American Idol Recap: Season 11's Top 13 Are...

The moment we’ve been waiting for since Scotty McCreery’s confetti shower back in May 2011 finally arrived Thursday night: The Season 11 Top 13 announcement/Wild Card episode!

Below, find my pithy reactions to the biggest news that’s happened to Fox’s reality franchise since Kris Allen’s “The Vision of Love” hit YouTube.

But first, can we discuss Jimmy Iovine? Yes, folks, the Interscope honcho, dressed as usual in his 15-year-old nephew’s “dopest” duds, is back this season. And on Thursday, he was employed as a bracing tonic to the judges’ “everyone gets a gold star!” critiques, a ghastly ghoul to toe the soulless record-industry party line, and a killer of suspense. (Indeed, over the course of the show, Jimmy gave his own pre-recorded critique of each member of the Top 25, and every time he expressed that he loved a contestant, that person made it through to the top 13). Among his more eye-popping/astute/hideous remarks:

* He’d sign Phillip and Jessica on the spot, and considers the latter singer “the one to beat.”
* He found Aaron to be “cheesy” and “Don Cheadle”-ish.
* He likes Joshua but doesn’t want him to turn into “Sister Act 3.” (Um, offensive much?)
* He gets Heejun’s shtick, but doesn’t think the show should be turned into American Comedian. (In the night’s best moment, Ryan asked Heejun what he thought of Jimmy’s comments, which resulted in this hilarious response: “Who’s that?”)
* Erika shows “great restraint,” Jimmy said, and that’s a quality Idol is too often missing. (Truth!)
* He could listen to an entire album of Jermaine’s voice (I don’t believe that for a second); thinks Deandre desperately needs a coach (very true), and would like to change Idol‘s rules so Eben can audition again in a few years (blasphemy!).

Gah! Jimmy is the worst, isn’t he? And yet he was also correct about 90 percent of the time on Thursday, so he’s also kind of the best. I mean, seriously, if these kids are going to have any real hope of succeeding, they’re going to have to be confronted by some of the ugly, un-sugar-coated truths of the music industry, not just be judges on a scale from “That was beautiful!” to “Beautiful just gave birth to a little bundle of beautiful!”

And with that, I’m going to cut to a rundown of how the Top 13 got built, along with my first-impression responses to each bit of news:

Voted Through By America into the Top 10!
Phillip Phillips: Smart going by Uncle Nigel to get the least suspenseful announcement out of the way first.
Jessica Sanchez: And the pimping of Jessica “the one to beat” Sanchez begins, but girls need all the help they can get on this show, so I’ll put the kibosh on my kvetching.
Hollie Cavanagh: Oooh, Jessica, watch your lunch, girl! Hollie’s got her eye on it!
Joshua Ledet: God himself would’ve smote the Idoloonie nation had Joshua been eliminated tonight. And seriously, Jimmy Iovine can eff off with that Sister Act 3 comment.
Heejun Han: Personality prevails! But if he keeps mocking Jimmy, I could get aboard this train for a spell.
Shannon Magraine: Uff da. She seems like a sweet kid, but honestly she was about as interesting as lukewarm tap water on Wednesday.
Elise Testone: Did Jimmy just say he’d like to hear Elise perform some of her own material? Could that be a hint that original songs night — or songs written with the help of A-list writers night — is coming?
Colton Dixon: And see, Uncle Nigel? His sister is happy for him!
Jermaine Jones: He seems like such a sweetheart that it’s almost impossible for me to say how I can think of at least five other singers from the Top 25 more worthy of a spot in the finale. (Hey, also, whatever happened to Cortez Shaw?)

Jeremy Rosado: BOOO, America! (But methinks J.Lo is gonna give him that Wild Card.)
Chase Likens: I have already forgotten him.
Hallie Day: I’ve got this feeling they’ll let her sing for her Wild Card life, then send her to the guillotine anyway.
Brielle Von Hugel: True confession: It is possible I could grow to like this girl over time, but as far as the Wild Card goes, as Aretha once sang, “there ain’t no way…”
Adam Brock: True confession: White chocolate (the food) has never made any sense to me.
Chelsea Sorrel: Poor dear had about as much chance as I would in a Welterweight boxing match.
Baylie Brown: True confession: I will always wonder what might have been with this one.
Aaron Marcellus: I hate to ever agree with Shrimpy McSourmug, but yeah, he was seriously overrated by the judges on Tuesday.
Creighton Fraker: His “True Colors” was definitely among the five best performances on guys’ night, but man he pulled some annoying facial expressions when he was mugging for the camera tonight.
Reed Grimm: Even if you voted for the guy, you have to admit it’ll be nice to not hear Randy breaking out the Casey Abrams comparisons all season, right?
Erika Van Pelt: Blasphemy! If she doesn’t get a Wild Card I’m gonna send a strongly worded Tweet to @YO_RANDYJACKSON!
Haley Johnsen: Wait? She has no regrets? Srsly? She obviously hasn’t had time to watch back her Wednesday night catastrophe.
Jen Hirsh: Her family owns a vineyard, so hopefully she can chardonnay the pain away.
Deandre Brackensick: They are so gonna give him the Wild Card and take it away from Jeremy, when really Jeremy should be taking it from Jermaine. And yeah, I’ll probably be referencing Jeremy well into April.
Eben Franckewitz: If he gets the wild card I will “set fire to the staaaaage, watch it burrrrnnn…”

Wild Card Peformances
Jen Hirsh, The Beatles’ “Oh Darlin”: A pedestrian, occasionally screechy opening half, followed by an awesomely breathy high note on the word “die,” and a massive closing note. Muted response from the judges — “it was good” — makes me think she’ll soon fall to Erika (who really deserves some quality time with the Idol stylists).
Jeremy Rosado, Carrie Underwood’s “I Know You Won’t”: Not a great start, but that last note was so amazing, it made me cry a little bit.
Brielle Von Hugel, Adele’s “Someone Like You”: She hit a couple rough patches, but I felt it more than Jen’s performance. I just wish she’d extended that tender moment toward the end, and dialed back on the power growl.
Deandre Brackensick, “Georgia on My Mind”: Missed opportunity to sing Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair.” (I kid, I kid!) Seriously, that was wretched excess piled on top of ridiculous runs, but he’s got a killer voice, and if he learns to use it, he could actually go very far.
Erika Van Pelt, Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory”: That was so electrifying, I almost forgot to update this blog post! She might’ve botched a note or two, but who cares? When a grown-up vocalist feels every note and every word of a song — and the song is good — everybody wins. (On a petty and unrelated note to Erika, when your BFF said you’d be able to re-use your bridesmaid dress someday, she didn’t mean on Idol!)
Reed Grimm, Bill Withers’ “Use Me”: Ugh. An insufferable souffle of self-indulgence, vocal tics, shout-outs to the audience, and general foolery. I hope J.Lo meant it when she said they wanted to give him “one more chance” to show his stuff to America. Let’s leave it at this, please.

Judges Picks to Round Out the Top 13
Randy: Erika Van Pelt (HELL YEAH!)
J.Lo: Jeremy Rosado (Can I get an AMEN?)
Steven: Deandre Brackensick (Woohoo! I have to put my rage back in the closet and store it for Season 12!)

Well there you have it! One of the most evenly matched groups of finalists in Idol history. Honestly, I feel like at this point in the season, 9 or 10 of these contestants still have a legitimate chance to win Season 11. And that’s pretty exciting — even with a Stevie Wonder/Whitney Houston theme next week. (Oy!)

What do you think? Hit the comments with your thoughts!

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