“American Idol” Gets Down To Business – Popdust

Posted by Maura Johnston on 03/03/2011 at 11:45 PM News, Recaps

Who among us missed the American Idol elimination episodes, where the producers turn 30 seconds of footage into a stone soup of puff pieces, promotional tie-in footage, and awkward banter? OK, I’m not seeing many hands! And I’m not surprised. but at least tonight’s episode, the first of the newish-look 10th season, was going to be different than those from previous seasons because of the way it would resemble a bloodbath. Nearly half of the cast would be left standing when all was said and done! a few singers would be forced to sing for their lives! Oh, the potential for drama was so high.

Part of that drama was brought about by the fact that people didn’t really know what was going on until Ryan Seacrest explained the structure of the show—as it turned out, the American public would pick five women and five men to head to the finals, and then the judges would select a to-be-determined number of non-winners to sing for their lives, and from that pool, an also-to-be-determined number of people would join the top ten. Whew!

This bit of exposition was followed by a bunch of video packages in which we got to meet the contestants all over again, in case we hadn’t been watching this whole time. did you know that Lauren Alaina really wants to win, and that if you even bring up the possibility of her not being loved by everyone she completely shuts down? Or that Scotty McCreery likes to sing country? mostly during all this I felt horrible for poor Rachel Zevita, who botched her performance last night and who looked absolutely miserable any time the camera was on her.

Seacrest brought the contestants down to the middle of the stage in groups of two and three, and the way many of them were structured left little doubt about who would be staying and who would be going home. (The second group of guys, in which Clint Gamboa, Jordan Dorsey, and Jovany Barretto were all brought up—and sent home—was like an exact reversal of the ending of Wednesday night’s top Chef, what with there being little doubt that all three would be sent packing and me not really being invested in any of their fates. Well, except Jordan, whose complete sandbagging by the producers who saddled him with “OMG” was brought up yet again tonight. He wanted to sing John Legend! the poor guy.) There were pretty much zero surprises, although there were definitely opportunities for indignance.

Once we were left with a predictable top 10 that I pretty much called save for the complete robbing of Lauren Turner in favor of the way-blah-in-comparison Haley Reinhart, it was time for the judges to call their six picks to the stage for what could be their final runs. in order, those six were:

Ashthon Jones. She sang “And I Am Telling you I’m not Going” and she—even though I like her a lot!—really botched it, sounding alternately tuneless and screechy. you could tell that all the judges thought the same thing, because even though they showered her with compliments when she was done, all those compliments were about her attitude and her drive. “It’s a singing competition,” right? Well, only sometimes!

Stefano Langone. He sang a praise song that Randy said “really anoint[ed] this moment.” It was a bit of a risk, I thought, for him to turn in his heartbreaker bona fides for a chance at appealing to the divine. but he sounded great.

Kendra Chantelle. Why did they bring her up instead of the bombshell Lauren Turner, who won my heart again when she threatened to cut any voters who didn’t vote for her during the preshow package? perhaps the kissyface Steven Tyler made at her as she sorta-murmured out the opening lines to “Georgia On my Mind” was an indication. She was terrible at first but hit the glory note, which in Idol parlance means she did a “good job.”

Jovany Barretto. He turned in one of the better Wild Card performances by reprising his bilingual version of Jon Secada’s “Angel,” but when Jennifer dismissed him by saying, “you did all you could do” when there was still a substantial amount of time on the clock, it was pretty obvious he was doomed.

Naima Adedapo. the best of the Wild Card performances by far even though it started off rough and she was obviously holding back tears thanks to the other lady semifinalists being dispatched right before she went on, her take on Donny Hathaway’s “for All we Know” was packed with pathos and strength. Her undeniable voice and captivating presence have made her one of my favorite contestants, although I don’t really see the people who vote for Idol embracing her. (And yes, I’m still burned after last season, when all the interesting contestants got shown the door before the top 12 kicked in.)

Robbie Rosen. He followed up Brett Loewenstern’s long, huggy goodbye (for this was when the remaining males learned that they were completely out of the running) by turning Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” into a breathy ballad tailor-made for Tommy Page. Dude, you’re the pride of Long Island—sing some Billy Joel!

With the performances done, we were sent to a commercial break, then brought back to the action, and then thanks to the judges’ collective indecision sent to another commercial break—this one for Jennifer Lopez’s new music video. Good thing it only took them four minutes and 27 seconds to firmly decide that they’d be sending Naima, Ashthon, and Stefano over to the couches where the other finalists were gathered!

And the top 13 list was complete. Huzzah and hooray and it’s time for us to get on to the matter of singing weekly, and filling those elimination episodes with actual filler! None of this “advancing the plot stuff” when there are Fords to sell!

Now, without any actual performances to base it on but because speculation is the lifeblood of the Internet, here’s my prediction of how the eliminations will shake out over the coming weeks:

13. Haley Reinhart12. Naima Adedapo11. Ashthon Jones10. James Durbin9. Pia Toscano8. Thia Megia7. Scotty McCreery6. Karen Rodriguez5. Paul McDonald4. Jacob Lusk3. Lauren Alaina2. Casey Abrams1. Stefano Langone

I know he got in as a wild card who was basically praying for his life via song. (It worked. the power of God!) but every time Stefano showed up on screen—even during those boring early-show montages—I felt charisma just radiating all over the place. It was incredible, and I suspect that the show’s mostly female audience will be won over to his charms slowly but surely as the season rolls along.

And yes, I am predicting another guy-guy finale because that’s just the way the show works nowadays. (Sorry, Lauren! Something tells me the producers will work things out for you.)

“American Idol” Gets Down To Business – Popdust

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