On American Idol last night, the 72 remaining contestants gave a final solo performance to try to convince the judges they had the stuff.
The contestants performed by themselves with a band and backup singers and, if they chose, they could play an instrument. Afterwards they received no judges' comments but were divided into four rooms, where they would learn their fate after the judges completed their deliberations
First up was early favorite Adam Lambert, who had received mixed reviews on the first day of Hollywood (Kara DioGuardi called his performance too "musical theater," while Paula Abdul called him "unique and different"). For his final round, he sang "Believe" by Cher. His rendition was a little strange, especially on the high notes, but the judges were nodding their heads with approval. On the plus side, he played with the rhythm and made it his own.
The dueling piano player, Matt Giraud, took the opportunity to playing keyboard, along with his bluesy version of "Georgia" by Ray Charles, which was stronger than his initial audition. Maybe the piano had given him confidence.
Best friends Danny Gokey and Jamar Rogers went different routes with their auditions. Jamar went first with "Hey There Delilah" by the Plain White Ts, starting out weak and very fast but infusing it with enough personality to get reaction from the crowd and judges. Danny Gokey, whom I'm tempted to nickname Mr. Smooth if he continues in this vein with his performance, played with the rhythm of Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance" (included in previous video link). While he got a little ahead of the musicians, Paula really responded, standing up and cheering.
Anoop Desai, who has already been inspiring a lot of chat amongst Idol fans, blew the roof off with his performance of "My Perogative" by Bobby Brown, and Jorge Nunez had Kara and Paula dancing with "Closer" by Ne-Yo (both performances here).
Also a contestant who's received a lot of buzz, blind piano player Scott MacIntyre tickled the keys for his version of "Home" by Daughtry. It was pretty good, although it's not my favorite song and it's always risky to choose a hit by a previous Idol finalist. He received a standing ovation from Paula but couldn't, of course, and was pleased when someone told him about that later.
Texas native Kendall Beard, who auditioned in Puerto Rico, also chose a song from an Idol winner: Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats." Her voice definitely lacks the sweetness of Carrie's, although she'd do fine in a country and western bar.
Stevie Wright walked through her performance of "Bubbly" by Colbie Caillat, while Lil Rounds sang for the back row with her powerful version of "I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys (both performances here).
Kristen McNamara, who had survived the drama of group week despite clashing with fellow group members. Her version of "Because of You" by Kelly Clarkson sounds scratchy, like Bonnie Tyler.
Mishavonna Henson, who had made it through to Hollywood in 2007 but been cut immediately, did a lackluster version of "Everything" by Michael Buble.
Hands down, the most annoying contestant, Tatiana Del Toro wore a muumuu as she sang "I'm Your Baby Tonight" by Whitney Houston. The judges look mystified, especially at her final run, but she was confident, spinning into the wings and telling the camera, "I think I did awesome."
Single mom Alexis Grace performed "Before He Cheats" by Carrie Underwood, Kenny Haufpouer did a bouncy version "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz, and Jasmine Murray sang "Tattoo" by Jordin Sparks, all of them waiting for their results in the same room (all three performances here).
Nathaniel Marshall, who's drawn attention from Idol fans for both his facial piercings and his frequent on-camera crying, played guitar along with his solid rendition of "Disturbia" by Rihanna.
Some contestants buckled under the pressure. Joanna Pacitti, who stirred controversy when word came out of her previous commercial success, fell apart on stage, forgetting the lyrics to "I Got You" by Alicia Keys, as did Casey Carlson with "Tattoo" by Jordin Sparks (both performances here).
Stephen Fowler was up all night rehearsing at the keyboard, but he messed up and asked to start over. Host Ryan Seacrest reminded viewers that last year on live television, finalist Brooke White had also restarted a song. The judges gave him a second chance, but he messed up again during his performance of "Time of My Life" by David Cook, hitting a discordant note on the keyboard and walking off, dejected.
Nick Mitchell decided whether to perform as his alter ego, Norman Gentle, and decided to stick with what worked, dressing like Normal Gentle and sitting on the piano. He sounded a lot like Sammy Davis Jr. during his version of "Georgia," crawling around the stage. He made Randy laugh out loud as he got cheers and laughter from fellow contestants.
Anne Marie Boskovich worried that she was performing the same song that a lot of others had selected, Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance."
Junot Joyner from New York had been flying under the radar. In fact, his cute son had helped influence the judges to put him through to Hollywood in his initial audition. But on the stage this time, he was by himself as he sang an emotional version of "Hey There Delilah" by Plain White Ts.
Kaylan Loyd, though, had her audition ended by judges, who apparently did not enjoy her flat rendition of "I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys. Leneshe Young, who had also enjoyed in Louisville, demonstrated good tone but was still doing a lot of head bobbing as she sang "Love Song" by Sara Bareilles (both performances here).
Overused from a rough week in Hollywood, Kai Kalama's voice broke during his performance of Stevie Wonder's "Part-Time Lover.". Michael Sarver, the oil rigger, showed off a mellow country voice while singing "All or Nothing" by O Town (both performances here).
Finally, India Morrison's audition didn't go as well as her earlier performances in Hollywood. She had been part of the group that had impressed the judges with their creative rendition of "I Want You Back."
The judges, sans Simon (who had to take a flight to London), gave the results, starting with room two, which included Alex Wagner-Trugman, Ashley Hollister, Joanna Pacitti, Kenny Haufpouer, Nathaniel Marshall, Perrie Cataldo, Ricky Braddy, Shera Lawrence, Stephen Fowler, Joanna Pacitti. Jasmine Murray, Michael Sarver, Alexis Grace, Casey Carlson, Kai Kalama, Von Smith and Arianna Afsar. They learned they were still in.
Room three learned their fate next. This room included Leneshe Young, India Morrison, Jason Castro's brother Michael, Kaylan Loyd, Dominique Brown, Ryan Johnson, Moorea Masa and Justin Williams. They were told they were cut. Leneshe took the news in stride, telling the camera, "You have to be humble and work hard."
Next to get the news was room one, in which sat Danny Gokey, Anoop Desai, Adam Lambert, Lil Rounds, Jamar Rogers, Jeanine Vailes Allison Iraheta, John Twiford, Jorge Nunez, Kendall Beard, Kristen McNamara, Matt Giraud, Meghan Corkrey, Mishavonna Henson, Scott MacIntyre, Stevie Wright, Frankie Jordan, and Jackie Tohn. They learned they were still in.
And finally, room four assumed they were probably cut, having heard two rooms celebrating already. This room contained Tatiana Del Toro, Nick Mitchell, Cody Sheldon, Matt Breitzke, Junot Joyner, Alicia Barton, T.K. Hash, Ann Marie Boskovich, Angela Martin, Brent Keith, Chris Chatman, Derik Lavers, Devon Baldwin, Felicia Barton, Jackie Midkiff, Jenn Korbee, Jesse Langseth, and Lacey Brown. Thanks to the judges' long preamble of "Well, it's only one audition" and "you did the best they could," they assumed it was bad news. In fact, one contestant raised his hand and said, "So, it's a no, right?" They learned that, in fact, they were still in.
Tonight, the judges will review the tapes of the top 54 (which also includes Taylor Vaifanua, though not listed above) and whittle them down even further, revealing the final 36. The contestants will sit in a hot seat to learn their fate and in a new twist, be offered the chance to sing for their survival (perhaps borrowed from the popular summer dance competition series, So You Think You Can Dance?, which is produced by the same producers as American Idol).
Who will make it through?
Stick with it if you make a mistake; you might still make it.