) says:

      I’ve seen this on several comments but I can only find the top 24 (which is still great, since we didn’t get to see full performances in the episode). I would LOVE to see the full video for the 51, so please provide a link if you can!

    • daynamonet says:

      It’s only the top 24

  8. Timmah says:

    Jessica should have a better shot on The Voice where they don’t care about stupid things like having even numbers of guys and girls or meeting some creepo producer’s teen quota.

  9. cb says:

    While I adore Jason’s editing, this was like eavesdropping on a conversation between you and Melinda. Loved it.

  10. jr. says:

    Don’t know the contestants by their names yet. So wish when you talked about someone, you cut to a photo of that contestant. Know them as the young country girl, the black lady with the huge hair and little baby, the sick guy, the guy who hiccups through his songs, the one who has a military mom and wheres different hair extension ( wow what big hair this week ), the male rocker guitarist who screamed through has performance, etc. Wonder about the tall thin good looking foreign guy who didn’t make it through too ( they didn’t show how he sang that got him eliminated.

    • Well said, I was thinking the same thing. It’s too early in the contestant to remember them by name alone.

    • Ben says:

      +1. Specially considering that the most part of them are not memorable enought. (I just remeber La’Porsha, mono guy, the rejected blonde from the previous season, the girl from the voice, hiccups guy.. it’s too early to make a reality check without images :P)

      • Puchinsmom says:

        You guys made me lol this morning! I can remember some names, the ones they’ve given extra screen time, but not everyone. That’s where I missed the editor the most. But the one of my daughters that watches Idol and discusses it with me, names people that way too. Cracks me up.

  11. NJIdoloonie says:

    Check out Jessica’s twitter page – she loves Michael Slezak!

  12. mark says:

    Don’t like to think this way but maybe the Bank of Cabral got robbed because Idol thrives on the drama of the quivering ingenue who blossoms into a star under the pressure of our veto power.

    Jessica was just too mature, too calm and centered in her craft, too skilled in her delivery and already has too exquisite a tone to generate the required amount of tension.

    Tension enough for the sponsors to keep us in the suspense of a few more months worth of Idol’s rags to riches storytelling.

  13. brandon says:

    I think gianna is the dark horse. She is a great singer but she just didn’t have a standout performance yet. Sonia vaid is my favorite girl I think she has it in her to make finale. For guys I think Mackenzie boug has the package but I like dalton and trent alot but I think for me trent is the most potential to go very far but Mackenzie and dalton is the biggest highlight in my opinion in terms of performances

    • Mary says:

      You really think that Gianna is a dark horse? Not only is her Mother annoying, but I haven’t liked anyone of her performances. She only got through because of who her Mom is. If she makes the top 14, which she probably will because the judges are picking not American, I don’t think she will go far at all. I would of put Jessica instead of her any day. I like Mackenzie but haven’t cared much for Dalton. I look for voice first and then stage presence. Dalton needs to work on the vocals.

  14. brandon says:

    The guys I would send home would be james ,Jordan, lee. I like adam lasher a lot but I have a feeling he might get eliminated which would suck because he is great in my opinion. Kory wheeler is great but he’s just not consistent to make top 12 and I like trent a lot but I have a gut feeling they might send him packing. For girls I think Emily Brooke will be eliminated and I love stephany but she will be eliminated and jenna shouldn’t of made it I thought Jessica should of took jenna place and I love Tristan she has potential to go far but I have a feeling there a lot of talent for girls this season that she might be overlooked I hope she makes it but im rooting sonika olivia and shelby and for guys Mackenzie adam and trent or dalton those is my picks

  15. Shana says:

    The fact that Zach Person was cut and for no reason blows my mind. American Idol looks just like the Academy Awards. 2 out of 24… what???

    • Simon says:

      well, 3. LaPorsha, Lee, and Tristan. so really 2 and a half. That’s still pretty abysmal though. Last year there were 6 in the top 12 alone.

  16. bradybunch4u says:

    As usual you two are all about vocal gymnastics. Jessica equal Pia. Good voice boring and didn’t connect.

    Obviously, you do not look on youtube to get a feel for unedited chopped performances. Case in point Dalton. He is also a singer songwriter. But not a one trick pony. He can and does actually perform. He can sit and just sing beautifully. Or stand and sing. I think Idol has edited out the singing in favor of the performing because so far he is the only one actually performing.

    • Mary says:

      If what you say is true about Dalton, then if they want America to vote for him, they better not edit out the singing. Look at the demographics of the show, the majority wants a voice. I know in this day and age of music many forget about the singing because they can be auto tune, but on a show like this you have to demonstrate it at least once in a while. Sonica fits a Pia more than Jessica. If Dalton was so good why did his boy band fail?

      • Timmah says:

        I think that Sonika and Dalton are the best of a very weak group. Dalton is creative but weak vocally, and Sonika is strong vocally but I could definitely see her falling into that ho-hum Pia trap. I just don’t see a star coming from this 24, certainly not of a Kelly/Carrie level. At best they might wind up someone who’s famous for 5 minutes like a Phil Phillips. The show seems destined to go out with a whimper not a bang.

        • Mary says:

          Kelly/Carrie wouldn’t even be at that level if they won today. I see a couple of promising contestants but I have to see if the judges send them through, doubt it. I wish they had just picked the top singers whomever they were and let the chips fall where they may. I know it is a TV show, but the networks aren’t putting any effort into it. This is a poor man’s version and I feel sorry for the winner. Would of preferred a two hour retrospect of previous seasons.

  17. ChrisG says:

    So Michael / Melinda, who should be in your Top 12 (or is it 10?)

  18. I really think Emily Brooke is the chosen one. Also, Sonika is my girl. You didn’t mention either of them!

    • Brandon says:

      I don’t think Emily Brooke will make it she’s very boring and to be honest Olivia rox has a better shot at making it and I agree sonika is my girl she will make it very far and she actually could win it and I also love Adam lasher trent Harmon and Dalton and Mackenzie for guys but if I would send one of them home it would be Dalton even though I love him but I love Adam even more because I’m from Hawaii and I love reggae so for him to bring a reggae spin to the competition is great

  19. JenD says:

    Come back Jason!

  20. marie says:

    Thank you for calling out Thomas Stringfellow on the hiccups! I cannot listen to that all season…even a shortened season. I just can’t.

  21. Blondage says:

    Michael and Melinda….I would listen to you guys discuss the yellow pages and still giggle. Love you both!!! I do love what the editor does with all of the fun clips he adds, but seeing you guys “raw” was such a hoot!

  22. Linda Marshall says:

    The worst part of this being the last season of Idol-not seeing Michael and Melinda critique!
    Sort of wish there were a flash pic of the contestant they are discussing as I cant keep them straight yet. And why is Adam Lambert still really under the radar in the U.S.? He seems more loved and appreciated elsewhere.

  23. Dawson says:

    Why is no one talking about Avalon?!?!? That girl is GOOD. Check out her original songs/covers on youtube. They’re addicting.

  24. So agree with you on Haley … one of the best singers ever to grace the Idol stage.

  25. Jeanne Grier says:

    JESSICA CABRAL is an outstanding performer. She is polished, has excellent vocals, and good stage presence. I am very sorry she did not make it. Certainly the decision was not made on the basis of ability and performance readiness. It is obvious that she is a Christian, (that came through immediately by her demeanor and by the background video). Perhaps that it is the reason. I know that American Idol likes to present contestants with some kind of “drama” in their background and I think that is to bring in ratings. Maybe a genuine Christian lifestyle is not the type of image American Idol is looking for.(if she won and there is a very high probability that she could). Unfortunately some excellent singers are cut…unfairly so. At least she got the exposure. Now millions of people around the world know her. Maybe that exposure will launch her into her true destiny. La’ Porsha is an excellent singer but she will need to work on her appearance. (she is not the only contestant who could use a stylist). Any excuse can be used against her to prevent her from winning the title. Finally Trenton is a favorite of mine, i like him, he has talent and humility. Not sure I will pursue A.I.. this final season if judges will continue to make such arbitrary decisions about the contestants.

  26. HTGR says:

    And this is why A.I. is going off the air. I think they saw all the backlash over sinking non-picks like Haley (and others) who rose up (to producer’s script horror) so this time they figured it would be safer to just eliminate a non-pick before people can even vote for her and become attached to her voice (which they obviously failed already on since it seems everyone was already attached to her voice). I DARE anyone after this (and the pushed teen romance) to try to call out Jax’s new video as a lie.

  27. HTGR says:

    (not that ALL producer manipulation is bad since it can allow for a bit broader mix of contestant types and occasionally help, but this show just then takes is so beyond that and does things like the JC elimination and so many others to numerous to count over the years)

  28. HTGR says:

    Heart can never be a poor song choice. Sorry.
    We need more of those types of songs, if anything.

  29. HTGR says:

    Classical musicians would shush the audience. You simply do not start clapping and cheering and screaming and so on during opera, band, orchestra, string quartet, etc. performances. So it’s hardly unheard of in the musical world. Same would also go for Broadway.
    .
    But yeah, Pop/Rock/Country/etc. etc. etc. musicians do not shush the audience (maybe, maybe for a really delicate a cappela performance, but it has to be the audience memebrs choosing to shush each other and you have to have won them over to that degree, you can’t shush ’em yourself). PGA Tour members shush the audience. Tennis players shush the audience. But yeah, not so much this sort of singer and certainly not for that song.

  30. HTGR says:

    wow in a million years I would’ve never guessed that was supposed to be a Michael Jackson mimic thing