Naima and Thia with Ryan
Host Ryan Seacrest announced that there were 55 million votes, 20 million more than last week and a record for this stage in the competition. The Top 11 were brought onstage, cheered by the audience.
Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina sang a duet, "I Told You So," originally sung by Carrie Underwood and Randy Travis, seated in chairs on the runway to the side of the audience. It was pleasant but not too exciting. Then Ryan called them to center stage, saying, "It's going to get tough this evening, friends." He summed up their performances and then told them, "Both of you get another chance to impress." [Scotty & Lauren's performance, Scotty & Lauren's results]
The Top 11, in a videotaped opening, told about a contest that involves finding a hidden icon in this week's Ford commercial. In this one, the group fought crime and staved off disaster with the help of super powers, to the song "Kryptonite." [Ford commercial]
Jacob Lusk and Naima Adedapo did a duet to "Solid," perhaps a taste of what they might be doing on tour. Their voices paired well together. Ryan told them that one of them is in the bottom three, and one is safe. "The one in the bottom three is Naima." [Jacob & Naima's performance. Jacob & Naima's results]
After the break, season three winner Fantasia performed her single "Collard Greens and Cornbread," wearing a shimmering red evening dress. She was in fine form, controlling every nuance of the song, which had an old Motown feel. She finished the performance by calling out, "Steven, I love you" to judge Steven Tyler. The judges and audience gave her a standing ovation. [Fantasia's performance]
Ryan asked her to tell them one thing she now knows that she wish she knew when she was waiting for results. She told them to keep good people with you, not just "yes men." He told them that "It's not always peaches and cream, but because you love music, you can do it."
Haley Reinhart, Thia Megia, and Pia Toscano sang the Katy Perry song "Teenage Dream." Their harmonies were good, although when she got a chance to sing solo, Pia outshone the other two. When he gave them the results, Ryan sent Pia back to safety right away. The person in the bottom three, Ryan told them, was Thia. [Haley, Thia & Pia's performance, Haley, Thia & Pia's results]
Season eight winner Kris Allen was in the audience! He did not, however, perform.
A lengthy video piece captured a week in the life of the Top 11, including high-profile events, choosing songs, practicing, and Casey's reaction to last week's elimination. [Week in the life]
James Durbin, Paul McDonald, Casey Abrams and Stefano Langone performed the Paul McCartney and Wings song, "Band on the Run." The harmonies in the beginning were a bit rough, but the four got more comfortable with it as they went, and by the end of the song, they were sounding good. [Guys' performance]
Ryan called them to center stage for their results. He asked Steven if the band has a future, and he said yes, they could open for Aerosmith. Casey was the first to learn he was safe, with Ryan telling him, "If you knew how many you got, you'd be very proud." James was also safe. But Paul ended up in the bottom three. [Guys' results]
As the bottom three awaited their results, Jamie Foxx and Will.i.am performed "Hot Wings" from the animated film "Rio," with a marching band drum line and calypso dancers. Though the song was a bit simplistic, the duo get credit with staying away from Autotuned vocals for once! [Jamie Foxx & Will.i.am]
Finally, the bottom three took center stage to learn who would survive: Paul. That meant the two women were going home. Both of them smiled graciously as their good-bye videos were shone. [Bottom three results]
Why did Naima and Thia go home? Let's begin with Naima, where the answer might be a little easier. The main thing Naima had going for her was her uniqueness. From her colorful clothing to her creative song choices, she made sure viewers did not forget her. However, her performances failed to live up to the potential the judges kept promising. Perhaps this is because she focused more on performance than on vocals, and this undoubtedly cost her votes. Her final performance, a reggae version of "I'm Still Standing," was fun but quirky and probably did little to win her new fans.
If her duet with Jacob this week is any indication, she'll learn a lot from the summer tour. If she toned down the dancing and focused on her vocals, she could one day surprise us all. Don't forget: Naima made the finals thanks to the judges' wild card pick, so she should be proud of surviving as long as she did.
Thia's been struggling in recent weeks, but the question is why. The judges had been boasting of the young talent this year, with Thia being one of the examples. But unlike her fellow finalist, Lauren Alaina, who is also 16 but who has listened to the judges and begun to refine her performances, Thia has turned in a similar performance every week. She has primarily stuck to ballads, sung with near technical perfection but little real emotion. Through it all, she has had a smile glued to her face, which has prompted some to liken her to a pageant contestant.
Perhaps Thia was simply overwhelmed by the size of the competition, the knowledge that she was performing in front of millions. Therefore, she traded in the oversized, colorful sweaters she wore during the audition process for "grown-up" evening gowns. Thia might have done better if she had opted for songs that truly spoke to her.
Uneven performances eventually spell doom.