Heejun Han gets a hug.
Host Ryan Seacrest brought judge Steven Tyler up on stage and showed some footage from an Aerosmith concert, to promote the fact that the band is going on tour. Steven said he's going to "light a fire under the world's ass," and the tour would therefore be called the Global Warming Tour.
Then, Ryan showed some congratulatory tweets from some of the Top 9's idols, whom they had honored in song the previous night: Jonny Lang (Phillip Phillips), Carrie Underwood (Hollie Cavanaugh), Lighthouse (Colton Dixon) and Mariah Carey (Joshua Ledet). The contestants didn't look terribly happy, though, probably because they were worried about the results. DeAndre Brackensick didn't get a Twitter message, but his idol, R&B singer Eric Benet, joined him onstage, gave him a hug, and then sat on the couches with him. DeAndre looked stunned.
Skylar Laine and Colton helped announce a video challenge, where you're supposed to look for a special moment in the Ford commercial video each week. In this one, the Top 9 loaded a bunch of TVs into a car and then stacked them up for a "concert," the TVs showing them in '80s rock gear, rocking out to "I Want to Rock."
After a commercial break, there was a video montage of the Top 9 moving into the "American Idol" mansion. Like little kids, they ran around, exploring the amenities. Heejun lay down in the huge tub and joked he would sleep there. DeAndre nabbed himself the biggest room, to the bemusement of everyone else.
First to hear results were Elise Testone, Phillip Phillips and Hollie Cavanaugh. About Elise, music mentor Jimmy Iovine said in taped comments, "Last night, Elise did herself and 'American Idol' a lot of good." He thought that everything came together, and he predicted that Elise is at a good age to have her first hit single. "She was a dark horse, but not anymore. Now she's coming on strong." About Phillip, Jimmy said that whenever Stevie Nicks likes someone as much as she likes Phillip, "She's very rarely wrong." He found Phillip's performance "flawless." Jimmy said that Hollie did a beautiful job, "but what she lacks is experience." He said that she's "emotionally behind the pack." He compared her to Jessica Sanchez, who comes at music with more soul, giving her an edge. "You don't win on technique; you win it on soul."
Ryan, after telling her that Carrie Underwood loved her rendition of "Jesus, Take the Wheel," told Hollie she was in the bottom three. She headed for the tulip chairs. Phillip was safe, and Elise was also safe.
Nicki Minaj took the stage next to perform her new song, "Starships." The performance started with an image of a pink spaceship sailing across the screens, and the doors opened, revealing a huge prop spaceship, also bright pink. Nicki's ginormous flotation devices were barely contained in her peacock blue, pink, yellow, and purple minidress with a transparent multi-tiered train that went to the floor. She seemed to be lip-syncing, badly (and there was a little autotuning evident, as well). She danced with a group of dancers in board shorts, white T-shirts and athletic shoes. It was a party on the stage, complete with confetti. I hear a dance hit. [NICKI MINAJ'S PERFORMANCE]
While Ryan was interviewing her, Nicki invited herself to be a guest judge: "Jennifer, could you scoot over a little?" Jennifer Lopez said, "I don't think there's room for both of us up here."
Next to hear results were Colton Dixon, Joshua Ledet and Heejun Han. About Colton, Jimmy called out Randy for his effusive praise of the performance the previous night, saying that Randy made it sound like a boxing competition. He continued, "Colton was good, but not good enough." Referring to Colton's tears at the end of the song, he said that this is not the end of your concert, where you can lose it and cry, and the audience is with you. "In this boxing competition, you don't have one opponent; you have eight." He said that Colton is "behind on points." About Joshua, Jimmy said that he's got so much talent and delivered "85 percent of the song" but when he got emotional, his voice closed. However, in the Michael Jackson medley, he was relaxed and calm. "He killed that." About Heejun, Jimmy said it was great to see him come back. "I don't think it was enough." He said that Heejun doesn't sing as well as the other eight contestants.
Ryan told Colton that "America says you're safe," resisting the urge to mess with him again. Ryan told Heejun and Joshua that one of them was in the bottom three: "Joshua, it is you... who is safe." Before taking his seat on the couches, Joshua gave Heejun a hug and then crossed to the tulip chairs to give Hollie a hug, too.
Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery performed next, singing his new single, "Water Tower Town." He wore a black button-down shirt with black pants, and he was comfortable on the stage, working the crowd. He had a little bit of a tan, but other than that, he was the same old Scotty, with the amazing deep voice and the easy command of the stage. The girls in the audience went wild for him.
Afterward, they had a surprise for Scott, Randy said. Jimmy walked out on stage and presented Scotty with a platinum record for the sales of his album, "Clear as Day." He emphasized that it's really difficult today to have this sort of success with a first album. (Not to mention as an "American Idol" winner, who haven't had the best track record in recent years.)
Back to results. Next were Skylar Laine, DeAndre Brackensick and Jessica Sanchez. About Skylar, Jimmy said, "Skylar always gives me something that makes me want to vote for her in her performance." He thought that this was a character song and that she needs something more melodic. But on the medley, he said, she showed how professional she was. "We need more of that." About Deandre, Jimmy said, "I'm sitting right in the middle. I'm not going crazy for him, and I'm not disliking him." He said that DeAndre needs more experience, but the falsetto may be polarizing. About Jessica, Jimmy said, "At 16 years old, Jessica has been able to harness enough experience like she's been here 10 years doing this." She said that Jessica got lost in the song but "kept her composure." He said that, while young girls tend to vote for guys, he hopes they may start pulling from her. "What we need is a little girl power," he said.
Ryan assured Jessica that she was safe, and told DeAndre and Skylar that one of them was in the bottom three. It was Skylar. The bottom three then consisted of Hollie, Heejun and Skylar. Who would go home?
After the break, Ryan sent Skylar to safety. The person at risk of leaving, Ryan said, was Heejun. Hearing the news, Heejun smiled and hugged Hollie, I guess he probably saw it coming. Singing for his life, he performed the song from this week over again. Initially, the judges just listened, and didn't seem to be debating whether they should use their save. His best buddy, Phillip, looked really sad as he listened to Heejun. During the bridge, the judges put their heads together at last for a discussion. Jennifer looked really sad, as well.
Would they use their one save of the season? Steven told him, "You knew this was coming yourself. You took it up a couple notches. Unfortunately, after talking, we're going to have to let you go, man."
Heejun didn't look very broken up. He smiled as he watched the montage of highlights from his time on the show. The others pushed in and hugged him while the montage ran. The show was slightly over, so there was no shot of everyone on stage, but I'm sure there was plenty of hugging.
Why was it Heejun's time to go home? First, let's look at what he had going for him. He was personable, funny, and he stood out from the crowd, making an impression on viewers. Many people loved his antics and were happy that he would be going on the summer tour with the Top 10. He had a raw, natural talent and a beautiful tone.
So what counted against him? It's simply a matter of growth. He was still running into some problems with diction and pitch, so consistency was a problem. Even though he was an entertaining performer, and a humble, funny, charming guy, it simply wasn't enough.
The good news, though, is that he'll continue to get plenty of experience because of the summer tour. Provided that he can sing in Korean, I predict he could be an international K-Pop sensation. With his personality, he could go on to a host of other opportunities and should think about using all of his talents when he looks for a future career path. Heejun, you will be missed.
When the field is this strong, a favorite is likely to be eliminated at any time.