American Idol: A birthday and a goodbye to Erika Van Pelt

American Idol celebrated Steven Tyler's birthday with a special guest. Then, Erika Van Pelt was voted off American Idol. 

Claudio Bresciani/ Scanpix Sweden/ AP Photo
Singer Steven Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry of the US rock band Aerosmith performs at the Sweden Rock Festival in Solvesborg, Sweden almost two years ago. Joe Perry stopped by American Idol on Thursday night to wish Steven Tyler happy birthday.

Thursday night's American Idol results show was also a night of reunions.

Season 10 contestant Haley Reinhart returned to the Idol stage to promote her new single, "Free," and the fact that Casey Abrams just happened to be in the audience on the night that she was performing probably didn't help quiet the rumors that the two have been an item since last season – a rumor that both of the singers deny.  

But if you were an artist struggling to make it in the music business, fueling an innocent rumor about your relationship status might not be such a bad idea if it helps keep you in the headlines.

Cue Joe Perry, who, despite long-standing reports that he and Aerosmith band mate Steven Tyler are embroiled in a very difficult relationship, decided to surprise Steven by showing up on the Idol stage in full Aerosmith regalia to wish the lead singer a happy birthday.  Considering Joe Perry's less-than- favorable stance on Steven's decision to join American Idol, it's good to see him put his feelings aside in the interest of camaraderie and free publicity. (But I'm sure camaraderie was the dominant reason.)

Lest you suspect that Thursday's show was simply a night of festivities and self-promotion, it was also an elimination episodel, and as much as we hate to say 'goodbye' (well, sometimes it is easier than others) the purpose of this show is to eliminate another American Idol hopeful.  And for two contestants, things were looking dire after this article and Jimmy Iovine both had equally harsh critiques of their performances.  For Deandre Brackensick, the stomping around the stage and tossing of the hair just didn't work and he found himself in Thursday's bottom three.  

Then, there was Heejun Han.  While Jimmy Iovine never really seemed to be much of a Heejun fan, it must be said that he was certainly one of this author's early favorites.  Sure, it had little to do with his singing and so much more to do with his charisma, but Heejun was fun to watch and he added a nice levity to the drama-laden episodes of Hollywood week and the semifinals.  But as is often the case, what set him apart is also proving to be his downfall.  Too much of a good thing quickly sours and Heehun's over-the-top caricature of a contestant reeked of the same distasteful defiance that poisoned Season 6's Sanjaya Malaker's performances.

So it was no surprise to find both Deandre and Heejun in the bottom three.  What was a surprise – and a rather awful one – was to find that they were joined by Erika Van Pelt.  Sure, her song was sleepy and her drastically different hairdo may have made her seem desperate in an episode where defiance and individuality seemed to be all the craze, but she certainly wasn't bottom three material.  That seat could have been much better warmed by the tookus of Hollie Cavanagh or even Skylar Lane.  

And where, where was the indignation of the American Idol judges when presented with the bottom three?  Instead of outrage at Erika's unjust predicament, JLo offered some meaningless drivel about how saying goodbye to anyone is a sad loss for the show.  Puh-lease.  

Then came the real slap in the face when Ryan Seacrest announced that Deandre was safe.  What?  Safe?  How can that be, America?  Did you not see his performance last night?  It was mind-numbingly horrible!  Still, the possibility that viewers might have found Heejun's performance more of an affront than Deandre's was never forgotten.  It would not be a complete surprise to say goodbye to Heejun.

But saying goodbye to Heejun was not in the cards.  Instead, the two worst performances of the evening were rewarded with safety while Erika Van Pelt was forced to sing for salvation.  The lack of protest amongst the judges when Erika landed in the bottom three did not bode well for the singer and though she pushed her way through the song, she had clearly resigned herself to her fate even before the first note had been sung.

Randy Jackson was the one to deliver the final, crushing blow of rejection to Erika's dreams as she fell victim to the recent anti-female voting phenomenon on American Idol. Some speculate that it is the "tween" and teen female demographic and their propensity for rapid and relentless voting for the cutest boys that has skewed the results in recent years, resulting in four straight seasons of male victories.  But whatever the reason, it is cold comfort for the contestants like Erika Van Pelt, who goes home long before those with inferior talents.

Of course, it may have just been Erika's affront to Red Sox Nation (by singing Billy Joel's 'New York State of Mind') that resulted in her demise.  We can be a tough crowd . . . just ask Bill Buckner.

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