Katie Stevens and Andrew Garcia
In a videotaped opening, this week's mentor, season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert, advised contestants: "If you want to win this competition, you've got to wake up." After an opening montage, host Ryan Seacrest introduced the show from up on a balcony somewhere.
The show started off with a badly-lipsynched group song, a medley of Elvis classics, including "Burning Love," "Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear," "Return to Sender," and "Viva Las Vegas." I keep wondering why the producers are going this route this season. If they never allow the finalists to do a group song live, they're likely to see a drop in ticket sales for the summer tour. [VIDEO OF ELVIS MEDLEY]
For the Ford music video, the Top 9 went green, planting fanciful trees around the city, to "Light and Day/Reach for the Sun" by Polyphonic Spree." Those have got to be the biggest trees I've ever seen. [VIDEO OF FORD AD]
For the results, Ryan got right into it, asking Casey James, Aaron Kelly, and Andrew Garcia to come to the center of the stage. He read a summary of each of their performances and then asked Andrew how hard it's been waiting for the results. Andrew said it's hard, but he knew it was time to face facts. Not messing around, Ryan told him, "It's the end of the road." Andrew got one last chance to sing. [VIDEO OF ANDREW]
The other contestants gathered around Andrew and hugged him. All smiles, he told the audience, "I love you guys." He added, "I appreciate everything, and I'm glad I'm here."
After the break, we saw a video of season 5 finalist Elliott Yamin and judge Kara DioGuardi on a trip to Angola, Africa, showing some of the positive results of the funds raised by the annual Idol Gives Back campaign, which started several years ago. [VIDEO OF ANGOLA TRIP]
For the first LIVE performance of the evening, seventh season finalist Brooke White performed a duet of "If I Can Dream" with Justin Gaston. She started out playing piano, with him on guitar. She's a much stronger singer than him (maybe the song was not in his range), but the ending got much stronger. They actually complemented each other's voices. [VIDEO OF BROOKE AND JUSTIN]
Then, it was time to find out who else would be leaving. Ryan called the whole bottom row to join him on the stage: Tim Urban, Crystal Bowersox, Mike Lynche, Katie Stevens, Siobhan Magnus, and Lee Dewyze. He read summaries of last night and stopped for brief interviews with Lee and Katie. He asked Michael how last week's save had affected him. He said it makes him grateful for every moment.
Finally, Ryan told Crystal she was safe. She blew a little whistle on a chain around her neck as she made her way back to the couches. Siobhan was also safe. She breathed a sigh of relief. Before giving lee his results, he told him that the song he'd sung was the one Chris Daughtry sang the week he was eliminated. He pulled Lee aside and said, "Walk with me," directing him back to the couches, where he said, "Have a seat with me. You are safe. Congratulations."
This left Tim, Mike,a and Katie. One would head home after Adam Lambert performed. Ryan also announced that the Idol Top 7 would take on inspirational songs as part of next week's Idol Gives Back.
For his performance, Adam Lambert did his single, "Whataya Want From Me?" He started the song silhouetted inside a green triangle filled with smoke, slowing down the pace of the song and making it unearthly. He's still mesmerizing. At the close of the opening, he was literally covered with smoke, invisible to the cameras. Then a lattice of green lasers lit up the stage, and he could be seen wearing a gold studded jacket, looking a lot like the young Elvis. The lighting, though, was really odd; you could hardly see him. His performance was awesome; now that's how it's done! [VIDEO OF ADAM]
In his interview with Ryan afterward, Adam thanked American Idol for teaching him what it takes to make it in the music business.
After a break, Ryan sent Tim to safety, telling him, "Smile!" This brought it down to Mike and Katie. Before giving the results, Ryan clarified that one person was going home and "the other person was not even in the bottom three this week." (To be honest, that's what I thought was happening last week, until Michael's surprise elimination. The producers have been known to make people sweat it out for results even when they are not in the bottom three, although the one with the lowest votes is always the one sent home.) The person leaving the competition was Katie. Whew! It would have really sucked for Big Mike to be cut after being saved the previous week.
Crystal and Siobhan looked really bummed, both of them close to tears. As the last three females, they had no doubt bonded with Katie. Performing one last time, Katie did the Beatles song, "Let it Be." As she sang, Crystal teared up. At the very end of the song, Katie also began to cry. The other contestants joined her, both Mike and Crystal giving her hugs. [VIDEO OF KATIE]
The show ended with a look back at the journey of both Andrew and Katie. Andrew put his arm around her while it ran, trying to comfort her. He was all smiles, but she was in tears.
So why did Andrew and Katie get sent home?
Andrew truly peaked too early. He interested a lot of fans, including me, during Hollywood Week, but he turned out to be a one-trick pony. While his fellow contestants shook off their nerves and improved week to week (even Tim Urban), Andrew kept delivering similar performances. He has a pleasant voice, but this show also depends on performance and personality, and Andrew never seemed to get comfortable onstage.
He had several things going for him: he was memorable (the horn-rimmed glasses and neck tattoo helped with that); he had a pleasant personality and was polite to the judges. But ultimately, his lack of development failed to win him new fans. Eventually, even his initial fan base probably grew tired of him.
Katie is a different story entirely. Starting out in Hollywood Week by impressing the judges, she nevertheless fell apart on her first few live performances. Still, she was perky and young, and that probably resonated with some of the show's younger fans. As her vocals grew better, Katie struggled to find her own identity on the stage. The judges gave her conflicting advice from week to week, and yet, her own internal compass seemed to be pulling her in a different direction. Much as they urged her to be young and contemporary, she longed to be the sort of diva she'd admired growing up: an Aretha Franklin, perhaps. Lighter fare simply wasn't for preference, and yet, she wasn't convincing when she sang weightier songs.
Give her time, and Katie will grow. She's bound to improve over the course of the summer tour alone. Maybe someday she'll be the diva she longs to be.
There's no room to stand still on the Idol stage.