Viewers were able to breath a sigh of relief Thursday night when Jennifer Lopez mustered up enough strength to persevere through the hardships of being an American Idol judge. With the three musketeers back in the saddle, Idol addressed the task at hand, introducing America to the remaining 19 of the Top 24.
While very few surprises filled the airplane hangar, one thing was made very clear, Jacee Badeaux got a raw deal. Sure, there was little chance that Mr. Badeaux would have ever become the next American Idol but to see Clint Jun Gamboa and Scotty McCreery sail through, it left a bitter taste. Talent should always be the final determination, and Jacee had it in spades. It would have been fitting to see him in the Top 24, alongside those contestants who had dismissed him and those who didn't stand up for him. He was a real survivor . . . oh wait, wrong show, but you get the idea.
Idol never passes up the opportunity to make things more dramatic than they need to be, hence the judges attempting to trick every contestant who made the cut into thinking they hadn't. We might not have expected Steven Tyler or Randy Jackson to be talented thespians, but Jennifer Lopez has managed to pull off a few leading rolls opposite swoon-worthy Matthew McConaughey and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named aka Ralph Fiennes. While neither The Wedding Planner nor Maid in Manhattan, earned her an Oscar nod, they stand as proof that she has some acting chops. Not so in Thursday's episode. Maybe the judges's hearts weren't in it or maybe they had repeated the same tired script so many times that they became robotic, but viewers could easily see through their charades.
Judges: How are you feeling?
Judges: It's been a wild ride. There was some good moments and some not so good moments. It's tough because we only have 24 spaces and we had to make cuts. It's so hard because there were a lot of really talented people.
Contestant: (Stares nervously.)
Judges: So it is really hard for us to have to tell you that . . . (insert dramatic pause) YOU MADE IT THROUGH!!!
All: (Cheers, tears, hugs, smiles)
So America, here are the remaining 19 of the top 24:
- Karen Rodriguez: A Jennifer Lopez favorite from early on especially since her song choices paid tribute to JLo and Selena. She has some potential and a definite cuteness about her.
- Robbie Rosen: Some people insist that Robbie has amazing talent but it would not be outside the realm of possibility to predict that America will never recognize any star potential. He would have to undergo an amazing transformation between Hollywood Week and the live show before he could ever have a shot at making even the top 10.
- Tatynisa Wilson: Aside from some rather amusing lyrics to "I Hope You Dance," during Hollywood week, Tatynisa's time on camera has shown little to convince viewers she deserves a top spot.
- Tim Halperin: Finally some star potential! In addition to his adorable flirting with JLo during his LA audition, he is one of the few contestants who did justice to The Beatles performance. His talent is even further highlighted when he is behind a piano.
- Julie Zorrilla: Cute shoes, cute outfits, cute parents. That's the extent of it.
- Scotty McCreery: Despite the whole Jacee fiasco, Scotty has really managed to exude the charm and performances needed to earn his place in the top 24 and beyond. His final performance was astounding and it wasn't just because he finally stopped "locking those doors and turning the lights down low ... baby."
- Jovany Barretto: Maybe it is because he lost all integrity when he bared his chest to the judges after earning his golden ticket (did Kara DioGuardi's 2009 bikini nightmare not teach anyone a lesson?) but seeing Jovany in the Top 24 was a real surprise. Especially considering others, with so much more talent (although less impressive abs) like Colton Dixon were sent home. Boo!!!
- Lauren Turner: This housekeeper has a strong powerful voice and will be a great addition to the Top 24. She and Naima can then duke it out to determine who has the better Cinderella story.
- Rachel Zevita: Something about this contestant is reminiscent of last Season's Siobhan Magnus, maybe it is the odd outfits and performances. But as Siobhan demonstrated, sometimes America really is looking for something different. Only time will tell if Rachel, and her penchant for facial bedazzle, will strike a chord with viewers.
- Kendra Chantelle: This contestant got to perform with Paul McDonald and she gets in the Top 24? Some girls have all the luck.
- Jordan Dorsey: Jordan showed a less than flattering side of himself during group auditions by minimizing the talent of others when searching for new group members. His superior smirk when asked about how he may have insulted others, further demonstrated that Jordan is quite secure with his musical talents and believes his behavior was justified. He may find that Karma and America are less forgiving than the judges.
- Lauren Alaina: There was no doubt this contestant would secure a spot in the Top 24. It's talent like hers that continues to make American Idol relevant ... that and her purple cowboy boots.
- Stefano Langone: He has an affability and impressive dimples; even if his vocals don't stand up to the others, he'll likely be around for some time.
- Jacob Lusk: Jacob, Jacob, Jacob . . . Jacob is like Lobster Tomalley. Some insist it is the most phenomenal delicacy available, but like any delicacy, it is really an acquired taste. And let's face it, Americans (especially the Idol demographic) aren't really known for their distinguished and diverse palates. Many would much prefer burger and fries.
- Pia Toscano: Great name and tons of class, this beautiful contestant just may have enough talent to break the curse that seems to lurk over conventionally attractive female Idol contestants who always seem to be the first to go when voting begins.
- James Durbin: So he made it. This is as befuddling as the hangar theme. Do the judges really not recognize a one-trick pony when they see one?
- Casey Abrams: Just when you thought this guy couldn't get anymore talented he proves during his final performance that guys like him can be sexy, too. OK, so sexy is a strong word but incredibly, breathtakingly talented somehow doesn't seem strong enough. Even Randy, says that Casey is the most talented musician Idol has ever seen and for once Randy hits the nail on the head. If someone can beat Lauren Alaina - it's Casey Abrams.
- Thia Megia: With one spot left, Thia approached the judges alongside Jessica Cunningham and the polarities between the two couldn't have been more pronounced. Thia only 15, shy and inexperienced versus Jessica on her 25th birthday with six prior Idol attempts under her belt. While Jessica seemed ready for a bar fight with the chip on her shoulder and pleather outfits, ultimately innocence reigned supreme and Thia will be moving on. She would be wise to work on her presence before performing live before voters.
- Brett Loewenstern: Brett was an early standout during auditions but as time went by his mannerisms began distracting from his performances. His speeches, seemingly straight out of a Care Bear movie or self-help manual, made it hard to see the justice in Brett securing the final male spot, leaving Jacee Badeaux and Colton Dixon out of the running. Of the three, Colton showed the most marketable and current talent of all and it was tough to see his journey end before it even got off the ground.
So to these 19, add Wednesday night's five:
- Naima Adedapo
- Clint Jun Gamboa
- Haley Reinhart
- Ashthon Jones
- Paul McDonald
That's rounds out Season 10's Top 24. This means that out of this blogger's seven early predictions, only one, Chris Medina, failed to make it through. After next week's performance, new prophecies will be foretold but in the meantime, personal preferences and a major crush, compel me to at least make Casey Abrams, Paul McDonald, and Lauren Alaina early inductees into the One's To Watch category.
Looking ahead to next week: Tuesday we'll get our first look at the top 12 men competing. Wednesday night, it'll be the top 12 women. And Thursday we'll see how America voted.