On American Idol last night, the 54 contestants who had survived Hollywood were called into a room, one by one, to learn if they'd made it into the top 36. This decision was based on a consultation between the judges, who had difficulty making some decisions. They therefore asked some of the contestants to engage in a sing-off, with the winner joining the top 36.
The first contestant to hear the news was college student Anoop Desai. Kara told him that "you've continually surprised us," though the judged acknowledged he'd had some issues in Hollywood week. They told him, by unanimous vote, he's in.
Von Smith, before hearing the results, told host Ryan Seacrest, "Some things in life are uncertain. This is why I'm alive." Simon had called him indulgent in the first round, but he now told the judges, "I'm an adult and should take ownership of what I do." He'd deliberately picked a happier song for third round, and Simon told him, that song made our decision. Paula gave him the good news that he was in the top 36.
The first sing-off took place between Cody Shelton, the amateur horror film maker from Phoenix, and Alex Wagner-Trugman, who had befriended Cody during Hollywood week. When he was asked to sing one more time, Cody performed "Love Remains the Same," his voice cracking a little near the end. Alex, however, was more confident with his rendition of Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." After deliberating, the judges told Cody it was the end of line and to Alex that he was in. Disappointed to lose his friend, Alex had conflicted emotions: "This is not the way I wanted it to be," he said.
Adam Lambert described the process so far as a roller-coaster. Simon told him, "You did really well, but we've got to make these decisions based on could you win and could you be a successful recording artist? My decision may surprise you." Then, tell him it was a unanimous decision, he messed with his mind even more: "It's not good news. It's great news." Adam is in.
Taylor Vaifanua, an early favorite from Salt Lake City, had struggled during Hollywood week, forgetting the words during the group round. So she was relieved to hear from Randy Jackson: "Welcome to American Idol Season 8. You made it, baby."
Jasmine Murray, Arianna Afsar, Casey Carlson, Megan Corckrey, Mishavonna Henson, and Stevie Wright were also put through.
Joanna Pacitti had forgetton her lyrics several times during Hollywood week. Paula Abdul told her, "It's been a tough road for you." She asked her, "How do you think you've done?" Joanna replied, "I haven't shown what I can do." Kara DioGuardi added, "You've had record deals. When is the time you'll show who you are?" Paula finished the psych-out: "It's a tough business, and unanimously we all believe that you deserve a chance."
Since the show aired, however, the producers have announced that Joanna had been ruled ineligible to compete and was replaced with Felicia Barton. According to the Los Angeles Times, "A source close to the show now tells us that Pacitti was disqualified to avoid the appearance of impropriety. In the past week, tabloids had been reporting on a private relationship between Pacitti and executives of 19 Management - one of the companies which oversees Idol.
T.K. Hash, Chris Chatman, and Reggi Beasley all learned they'd been cut.
Kendall Beard was up next. Paula: told her that, when she'd first auditioned, the judges thought she looked commercial but that her songs were boring. Then, mimicking Simon's fake-out to Adam Lambert, she said, "The answer isn't great; it's fantastic." She's in.
Jen Korbee had auditioned in New York with her husband. During group day, they were still side by side, as they sang "Some Kind of Wonderful." Her husband, Tom, was cut. She was asked to sing again and chose a somewhat flat version of "Not Ready to Make Nice." Kara told her, "Jen, you are a truly beautiful girl," but told her it was the wrong song choice: "You're not emotionally connected."
On the other side of the sing-off was Kristen McNamara, who sang a country version of "I Will Always Love You" that showed her range. The judges debated this decision heatedly, with Simon believing that the women judges were against Jen Korbee just because she was an attractive blonde. Kara insisted that "We want the one who can sing. Otherwise, just put on a bunch of models."
So when they gave them the news, Paula said to Kristen, "You've got a strong voice but an identity crisis. The way you dress is offputting." Nevertheless, Kristen made it through and Jen was cut. Simon said that he completely disagrees, that it was "absolutely the wrong way around."
Alexis Grace, a young mother who is torn about leaving her daughter to do the show, learned that she made it.
Scott MacIntyre, the blind piano player, has generated interest since he was first seen during the Phoenix audition. Kara said that :Phoenix was a little rough because you didn't have your instrument." She added that his relationship with his instrument, which was allowed in Round Three of Hollywood, let him shine. He was told he's in.
Lil Rounds, mother of three auditioned in Kansas City, where Kara said she"blew us all away." Kara gave her the news that she's in. As she left the room, Simon said, "She's fantastic. She's a good, old-fashioned singer."
Next, Felicia Barton learned that, while the decision wasn't unanimous, she didn't make it. Of course, we now know that she'll be replacing Joanna Pacitti.
Ashley Hollister heard that it was a unanimous decision that she didn't make it, and Devon Baldwin was told by Kara, "It's not going to work this time."
Stay-at-home mom Frankie Jordan hadn't always done so great in Hollywood. She was asked to sing for her survival, which clearly stressed her out, and her voice cracked.
Her sing-off competitor was Jesse Langseth, who had made an impact in Hollywood. She sang a jazzy version of "Wishing Well." Simon: told her, "That was a horrible song." And Paula agreed: "Both of you picked songs that would not save your life. It was bizarre." Jesse was told she's in, and Frankie was cut. Simon told Frankie at the end: "If it's any consolation, you wouldn't have won anyway. Jessie, based on that, nor would you."
Shera Lawrence and Derik Lavers both were cut.
Sixteen-year-old Allison Iraheta, who had dyed her hair red during Hollywood week, had. done better in Hollywood than she had in her audition. She learned that she's in.
Best friends Danny Gokey and Jamar Rogers then learned their fates. Looking back on his Hollywood experiences, Danny said that "under pressure, I did well." Simon cautioned him to "be relevant." Randy told him, "Welcome to season eight."
For Jamar Rogers, it was a different story. Kara told him, "You're a good singer" but said he hadn't made the greatest song choice. "You won't be here this year." (Video of Danny and Jamar's results.)
Better luck, though, for Ricky Braddy, Matt Giraud, Ju'Not Joyner, Jorge Nunez, and Brent Keith, who were all put through.
Stephen Fowler wasn't expecting any miracles, knowing that he had messed up in round three by screwing up and walking off the stage. Under questioning from the judges, Stephen said he knew that was the wrong thing to do. Simon told him, "It's too late to state your case, because we've made our mind up. You're through." Paula added, "It's your talent that made it."
Nick Mitchell, a.k.a. Norman Gentle, had stood out from his first audition, with his wacky sense of humor. He dressed as himself to get his results, rather than in the shiny shirt worn by his wacky alter ego, Norman. He told the camera he would do anything to be in the top 36: "I will clean Simon's 20 cars, be Paula's butler. I'll even wear a bikini like Bikini Girl." As the judges talked to him, they acknowledged that they'd spent more time debating over him than over anyone else, in part because they weren't sure who they were getting. He said, "My dream would be to do the character and perform." Paula gave him the good news, "That's what we wanted. Congratulations."
When it came time to give New York native Jackie Tohn her results, Randy stretched it out before telling her it was a yes. She took her shoes off so she could run as she celebrated her inclusion in the top 36.
Tatiana Del Toro, perhaps the most annoying contestant, screamed as she walked into the room. She was wearing a bracelet that came from Paula's jewelry collection and when Paula noticed, said that she'd wanted the ring, but it was sold out. Paula gave her the ring off her own finger. Simon quipped, "That was so generous for you to promote your jewelry on live television." Kara defended her: "Paula gave it to her because she wanted to."
Then it came time for the results, which Simon told her were not unanimous. Randy told her, "Sorry to tell you that you made it to season 8." As she left, Simon told her that Paula was going to want the ring back afterwards. She screamed, and down in the waiting room, attacked a reluctant Ryan Seacrest with hugs.
Jackie Midkiff and Nathaniel Marshall, who had bonded during Hollywood week, faced off in a sing-off. Jackie went first, singing "When a Man Loves a Woman." Kara liked him well enough to ask the other judges, "Why is he in this position? He is so good."
Nathaniel Marshall walked in, then, and Simon looked at his red pants, purple scarf, patterned T-shirt and hair bands and asked, "What are you wearing?" Nathaniel said that, if it was going to be his last chance, he wanted to go out looking like himself. He added that he thought he looked "like the new David Bowie." He sang "I'm Already There," which was strong enough for the judges to come down in his favor and put him through. Jackie was told he was cut, and Randy told him it was close: "Almost."
Jeanine Vailes, Kai Kalama, Anne Marie Boskovich all learned they'd made it.
Finally, there were just two contestants left, two of the hardest-working contestants, Matt Breitzke and Michael Sarver, who were asked to do a sing-off. Simon didn't like Matt's song choice, asking, "Why'd you pick that song?"
"I love that song," Matt said as he left the room.
Simon said under his breath, "I don't."
Next, Michael Sarver performed, also giving a strong performance. After deliberating, Paula gave them the news: "You both deserve a chance." They were both put through.
So the top 36 have been selected, and next week they'll begin competing for viewer votes, performing in groups of 12. Group one will be: Casey Carlson, Stephen Fowler, Jackie Tohn, Ricky Braddy, Anne Marie Boskovich, Brent Keith, Alexis Grace, Michael Sarver, Stevie Wright, Danny Gokey, Tatiana Del Toro and Anoop Desai.
Will viewers take action to vote out the most annoying contestant, Tatiana, or will the votes come down another way? Next week, we'll find out.
Singing ability is clearly important to the judges, but entertainment value is, too.