On Wednesday's American Idol, we finally got our top 24! There weren't really any shocking surprises or unjust eliminations along the way, but rest assured, there were a few more sad stories for the road. Let's all raise a glass to these mighty fallen soldiers of song.
Hey folks! Mickey O'Connor here, filling in for Adam Bryant, who's on vacation this week. It's a good time for me to chime in, as it's usually at this point in the season where I start caring. I'm not a fan of the sophisticated system of humiliation and torture that these early weeks of the competition have made their stock-in-trade, so frankly I'm glad it's over.
But let's get to the good news. Since it was only an hour and there were 17 finalists yet to be named, it was a surprisingly fat-free episode of American Idol — not that there wasn't any unnecessary time-wasting going on, but we'll get to that.
Right off the bat, an emotional Janell Wheeler is granted admission into Idol's Valhalla. She unwisely uses her moment in the spotlight to trash her job at a wine distributor, which she is now very excited about quitting. She will sorely regret this decision over the next few weeks, as once she's eliminated she'll have a harsh reckoning when she realizes the high price of "self-medication" these days. Free wine? Don't burn that kind of bridge, Janell!
Tyler Grady also gets good news, which Kara is happy about because young Tyler "gets his moves from the '70s," she says. He lists Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey and Jim Morrison among his musical inspirations, which he learned about from his DVD collection. This makes me feel like if I was a resident of Planet Tyler, I would be euthanized for being ancient.
Lacey Brown, who was humiliated in Season 8 by almost making it but not quite, lives to be idolized another day, as this time her luck is different.
In a fantastic flurry of yeas, Ashley Rodriguez, Alex Lambert and Jose Muñoz all make it through to the top 24.
OK, deep breath, folks: Sycophancy alert! Crystal Bowersox, she of the blond dreadlocks and neck-mounted harmonica, is my favorite Idol finalist. With a photo of her son — little T! — in her back pocket and a refreshing lack of vanity, she faces the music (see what I did there?). And she's in! This is good news for fans of, um, music, as she's actually talented. Plus, she conveys a polite confidence that I like in my Idol favorite. As an added bonus, the show's stylists are going to have a field day with her. Anyone care to place a wager on how long it is before the dreads are "softened"?
Now we get to Ellen's poker face. It's certainly good — the woman is a gifted performer -- but jeez, American Idol, enough with the fake-outs! It's like reverse psychology by now. We can tell within seconds whether a finalist has made it or not. Don't drag Ellen into this madness.
Cute Katie Stevens is in. At 17, she's one of the youngest finalists, but her big voice will certainly carry her far in this competition. "How's your grandmother?" Simon asks as she leaves the stage, making sure that her poignant backstory gets some more screen time.
(Aside: I love that they used Radiohead's "No Surprises" here. It's a perfect "so-and-so didn't make it" song, but man, it's a little adult. There's no need to drop a carbon monoxide reference on these fragile kids.)
Speaking of fragile kids, poor Angela Martin. It's her third year auditioning, and unfortunately for her, it is not a charm. This is terrible news, especially since, as the producers remind us, her father was murdered, her daughter is still having seizures (but thanks to the Shriners Hospital, her medical bills are paid) and she had to go to jail! Worst of all, she had to endure that terrifying, "heartfelt" face-to-face with Kara, which has to have been more harrowing than the big house.
Next up is the freaky, platinum-haired pixie known as Lilly Scott. She stumbled with "Rich Girl," which is a tragedy in my book, as my devotion to Hall and Oates — and that song specifically — runs embarrassingly deep. Kara helpfully tells her that she doesn't have the biggest voice before — oh, oh, switcheroo! — telling her she's made it to the top 24. Boy, I didn't see that coming.
Fun, quick, more finalists! Paige Miles, Siobhan Magnus, Michelle Delamor, Jermaine Sellers and John Park are all in.
There are only two girls left: Haeley Vaughn, whose backstory we know, and some practically anonymous girl named Tori Kelly. So who do you think made it? Yes, it's Haeley who will be with us next week, hoping to prove that African-American girls can be country stars. Simon says she's sometimes annoying, but I am totally rooting for her.
Then comes the YouTube litmus test: Did Andrew Garcia's wily gambit of covering Paula Abdul's "Straight Up," which made the viral rounds this week, pay off? Duh, of course it did. The kid's a star.
That leaves Thaddeus Johnson, whose tears of disappointment upon learning he hasn't made the top 24 could fill my Starbucks travel mug. "They said there's nothing wrong with me," he cries. Sniff.
And finally, we get to that shadowy finalist who goes by the enigmatic moniker of Tim Urban. We see neither hide nor hair of him all night, yet somehow, at the end of the hour, there he is, pop-locking with his fellow finalists like he's auditioning for Breaking 3: Cyber Boogaloo. Who is this Tim Urban? Whose palms did he grease to gain access to the finals? Who did he have to kiss or kill? We may never know those lurid details, so until I hear this kid sing, I shall remain suspicious. Well played, sir. (Just kidding, Tim! Go Longhorns!)
So what do you think of the top 24? Did your favorite make the cut? Any egregious omissions? Sound off in the comments section.