"Will Jennifer find the strength to go on?" asks Ryan Seacrest. Really, American Idol? Is that how we're kicking off Part 2 of a two-hour Green Mile episode?
Oh, we can appreciate that Chris Medina's sad story made his elimination difficult for J.Lo. Our hearts are not made of stone. (Really, though, his Sing For Your Life song was barely recognizable as Coldplay. That's the truth.) But the false drama of her "I don't wanna do this anymore"... dare we say it's beneath even you, Idol? OK, enough of that. On to the Top 24!
One of J.Lo's biggest fans, Karen Rodriguez, goes first. Recall that Karen fawned over her Her J.Lo-ness during her first audition — "You don't know how much you inspire me," she said — and then sang a very decent (read: better), slowed-down version of J.Lo's "If You Had My Love" in Hollywood. The love has been mutual, too: J.Lo mouthed along when Karen performed Selena's "No Me Queda Mas" for her SFYL song. In the end, J.Lo really tries to cast some doubt. "You disappeared [in the middle] for some of the judges here... but then you picked back up and showed us what you're made of. It was a tough one," she says. But, of course, Karen is passed through. "You had me at 'If You Had My Love,'" J.Lo says.
Seventeen-year-old Robbie Rosen seems to have been a shoo-in since day one. His backstory is certainly Idol friendly (he had a disability that kept him in a wheelchair as a child), and he's a more than capable singer. Steven, in particular, has been smitten. For his SFYL song, Robbie deftly performed Elton John's "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word." It was technically superb: showy and restrained in all the right places. If Robbie lacks anything at this point, it's the "it" factor, the star quality. Perhaps, it's something that will develop, because he makes it through. "Honestly, you're one of the best singers we have," J.Lo tells him. Randy, stupidly, says "What I love about him is that he's so unassuming." Yeah, but people like that don't sell millions of albums, dawg.
Next up is Tatynisa Wilson. Any conversation about Tatynisa really can't start without talking about her troubled Hollywood week-clobbering of "I Hope You Dance," where she completely forgot the lyrics. She chooses a difficult song, Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart," for her SFYL performance. J. Lo says this show is about not having a bad day (cough "I Hope You Dance" cough)... and then Steven tells her she is in the Top 24. Ooookay. Tatynisa tells them she is ready for this opportunity and starts crying. Hopefully, she learns better memorization techniques from here out.
Tim Halperin, who delivered a memorable take on "Something in the Way She Moves" during The Beatles challenge, takes a risk in singing an original song and sticking to his piano for his final performance. He says he really feels like he showed the judges who he is as an artist. Steven tells him he's been up and down since the beginning. J. Lo thinks he got stronger and Steven says he is sorry to — oh, wait, they're cutting Steven off. Cue Tim coming out of his green mile walk victorious.
Julie Zorrilla has been a standout throughout the competition, but chooses the weak "My Curse" as her SFYL choice. The song does NOT do her, or her vocal range, any favors. J. Lo and Randy say it's all about feeling something on stage and not just hearing something good. For a minute, it seems like Julie hasn't made it through, but she has. She comes up out of the room so excited she even attempts to pick Ryan up before she quickly drops him and he falls on top of her. "That's one of those moments that will be on the DVD," he says.
Oh, Scotty McCreary, how your compliance in the ouster of Jacee Badeaux during the group challenge has marked you. At least, you apologized immediately. But then you went and forgot the words to "I Hope You Dance," one of the most overplayed radio songs in the last decade. It's OK, we don't like it much either. Fortunately for you, you redeemed yourself with a sturdy rendition of Josh Turner's "Long Black Train." Now we watched Nashville Star, and that was a worthy country performance. The judges loved it, too. "You make a Bronx girl love country music," J.Lo says. "I know you can't tell, but I am a quarter Puerto Rican," Scotty replied. The judges try to give him a hard time about Jacee, but ultimately, Scotty's still very sorry — "That night, I just went back to my bed and cried," he tells them — and he's very through to the next round. "You know what? There are good people in this world," J.Lo says. Scott's success, however, means there's no room for fellow country singer John Wayne Schulz. Tough break.
Jovany Barreto, who took his shirt off when we first met him and thus predisposed us to not liking him, does a not-too-shabby take on Jon Secada's "Angel" as his SFYL pick. (Not too shabby because it could never be great. It's Jon Seacada.) It's a good choice because the judges do like that upper register of his. J.Lo gives some version of "deserving people will go home today" but, guess what? Jovany won't be one of them. He tells Seacrest afterward that he's ready to rock 'n' roll.
For Lauren Turner, getting on Idol would mean not having to clean houses anymore. Again, the judges criticize that she was up and down, but Randy wastes no time in telling her she made it. That was probably the quickest green mile of the night so far. If only they were all like this.
Seacrest introduces Rachel Zevita as someone he has known for quite some time and he corners her in the waiting room before she faces the judges. While she is getting the big news, her mother and grandmother are seen hitting on Seacrest in the hallway. "Have you lost weight? You look like a teenager," her mom says. Her SFYL choice is Lady Gaga's "Speechless" and by the end she is screeching much more than singing. This seems like a no. J. Lo says she wanted to go on stage and pull the spark out of her when she didn't see it. This is the farthest she has ever made it in the competition, and now she's going on to the Top 24. Her mom says Ryan is blessed. Sure he is, mom.
We remember that Kendra Chantelle looked droopy in her first audition in Nashville. But then she did a beautiful job with "Blackbird" in Vegas, holding her own against judges' favorite Paul McDonald. She sings her first audition song, Alicia Keys' "Falling," again for her final performance, hoping to prove that she can be the opposite of droopy. What do the judges think? Steven says they're concerned. "There are things you haven't heard me do yet," she says. Outside, she tries for a fake-out with Seacrest, but she's in.
Music teacher Jordan Dorsey sings John Legend's "So High" when its his SFYL time. And it was pretty dang decent. But did he soar? We're not so sure, but this is Top 24, not Top 12, so we're OK with him moving on. After his performance, J.Lo looks giddy and says "Mr. Dorsey, get out of here!" In a good way. She tells him "I fought for you the whole way through." And let's remember that he held auditions during group round, so the man knows his stuff. Or claims to. In any case, he's in.
Idol favorite Lauren Alaina — seriously, the producers cannot get enough of this girl! -- shows up with a lot of personality and by personality, we mean a pink and purple poufy cupcake-like dress and pink cowboy boots. After not doing her best on "Hello, Goodbye," she chooses "Unchained Melody" as her SFYL choice. In the room, Steven says they fell in love with her voice but it's been a "long, crazy journey." Steven says he's not sure how she's going to handle it... since she's going through. "You're so mean," she yells before she fist-pounds Steven. Really, was there any doubt?
Stefano Langone's final song choice is all vocals and no words... meaning we can't even tell what song he's singing because he's taking a page from Jacob's oversinging playbook. J. Lo explains how there's been a lot of good people, but "at the end of the day," he's coming back for the top 24. He's got the pipes, but does he have the stage presence to back it up?
Jackie Wilson, we're told, was an early favorite during the Nashville auditions. But all we remember now is the clip they just showed of her butchering Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You." Yikes. She's not getting in. J.Lo half-heartedly starts in with the "this was tough" speech, but we all know this was not a tough one. She's going home. Randy tells Jackie that consistency is everything and she lost her confidence. Jackie says "I don't agree with it... I definitely deserve for America to say yes or no."
Aaaaand it's Jacob Lusk time! He's got a mighty big voice, but we haven't been fans because he's just way too much. Too too too much. Maybe this is a minority opinion, but his "God Bless the Child" hurt our souls. It was barely recognizable in Mr. Lusk's hands, and yet, the judges gave him a standing O. For SFYL day, he did a song that, once again, we didn't recognize. We could only catch that it contained the lyrics "this song is just for you." Randy tells Jacob, who is clearly going through, that his "God Bless the Child" is the best performance in Idol history. Oh Randy, you are no Simon Cowell. Jacob's in, of course, despite our protestations. Now, the countdown till America gets sick of his caterwauling begins...
The end of the day is near and now there is little energy left in the room.
Pia Toscano is someone we feel like producers have been hiding for most of the competition, and now we hope to see a lot more of her. Her SFYL performance is one of the best of the episode and she shows off her range on Alicia Keys' "Doesn't Mean Anything." In the room, J. Lo is suddenly all about keeping it short and sweet and tells Pia she made it. Because of the low energy, Seacrest even has the cameramen root for Pia as she comes out of the room.
Screamer James Durbin sings for his life with "Change is Gonna Come" and just when you think he's finally learned to control his screams and differentiate himself from Adam Lambert, his screams sound like they're going to break the glass in the room. "I'll have what he's having," Steven jokes after the performance. In the room, Steven says James did "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" better than he performed it and welcomes him to the Top 24. It will be interesting to see someone like James step outside of his rock comfort zone during the competition. (Yeah, like that's going to happen. )
At long last, it's the bearded wonder Casey Abrams. "You're funny, you're fearless, and that's what I love about great artists," Randy told him in Vegas. And, oh my god, he's singing the Jessica Rabbit number "Why Don't You Do Right" from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" as his SFYL choice. Heck yes. And he's got his bass, too. Casey is just such a refreshing person to have on Idol: unquestionably talented, truly distinguished from the pack.. and he did it all without resorting to a lazy, John Mayer-wannabe, acoustic version of some pop princess' hit. Mercifully, the judges usher him in to the Top 24 quickly with hardly any pretense that they'd do otherwise. His chair goes flying, and he gives bear hugs to all. "I love you guys so much," he says.
The last two girls await their fate: Thia Megia and seven-time auditionee-birthday girl Jessica Cunningham. Thia... we kind of get. She sings Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up" perfectly adequately. But she lacks a lot of pizzazz. Jessica tells the judges it's her birthday so they should gift her with a spot in the Top 24 — they don't. "So yeah, they ruined my birthday," Jessica says afterward, flipping birds to the camera. "I love ya, but c'mon."
And now, for the last three boys: Bret Lowenstern, Jacee Badeaux and Colton Dixon. Jacee, who we have shed tears for, makes the poor decision to sing Michael Jackson's "Gone Too Soon" as his final performance. Somehow it makes him sound even younger, and we feel like this is likely the end of his run. Bret sings a song of his own composing about having confidence... and stuff. (Sample lyric: I've got my bulletproof vest and I'm no longer scared.") He sounds pretty good, but we prefer our contestants to sing well-known covers, the better to judge them with, my dears. Colton opts for Paramore's "Decode," and it's not bad at all. But, you know, we haven't seen a whole lot of Colton and we've seen a whole lot of Bret... So, obviously, Bret is passed through to the Top 24. Randy tells both Colton and Jacee to "please" audition again next year. Jacee then gets crushed in J.Lo's long embrace. "Listen, I told you you have magic in your voice, and I believe that," she tells him.
There you have it: The end of the audition rounds has come!
Were you disappointed to see certain contestants go home? Did your favorites make it? Let us know all your opinions in the comments below.