Ryan Seacrest gives Ashthon Jones the news.
After an opening montage of the previous night's performances, host Ryan Seacrest announced there had been 30 million votes, a record number for this time in the season. He also revealed that the save will be in play again. Judges can save one contestant from elimination. This power can be used once before the top five and must be unanimous.
Casey Abrams was missing from the group, because he was sick and in the hospital. Ryan had the other contestants wave to the camera. According to an article in The Hollywood Reporter, Casey had two blood transfusions due to ulcerative colitis. Many wishes for a speedy recovery.
Then we saw a montage of the top 13 exploring the mansion where they would be living together. Some of the guys immediately threw a football around in the large room. [Checking out the mansion]
The Top 13 performed a montage of Michael Jackson songs. The medley included plenty of choreography including a moving staircase (ooh! fancy!). I'm not sure whether it was pre-recorded or not, but it might have been, considering there was one moment when James Durbin was singing right into the camera, and yet his voice was not terribly noticeable in the mix. [Michael Jackson medley]
In this week's Ford commercial, the Top 13 placed green-screen banners all around town and created a makeshift stage where they performed "The World" for three cars. That's OK; the cars have a tin ear. Har-har. I didn't notice this until later, but Casey was also missing from the Ford commercial. [Ford commercial]
Next, while pitching "Red Riding Hood," another FOX property, Ryan interviewed the lead actress and then introduced a package about the Top 13 going to the premiere. ["Red Riding Hood" premiere]
Karen Rodriguez, Stefano Langone and Jacob Lusk came forward for their results. Stefano's confidence wasn't shattered by not making it to the Top 13 via the viewers' votes. Ryan announced, "You are all safe... except Karen this evening." Karen was sent to the tulip chairs as a member of the bottom three, and the guys were sent to the safety of the couch. [Karen sent to bottom three]
In a much-anticipated performance, Adam Lambert did a low-key version of one of his songs, "Aftermath," with an acoustic crew. At first I thought that Adam was having pitch problems, and then I decided it was actually the guitar, which sounded like it wasn't in tune with itself. What a shame. The "mellow version," as Ryan called it afterwards, was compelling. You can buy a club version of the song on AdamOfficial.com, with proceeds benefiting the Trevor Project. [Adam singing "Aftermath"]
Lauren Alaina, Ashthon Jones and Haley Reinhart came forward for their results. Lauren, who knew she hadn't done as well as she could have, was an emotional wreck until Ryan told her that she'd be staying another week. Then, in a surprise to nobody but them, Ryan informed Ashthon and Haley they were rounding out the bottom three. They joined Karen on the tulip chairs, and everybody else sitting on the couch was safe. [Ashthon & Haley sent to bottom three]
After a commercial break, Diddy Dirty Money featuring Skyler Grey performed his song, "I'm Coming Home," which was a lot less flashy than some of his performances, with dimly lit dancers emerging in pools of light to dance and projections of people hugging and connecting appearing on three screens behind him. Ryan interviewed Diddy afterwards, and he advised his young fans to "keep God in your lives" and to keep pursuing their dreams: "Don't ever stop." [Diddy Dirty Money singing "I'm Coming Home"]
Ryan finally made with the results: "Over 30 million votes have decided that Karen, you are here for at least one more week." That left Haley and Ashthon. One was safe, one in danger. "After the nationwide vote, the person who may be headed home tonight is Ashthon."
But now a little drama, as the judges would decide whether to save her. For her last song, Ashthon chose to sing the Diana Ross song again, "When You Tell Me That You Love Me." Before she began, Ryan counseled her: "Everything you've got." Just like in her previous night's performance, however, she was plagued with pitch problems. Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez whispered to each other as Steven Tyler remained focused on the performance. What would they decide? What do you think?
Ryan asked Jennifer for the result: "Not this time, baby. I'm sorry. It was unanimous. I was rooting for you, baby." [Ashthon sings for her life]
The good-bye montage was set to David Cook's version of the Simple Minds song, "Don't You Forget About Me," and while Ashthon watched the memories of her brief run, she wept openly. [Ashthon's farewell montage]
After watching the montage, the rest of the Top 13 mobbed her, surrounding her with hugs. It was muffled because it wasn't miked, but you could hear someone encouraging her: I think it was Jacob Lusk. Whatever he was saying, he kept counter-pointing with, "Do you hear me?" I imagine he was telling her not to give up on her dreams. Good advice for anyone, if you ask me.
But why did her turn on "Idol" end so quickly? Ashthon had a lot going for her: a beautiful girl with plenty of confidence and poise. However, she had several factors going against her.
The first time viewers caught a glimpse of Ashthon was on the Group Day of Hollywood Week, and it was only a brief clip. Unlike some of the other finalists, she got very little attention in the audition shows, meaning that her success would be dictated by her performances in the competition shows. Last week, her performance of a Monica's "Love Over Me" received mixed performances from the judges, and though she went with their suggestion to pick a Diana Ross song this week, her uneven performance, frequently off-key, sealed her fate.
Next week: the Top 12 tackle songs from the year they were born.
This early in the competition, it really is about the singing.