The whittling down process continues as the final 61 survivors on American Idol are whisked off to Las Vegas to perform songs by The Beatles on the Cirque du Soleil Love stage at the Mirage. They will then be cut down to 40 before one final performance determines the 24 contestants who move on to the live stages of the competition.
The Sin City road trip is a new step this year and is all a bit random, but it gives us an excuse to have another look at some familiar faces and a fresh look at some previously unseen ones. Before departing for Vegas, the remaining 61 are told to split themselves into twos and threes, and then draw Beatles songs at random out of a box.
As well as providing an extensive catalogue of iconic songs for the contestants to make a complete mess of, Beatles song titles are also awash with the potential for rich irony. So … deep breath … our coachload of 61 Day Trippers set out with their Ticket To Ride to Vegas. Each duo/trio will be hoping that We Can Work It Out within their 24 alloted hours and that it will all Come Together – With A Little Help From My Friends (i.e. the vocal coaches). Who will survive A Hard Day’s Night and get R-Jack and S-Ty on their side? And will they get J-Lo to say She Loves You too? One thing is for sure, for some contestants it will be a case of Hello Goodbye as they are told they are going Nowhere Man and that it is time for them to Get Back home. Whereas for 24 successful contestants it will be just the start of that Long and Winding Road which will eventually see one singer crowned the tenth American Idol.
Okay, I’ve got that out of my system now. On with the recap.
Cranking up the pressure
There’s no gentle introduction here as we are given just a brief montage of lowlights of the groups’ preparation – presumably so we don’t realise this is basically just the group round all over again.
Youngsters Thia Megia and Melinda Ademi are introduced to vocal coach Peggi Blu – or, as
Kermit Ryan Seacrest refers to her, The Vocal Coach From Hell™. She immediately chastises them for not having learned their lyrics yet, and later tells them:
Guess what? You’re going to die on stage in front of all those people. I’m gonna be laying in my bed watching you just croak.
The spirit of Cowell lives on. Stress! Tears! Barbaric put-downs! But, seriously, how can she watch them from in bed? Is she bringing a camp bed into the theatre with her?
The unlikely trio of Lauren Alaina (yay!), Scotty McCreery (yay!) and Denise Jackson (who?) also struggle to get to grips with their song, and their already frayed nerves aren’t helped when they perform in front of Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope-Geffen-A&M (to whom the eventually winner will be signed), still reading their words off crumpled, folded bits of paper. He basically tells them to change their song.
I’m not sure that was really a huge help.
Meanwhile, Ashthon Jones tells us:
I have never heard a Beatles song in my life.
That’s not a great admission to make by someone looking to make a career in the music business. It’s like being a violinist and admitting you’ve never heard of Bach. Or is she maybe just exaggerating her ignorance just a teensy bit for effect? (I smell a rat. Or is that just Ashley Sullivan?)
To top their day from hell off, the contestants are then taken out in the evening to see Love performed in the flesh. I’m pretty sure all of them would rather have spent the time continuing to rehearse or catching up on some sleep, but there you go.
Going to the chapel and we’re gonna get married … in faux leather
The groups sing. With lots of odd props from the Love show like giant bicycle wheels, a red phone box and a giant cross. And Ashley Sullivan shamelessly uses up valuable oxygen. O-kaaay.
First up are The Unemployed Twins™ – Adam Lambert wannabe James Durbin (the Tourette’s/Asperger’s sufferer) and Stefano Langone (the serious road accident survivor) – who perform a very competent version of Get Back. R-Jack is kinda meh about Stefano, but S-Ty says of James:
You went up into the way-out-of-sphere. You went up into Sweet-Land. That’s insane!
I think that means he quite liked it.
We discover that Pia Toscano and Karen Rodriguez went to the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts together – basically, they are the kids from Fame – a revelation which takes us absolutely nowhere. Except, presumably, to remind us who they are when one or both of them make the top 24.
Meanwhile Jacob Lusk, Haley Reinhart and Naima Adedapo belt out The Long and Winding Road, which S-Ty compliments as being “stupendous”. It is pretty good, actually, making one of the Beatles’ duller tracks sound quite interesting. Although it sadly brought the dirge of a version recorded by Pop Idol‘s Will Young and Gareth Gates back to mind.
Rachel Zevita sings Eleanor Rigby wearing a black veil (go figure), while Colombian Julie Zorrilla and boy-band material Tim Halperin perform a very good piano duet on Something. And then we see Paul McDonald – looking and sounding like a slightly deeper-voiced James Blunt with facial hair – who I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen before, singing the obscure Blackbird. Hello? I think we have just found the one qualifier who has failed to feature in previous episodes who the producers have had to shoe-horn in so we at least see him once before the live stages.
Meanwhile, we hop over to the land of Hokey Cokey Idol™ (she’s in, then she’s out, then she’s back in again) Ashley, who is trying on pleather wedding outfits – synthetic plastic leather, classy – in a shameless attempt to steal airtime from everyone else. She does actually go through with the wedding, though, going to The Little White Wedding Chapel, which she delightedly tells us is where Britney Spears had her wedding. You know, the one that was annulled after 55 hours. Like I said: classy.
The morning after the night before
The following morning, Thia and Melinda are up first. Apparently the tongue-lashing they received from Peggi Blu didn’t have the desired effect, as their shoddy rendition of Here Comes The Sun sounds as if they had only just been introduced to each other. The judges are not best pleased, and Thia takes their criticism with a face like thunder which suggests that she has never ever been criticised by anyone before in her life. Brat.
It can’t have been much of a wedding night. Ashley Suraiva née Sullivan and her partner Sophia Shorai – who really must have offended someone in a former life – make Thia and Melinda look good with a listless performance of We Can Work It Out. Clearly they didn’t work it out. At all.
Lauren, Scott and Denise have switched to Hello Goodbye and come up with a cute-ish performance in which they emerge from a red phone box – I half-expected them to be followed by a muscular fellow in a red cape and blue tights – and then traipse merrily around it Keystone Cops-style. It’s almost the car crash it sounds like it should be, but Lauren seems to specialise in getting away with these quirky but fun performances, having treated S-Ty to a pseudo-lapdance during the Hollywood group round.
Casey ‘Seth Rogen’ Abrams teams up with Chris Medina to perform what I imagine The Blues Brothers‘ version of A Hard Day’s Night would have been like. On a really bad day. Casey is Casey, wildly off-beat but nonetheless lovable. Chris comes across as his ill-fitting sidekick, and seems a million miles away from the guy who wowed us at his initial audition.
Finally, we see a group round trio reunited as Robbie Rosen, Aaron Sanders (wearing what appears to be a single black latex glove) and Jordan ‘I Abandoned My Other Group’ Dorsey provide us with a boyband-style rendition of Got To Get You Into My Life.
And that’s your lot. My, that was a quick skim through two days of performances.
And so on to the results, as 61 become 40 with a minimum of fuss – or, at least, a minimum of airtime. R-Jack calls forward Thia, Scotty, Jordan, Ashthon, Robbie and Lauren – and puts them through to the next, almost-but-not-quite-there-yet stage.
But out go White House intern Molly DeWolf Swenson, the mad-as-a-hatter Carson Higgins, Melinda Ademi and – making a surprisingly low-key exit – the Hokey Cokey Idol™ herself, Ashley Whatever-her-name-is-today.
Frankly, I’m shocked. Not because I think she deserved to go further (quite the opposite) but because I had assumed her annoying, look-at-me brand of melodrama was destined for a far more spectacular exit – for which read ‘melt-down’ – on the Green Mile. I feel deprived. Couldn’t they have at least shot her out of a cannon into near-Earth orbit or something?
The Green Mile begins
For reasons unknown, the final selection which takes us from 40 to the 24 who will perform in the live stages of the competition takes place in an aircraft hangar. (I’m not sure, but I’m assuming this actually took place quite recently – and certainly some time after the Vegas round.) Each contestant performs a song of their choice in one final attempt to convince the judges that they are worthy of a place in the top 24, before the judges pass their final judgement. (Let’s assume for now that the judges haven’t already made up their minds, shall we?)
In what feels like the longest, most drawn-out elimination process in the history of television, we are told the fate of ten of the final 40. I’m not going to prolong the agony any more than necessary, so:
Naima Adedapo. Final song: Put Your Records On. Not a great performance, but it doesn’t matter. In!
Hollie Cavanagh. Out! Although the judges tell her that she’s awesome and could come back in two years’ time and win the whole thing. Right-o.
Lakeisha Lewis. Out!
Alex Ryan. Er, who? Out!
Clint Jun Gamboa, the class of 2011’s Group Night Bully for his role in booting Jacee Badeaux out of his group. Final song: Hello. Either side of R-Jack giving him another grilling over Badeaux-gate, we get a load of rambling, incoherent histrionics, followed by another deluge of the same when he is told that he is in. Badeaux-gate is going to weigh heavily around his neck forever, though. Talented? Yes. High maintenance? Definitely.
Haley Reinhart. In!
Deandre Brackensick, the one outstanding member of the mum-coached Minors group. But there can only be so many teenagers in the final 24, and we have the likes of Brett Loewenstern, Jacee and Robbie still to come. Out!
Paul McDonald. You know, Blunt With A Beard™, who we only just saw for the first time ever. He performs an original composition (actually one of his band’s existing songs) in a suit so loud the volume is definitely turned up to 11. In!
Ashthon Jones. In! Despite not knowing any Beatles songs and doing I Wanna Dance With Somebody – a song I despise with every fibre of my being – as her final performance.
Which leaves us with the final long walkee of this episode, Chris Medina. The guy with the Danny Gokey-like story of tragic love (which Ryan recaps for us just in case anyone watching has the memory of a goldfish). The early favourite who shrank during Hollywood week, who desperately sought his Andrew Garcia-style Straight Up moment and failed miserably. His final song? Fix You. And it’s bad. I mean, really bad. And the fact that when I looked at him I couldn’t get an image of Lost’s Hugo Reyes out of my head didn’t help either. The verdict is inevitable and obvious, and as Chris strides ruefully away having been tossed out of the competition, an emotional J-Lo breaks down, declaring:
I don’t want to do this any more.
Fade to black and a title card declaring ‘To be continued …’
Next episode: The Green Mile continues as we discover the remainder of our final 24. Will J-Lo really carry out her threat to quit? Call me a cynic, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say not.
American Idol posts
Link: American Idol website