One thing that made this episode so endearing was its brevity. Essentially, Idol eliminated 35 contestants in one hour - that's more than one elimination every two minutes; more if you factor in commercial time. If they sustained this rate, we could crown the next American Idol by the end of next Wednesday's episode! Sure, we all understand that such high-speed results aren't sustainable but it is important to show appreciation when the producers are efficient with our time by airing a show comprised of content as opposed to filler. So, thank you, American Idol.
There were also a few female contestants who deserve to be thanked for their contribution to such a successful episode. There has been a lot of buzz about the girls being the ones to beat this year but up until Thursday night, no female had really taken to the stage and demanded viewers to take notice of her. No one forced us to all sit back and think, "She could be the one."'
That all changed when 18-year-old Angela Miller sat down at the piano and played the judges an original song called, "You Set Me Free." Angela's performance was so riveting, Keith Urban looked to be on the verge of tears and when she finished all four judges were on their feet. In that one instant Angela became a serious contender in the competition. Of course, she is from the North Shore of Massachusetts after all...we North Shorers have gumption.
Candice Glover, the closest the competition had to a "girl to watch" before Thursday's episode, was also poised to have her moment in the spotlight with her rendition of Alicia Key's, "This Girl is on Fire," which could easily be Candice's American Idol theme song. While Angela's performance of an original song was an extremely tough act to follow, Candice was perhaps the only one who could have pulled it off.
With such strong girls out of the gate, the American Idol judges later made a few decisions that were perplexing, at best. (Johnny Keyser made it through to the top 40? What? If we go down that rabbit hole we'll lose our Valentine's Day glow, for sure.) When Zoanette Johnson spilled onto the stage it was easy to tell that this girl, who was opting to sing a song that "came to her" while she was onstage fooling around with the drum set, was becoming unhinged. And Zoanette did just that when, midway through her bizarro performance, she lost her drumstick and began yelling at the band to slow down the tempo of her song.
But then things really got bizarre.
The judges seemed to be enjoying Zoanette's ridiculous performance – Keith was even on his feet at the end. It was one of those moments where you question everything you thought you knew. Here, you had developed this bond with the new male judge, grown to appreciate not just his shiny locks, crooked grin, and chest tattoo but his obvious passion for music and infectious enthusiasm when - BAM - he pulls the rug right out from under you, leaving you disoriented. "You really liked Zoanette," you inquire at the screen incredulously, realizing that the foundation that you and Keith had begun to develop was already beginning to show signs of strain.
Then, as if he had been in tune to your innermost thoughts all along, Keith Urban demonstrates a visceral response to Kree Harrison's genuine - or authentic (Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj are still arguing over whose descriptor was more accurate) - performance. Keith claims that she is one of his favorite voices in the competition and you begin to think you can dismiss the small quarrel over Zoanette, telling yourself that it is insignificant, since even if she did make it through to the live shows, she'd definitely be one of the first to get the boot.
And you could almost believe it, if only you could get the image of Sanjaya Malakar and his "faux-hawk" out of your mind.
After saying goodbye to the odd – but strangely endearing – Kez Ban and hearing Shuba Vedula (a.k.a. Pia Toscano 2.0) belt out a ballad, the judges had narrowed down their pool of girls to 21. Before they could decide on the final 20, they requested that Stephanie Schimel and Rachel Hale sing for them again. For some reason Stephanie opts to send the judges subliminal messages by singing the Phil Phillips song, "Home," which is exactly where they send her.
Then they invite the remaining 28 boys to take the stage and request to hear a few of them perform before they can make the final cuts. Josh Holiday is one of the contestants who is asked to sing and he gives it his all, almost literally leaving it all on the stage after splitting his pants in a particularly eager lunge. It pays off for Josh but poor David Leathers, Jr. is sent home at the same point in the competition for a second year in a row.
And there you have it, ladies and gentleman, American Idol's top 40. Naming them all at this point would be senseless. Naming contestants this early in the season is like living on a farm and naming your turkeys before November – it's just not a good use of your time.
Tune in next week when Idol heads to Las Vegas, where the competition is sure to heat up. Ba dum tsh.