Randy: So listen dude, you came in with a really strong audition, and we thought you could go all the way, but then in Hollywood Week you had your ups and downs.
J.Lo: Sweetie, this is really difficult, because you had some great moments, but your Vegas solo was not your best performance.
Randy: Exactly. This year is harder than ever. We are always upping our game, and as the best judges in the reality competition game, we did an incredible job of picking out talent. Incredible. But that means sometimes the best singers don’t make it through.
Steven: (Singing) Do you care? Do you care? Honey, one more time now, it ain’t fair!
Randy. Blah blah blah. Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah. Sound of my own voice. Blah blah. I can’t believe nobody’s shouting in my ear monitor telling me to shut my pie-hole! Blah blah blah.
J.Lo: (under her breath) I seriously don’t get paid enough to sit next to this human tomato can.
Randy: I’m sorry to say that…you’re not going…home!
J.Lo: And baby, if you make eye contact with me again without my explicit permission, I will make you pay dearly for the rest of the season.
Randy: Good lookin’ out! (pauses) Any of you guys know what that means?
Yes, folks, welcome to another loooooong, drawn-out edition of “Turning a Roll Call of the 24 People Going to the Semifinals into a Two Hour Telecast” — brought to you by AT&T, Coca-Cola, and Ford!
After Wednesday’s episode introduced us to 14 of Season 11’s semifinalists — check out a full recap of the proceedings here — Thursday night’s show rounded out the field the final 10 contestants, and one twist that might’ve felt more dramatic if The X Factor hadn’t done pretty much the same thing back in October.
But before we take divvie up the last 10 Season 11 semifinalists into three distinct groups (and assign them an imaginary number you can use to call and vote them through to the next round) a couple of quick observations:
* Not a single black woman in the Top 24? That’s grim news for R&B/soul aficionados like me.
* Conversely, there are at least three country-leaning ladies in the mix — which is 25% of the females in the semifinals!
* And six of the Top 24 — a full quarter of the Season 11 semifinalists — were prominently featured in Season 10 before falling short of the live rounds. Mere coincidence, or Uncle Nigel’s way of reengaging Idol loyalists who swore they were finally quitting their addiction in 2012?
RANDY’S CHANCE IN A ‘MOST POPULAR JUDGES’ CONTEST OF CRACKING THE TOP 12
Eben Franckewitz: 1-866-REMEMBER-JOHN-STEVENS
Vegas solo on “You Are So Beautiful” confirmed my suspicions that the “OMG adorable!” teenager isn’t quite ready for primetime. Even when he’s hitting his notes, there’s an immature quaver to his tone that I suspect won’t get any better with a move to the live Idol stage. Plus, the joyous fist-pumping as he followed dejected buddy David Leathers Jr. out of the Green Mile walkway wasn’t exactly his best look. Of course, this all means he’ll probably be on our TV screens well into April, and end up relegating some future Oscar winner to a seventh-place finish.
Shannon Magrane: 1-866-NILLA-WAFER
No shame in the fact that she flubbed her words during a group-round performance of “Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops),” as the song’s sole purpose on Idol might be to lure unsuspecing Hollywood Week performers into lyrical gaffes. But she seemed to be trying too hard on her Vegas cover of Kelly Clarkson’s “The Trouble With Love Is.” She might’ve given J.Lo “goosies!” — raise your hand if you’re ready for that phrase to be retired already! — but I wish the 16-year-old had waited a few years before she auditioned.
Chase Likens: 1-866-WHO-THIS-NINJA?
Poor Chase! Dude has gotten so little screen time this season, he’ll probably spend the weekend defensively emailing screengrabs of himself to friends and relatives with the message, “See! I wasn’t making it up! I really am part of the Top 24!” Suuuurrre you are, Chase. But given the fact that Season 10 champ Scotty McCreery is still working his debut album to the country market, I suspect Uncle Nigel won’t be too devastated if Season 11 doesn’t produce any competition in the country crooner department.
COULD GO EITHER WAY
Adam Brock: 1-866-PUT-DOWN-THE-HANKIE
“I have to sing. It’s where my joy comes from. It’s how I know that God blessed me,” a sobbing, sniffling Adam told the judges as they were about to decide his fate. Um, dude, you have an adorable newborn baby daughter. That’s how God blessed you! But I digress… Look, while there’s no use denying Adam has a monster voice, he tends to use it in much the same way he used his tears in front of the judges: With little or no subtlety, and with a neediness that borders on desperate. And while the heavy amount of screen time these last few episodes should provide a short-term boost, unless he makes his narrative about his actual performances, he’ll be lucky to still be standing come April.
Skylar Laine: 1-866-YEEE-HAWW!
Seacrest introduced her as a “rough and tumble country girl,” or perhaps a Kellie Pickler 2.0 With a Better Grasp on the English Language. And while Skylar’s voice seems a little rougher around the edges than fellow Season 11 country girls Baylie Brown and Chelsea Sorrell, that rawness makes her perhaps a little more exciting than her polished rivals? Or maybe I’m just responding positively to her choice of Reba’s absolutely legendary “Fancy.”
Hallie Day and Aaron Marcellus: 1-866-IT’S-A-SABOTAGE?
Hmmmm…both of these singers got a decent amount of screen time in prior episodes — Hallie in the audition rounds singing “I Will Survive,” Aaron in Hollywood Week as part of Groove Sauce — but last night they were relegated to “also through to the Top 24” afterthought status. So now the question looms: Did Uncle Nigel keep them under wraps so they’ll have even more dramatic unveilings in the live rounds? Or is he burying them at the bottom of the dumpster where they’ll be even more difficult for the voting public to discover?
LIKELY TO CRACK THE TOP 12
Jeremy Rosado: 1-866-MAMAS-HEART-HIM
I’ve got to give props to J.Lo — I know, sometimes I surprise myself, too — for pointing out Jeremys enthusiastic response to his competitors’ solos. As she later said to Steven and Randy, “That’s a nice kid right there.” It doesn’t hurt, too, that Jeremy’s got a fantastic, throwback R&B voice. Yeah, it was a little early for Seacrest to tell us how Jeremy “became a star with his final performance” in Vegas, but I really did love how he took Carrie Underwood’s “I Know You Won’t” into a completely different genre. He held that final note like a mother about to send her child to the first day of kindergarten. To repeat a word I’m not sure J.Lo understood when she uttered it: That performance was indeed “transcendental.”
Deandre Brackensick: 1-866-MILLI-FULFILLI
Sweet mother of falsetto, his rendition of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” was mesmerizing! What else can I say that J.Lo didn’t when she declared, “We’d be crazy people if we didn’t ask you to be in the Top 24”?
Hollie Cavanaugh: 1-866-STEALTH-BOMBER
After logging in more unconfirmed sightings than a Yeti during Hollywood Week, this Season 10 hopeful finally got some significant airtime in the final moments of the Green Mile episode, knocking off Ariel Sprague and Shelby Tweten in one of those “three girls enter, one girl leaves” Thunderdome scenarios. So how come there was no mention of her previous Idol run, which went from a rocky, tear-soaked audition to a terrific Vegas solo before Steven and Randy outvoted J.Lo and cut Hollie right before the semifinals? Maybe it’s because Uncle Nigel had to find time to show clips of Hollie’s gorgeous cover of Carrie Underwood’s “Change” — complete with silver sparklepants! I may turn out to be completely wrong, and Hollie might turn out to be completely cannon fodder, but like the Black Eyed Peas, I’ve got a feeling (woo hoo) that Hollie is going to have an Allison Iraheta-on-“Alone”-style breakout next week.
FINAL ‘DRAMATIC’ TWIST
Call it the “Melanie Amaro Addendum”: Next week, the judges will reinstate one of four pre-semifinal evictees — Johnny Keyser, Jermaine Jones, David Leathers Jr., or Awful Cowboy Richie Law — into the competition, creating a Top 25. If it’s not Johnny or David, I won’t mention Mishavonna Henson in my Idol recaps for the rest of the season!
Scott Dangerfield (in a sweater that I think I gave to goodwill in 1992)
A bunch of people I vaguely recognized whose names weren’t even listed
“Gentle Giant Jermaine Jones” (Really, Ryan?)
David Leathers, Jr.
And with that, I turn things over to you. What do you think of the final 10 contestants in the Top 24? Did any cuts make you sad/happy/furious? And how are you feeling about the “dramatic” twist/Top 25? Sound off in the comments!