While moving the whole production from Hollywood to Vegas for one performance was pointless, the contestants did their part by acting as though it was the realization of a dream to go see Cirque du Soleil's "Love." It would seem that Idol is starting the shameless advertising early this year; let's hope they at least chose to offset the huge carbon footprint associated with this plug.
Opening up The Beatles songbook was an attempt to tie into the Love theme, but it was still a surprise since Idol has been vocal about doing away with the "old-fashioned" theme weeks this season. Most would consider The Beatles as relevant today as ever, but there were more than a few contestants who seem nonplussed by the choice.
Jacob Lusk admited to not knowing much about The Beatles, while Ashthon Jones claimed that she had never heard a Beatles song in her life. Statements like these only highlight the issue of forcing young contestants to perform music that holds no meaning for them; an issue that many hoped would not be repeated this season - unless of course they opened up The Monkees's songbook, now that would be a show!
Enter Jimmy lovine, the American music producer that many predicted would be the savior of post-Simon Idol season. His screen time was limited, but he seemed to borrow a page out of Simon's old "songbook" when he told contestants that if he heard performances like theirs at a wedding or karaoke, it wasn't what he was looking for. Add some pretty intense vocal coaches and a panel of nameless music producers to the mix and you have a pretty intimidating performance looming.
But like the musical professionals they all aspire to be, even those unfamiliar with The Beatles put their noses to the grindstone to ensure that they nailed their second group performance, which by the way seemed to be limited to less than 30-seconds of actual singing (further proof that the performances were more of a commercial than an audition).
The Beatles performances didn't deliver a lot of surprises. James Durbin tied a bandana around his head and screamed a lot, Naima Adedapo, facial expressions aside, gave a solid performance, and Lauren Alaina added a dose of cutesy to her routine. Perhaps the best surprise of the night was the validation that not only does Paul McDonald exist but he was still in the competition! The proof of Paul's existence on the heels of Bow-nessie, the English version of the Loch Ness Monster being caught on camera, is like a one-two punch to all those pessimists out there.
At the culmination of Vegas performances, another round of cuts was made and the judges said goodbye to some of this season's most charismatic contestants. Ashley Sullivan didn't make the cut but her time in Vegas was not in vain as she and her boyfriend tied the knot at same chapel where Britney Spears was married (the fact that Ashley considered this to be symbolic in a positive way, only attests to her unique outlook on life.) Joining Ashley was another remarkable character, Carson Higgins. His departure, while not surprising, likely came as a tough blow to someone out there. Someone who was hoping with all her heart that he would bring his charm to the Top 24. Someone who would have voted for him repeatedly regardless of what he sang just because his spirit lit up the competition. Someone who had added his name to her list of favorites and dotted the "i's" with hearts . . . Sigh.
The real meat and potatoes of this episode took place during the second-hour, when all of the auditions were over and the judges were tasked with choosing the Top 24. Of course, Idol didn't introduce all of the top 24 to us Wednesday night; instead they opted to waste the first hour on unremarkable Vegas performances. After which, they shocked us with more changes; instead of the surveillance-like elevator shots of our contestants heading to their final judgment, this year Idol set up shop in a aircraft hangar - yes, a hangar - and forced contestants to walk what appeared to be just under 15 miles to get to the judges table. (At the time of release no one had yet come up with a plausible explanation for the whole hangar theme - by all means stay tuned.)
Once there, more than a few hearts were broken, including Jennifer Lopez's when she had to say goodbye to Chris Medina. Despite Chris's emotional back story, the inevitability of his cut became clearer with each performance; he simply did not have the same level of talent that other contestants brought to the table. But this didn't make it any easier for JLo to deliver the sad news to Chris, who moments before had told the judges that the best day of his injured fiancee Juliana's life, was the day she met them.
Chris took the news with grace but Jennifer was reduced to sobbing after his departure. Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson tried in vain to console her as she questioned the manner in which she broke the news, wishing she had handled it differently. Idol ends before the resolution of Lopez's emotional outburst, suggesting that perhaps JLo may not be able to go on with her job. Someone needs a healthy dose of perspective, stat. Maybe Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe can show her a copy of her latest pay-stub, that should take the edge off.
Chris may have just been the proverbial straw, since before his departure the judges said goodbye to others including Holly Cavanagh, the initially timid contestant who found her moxie and her voice throughout Hollywood Week and Deandre Brackensick, who shined during group week with his falsetto run as part of the young group The Minors.
The following contestants had a much better evening than the above-mentioned and comprise the first 5 of the final 24:
So far, three of the Top 24, Naima, Paul, and Ashthon, were from our early prediction list. While Chris Medina never really wowed enough vocally to belong in the Top 24, it was a surprise that Idol didn't guarantee him a slot for ratings alone. Tomorrow night, the remaining 19 contestants will be announced and more importantly, the final score of early predictions.
In the meantime, for all those who (in the face of evidence to contrary) believed in Paul McDonald's existence, please accept the following video as a reward for your steadfast conviction.