The 61 (an odd and prime number) remaining hopefuls were gettin' lucky--Randy revealed that they're heading to Vegas! After driving past the World's Largest Thermometer, the competition heated up on the set of The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage Las Vegas. The 61 Idols divided into duos and trios and drew a song from a hat. I would not want to draw "Yellow Submarine." What horrified me was that some contestants--of all ages and backgrounds--said they were unfamiliar with songs by The Beatles. That blows my mind. If you're a loyal Idol viewer you'd be familiar with Idol. We did the theme twice in a row on Season 7 and again last season. There's even the modernization of The Beatles with video games and mp3s and the like. They're about to be schooled...
Before taking the LOVEly stage, the singers met with the vocal coaches. Here we met Ms. Peggi Blu. She had a unique way of giving the contestants feedback, and she used the method of instilling fear in two of the youngest singers, Thia Megia and Melinda Ademi. Some of the Blu-isms are as follows: "You're gonna die on the stage in front of all those people. I'm going to be laying in my bed just watching you croak;" "Bury her [bleep] on stage;" and something about salting and swallowing crows. Welcome to Vegas.
Mentor Jimmy Iovine and his crew of intimidating producers sat front and center as the contestants rehearsed for them. Jimmy has worked with John Lennon before...no biggie! When Lauren Alaina, Denise Jackson, and Scotty McCreery sang for Jimmy, he suggested that they select a new song and start over. Wasn't the whole point of picking songs out of a hat to work with what you're given? Other teams had some issues too, and Lauren cried in the bathroom while using her boot as a cell phone holster.
That evening the contestants got to enjoy LOVE, but playtime was over the next morning when the judges entered the set and sat at their table. Jennifer Lopez looked radiant in a white shirt with her hair pulled back and red lipstick, just the way Steven Tyler liked her in Milwaukee. Steven said he lives in Beatleland. I would have guessed LaLaLand or Awesomeville, but Beatleland sounds fun.
San Francisco auditioners Stefano Langone and James Durbin teamed up for "Get Back." The song worked well with their vocals and Steven commented, "I don't think I've heard two higher voices together before," and that's coming from the guy who sang "Dream On."
The Red Room traveled to Vegas. Ryan chatted with New Yorkers Pia Toscano and Karen Rodriguez, who actually went to The Fame School together and performed together. They gel well musically so they decided to pair up to perform "Can't Buy Me Love." In addition to having the look and the voice, their staging and the way they moved together seemed polished. Jennifer admired their professionalism and Steven thought they "jumped a fence and ran off into a field," which is what I often wonder about Steven.
When Jacob Lusk, Naima Adedapo, and Haley Reinhart sang for Jimmy, the mentor compared Jacob's fire-power to Bono of U2. Well that's a compliment if I've ever heard one! However, Jimmy said you can't over-sing all the time, especially during the calmer song by The Beatles, "The Long and Winding Road." When the trio took the LOVE stage, I noticed that they all have very different vocal tones, and Jacob's voice was higher than the girls'. Despite what Jimmy said, Randy wanted to see Jacob give it more gas. Jacob said it was his first Beatles song and he didn't want to take it all the way to Ebenezer Baptist. Heck, if people give performances like Jacob's "God Bless The Child" at Ebenezer Baptist, I'd show up!
The LOVE sets were so amazing, and one of my favorites was when Rachel Zevita, Symphony Music Howlett, and Phil Brooks stood in between a circle of opened umbrellas to sing "Eleanor Rigby." Rachel was channeling the loneliness of the piece while wearing a black veil.
New Orleans' Jovany Barreto and Lauren Turner performed "Let It Be." Where did Lauren come from?! We haven't heard much from her yet, but she showcased really strong vocals along with Jovany.
Tim Halperin and Julie Zorrilla teamed up and each sat at a keyboard while performing "Something." The performance seemed like it could be a modern day love song on a movie soundtrack or the radio. I also liked the way they connected with each other at the end of the performance with fog rolling in around them.
Lakeisha Lewis, Ta-Tynisa Wilson, and Jerome Bell had choreography for their upbeat performance of "I Saw Her Standing There." These Vegas groups are so much more polished than Hollywood Week Group Night. The judges had mixed opinions about each performer, but the overall consensus was that everyone is talented.
Nashville's Kendra Chantelle and Paul McDonald sang "Blackbird" and they could compete with Sugarland or Lady Antebellum in terms of looks and vocals. The judges thought it was beautiful and that Paul's soft voice is powerful at the same time. Randy loved the choice of harmonies because it showed the uniqueness in both their voices.
Clint Jun Gamboa and Erin Kelly sang "Help!," Jacqueline Elliot and Ashthon Jones of Group Night's "The Hits" took on "Ticket to Ride," and John Wayne Schulz, Adrian Michael, and Wade Brown performed "A Little Help From My Friends." The groups sounded really good, but we only saw a very brief moment of these performances. Everybody was nailing it!
Since Idol was in Vegas, Ashley Sullivan used it as an opportunity to marry her boyfriend David. She talked about wearing traditional wedding attire and then settled on black pleather pants. That's Vegas-traditional. With a garter over her leather pants (the pants were too tight to wear a garter underneath) they walked into The Little White Wedding Chapel. This is the very place where Ashley's idol, Britney Spears, tied the knot with Jason Alexander (not of Seinfeld fame). With cameraman Dave as their witness, Ashley and David were now married. Hopefully their matrimony would last longer than Britney and Jason's 55 hour partnership. Ashley cried less during her wedding than she did throughout the American Idol audition process. I wondered what Ashley's duet partner, Sophia Shorai, was doing during this time.
Day two began with Thia Megia and Melinda Ademi taking the stage, while Vocal Coach Peggi sat in the stands appropriately wearing a cop hat. "Here Comes The Sun" seemed like a nice cheerful pick for them. Randy thought Melinda was shaky but he liked that Thia kept her phrasing.
Still in her bridal outfit, Ashley joined Sophia for "We Can Work It Out." I like Sophia's speaking voice and singing voice. Steven said this wasn't the strongest performance but that he always liked Ashley. Maybe it's their mutual fondness for bleached streaks of hair.
Denise, Scotty, and Lauren A. took the stage with their new song, "Hello, Goodbye." How would Scotty McCreery do without being able to sing a Josh Turner song? They started crammed in a telephone booth and then skipped around the stage. Jennifer hesitated to critique the performance. The judges didn't think the song worked, and Steven compared it to "the Marx brothers putting out a fire thing."
Carson Higgins and Caleb Hawley rocked out with a unique take on "Please Please Me." Another comedic duo, Casey Abrams and Chris Medina, jumped on the bed and played their guitars to "A Hard Day's Night." It was refreshing and I love that these slightly bigger, slightly hairier guys can rock. Steven Tyler called them freaks!
Aaron Sanders, Jordan Dorsey, and Robbie Rosen worked together on Group Night. They reunited for "Got To Get You Into My Life" which I liked a lot until the echoing "life, life, life" at the end. I would guess that this was the first time that Robbie Rosen performed in front of a giant cross. The judges were impressed and said that they always forget how good Aaron is. Ryan Seacrest called them "The R & Beatles."
The cut from 61 to 40 happened right there on the LOVE stage. It was the end of the road for Molly DeWolf, Carson Higgins, Caleb Hawley, Phil Brooks, Sophia Shorai, Denise Jackson, Melinda Ademi, Ashley Sullivan, and a handful of others. For the first time in the competition, Ashley didn't cry--and this time she was cut! She's just happy that she "went to American Idol." Girl, you didn't just go to it, you were a main source of entertainment during auditions.
With what seems to be a large travel budget this season, the Top 40 were sent back to Los Angeles where they had a chance to "Sing For Your Life." That's not dramatic at all. They performed in front of beautiful two-seater airplanes in an airplane hanger, and we saw the clips of some of the performances as they walked the path to find out their fate.
The first to find out if they were in the Top 24 was Naima Adedapo. She used a Corinne Bailey Rae song to sing for her life and it worked. She made it! As she hugged Steven he said, "Look at you, Naima. You're a flower; now bloom." Steven has a way with words. That would have sounded cheesy coming from most people, but I got chills when Steven said that.
Teen Hollie Cavanagh discussed what the road to this point has been like in her cute half-British-half-Texas accent. She sang for her life with Alicia Key's "No One" and it seems like she's improved so much since her initial auditions. Unfortunately, the judges cut Hollie and Jennifer said it best: Hollie is so young that she can comeback and potentially win the whole show in a few years.
Very quickly, the judges said goodbye to Lakeisha Lewis and Alex Ryan. We barely knew you, Alex. Lakeisha's elimination was a big shocker to many of the Top 40, and Clint Jun Gamboa was really upset. They were friends from before the competition I guess. What an unusual pair. Clint performed Lionel Richie's "Hello" for his Sing For Your Life moment, and he performed it differently than Lionel and David Cook. He hyperventilated as he walked down the runway to meet the judges. Randy brought up the group night drama with kicking Jacee Badeaux out of his group, and Clint explained himself and had kind words to say about Jacee. We'll be seeing more glasses in Clint's future--he's in the Top 24! He can hardly collect himself and he bounced on the floor. A karaoke bar in Long Beach needs a new host!
Haley Reinhart looked happy and confident as she walked toward the judges. Her performance of "Baby It's You" gave Steven Tyler goose pimples. The judges revealed that Haley is moving forward, and she handled the news with a big smile and some giggles.
Deandre Brackensick performed with a ukulele as he sang Bob Marley's "Turn The Lights Down Low." This song has now become the kiss of death for both Megan Joy and Deandre, who was eliminated. Jennifer said he has a great chance of becoming a recording artist and they inspired him to come back again. These teens have at least another decade worth of eligibility!
Paul McDonald has a distinct voice and laid back vibe. He wore an off-white suit with sparkly roses embroidered on it for his Sing For Your Life moment, and Steven joked that Paul was shopping in the rock star's closet. Randy said that people can question if Paul is American Idol material, but anyone great is American Idol material. Randy said Paul is great and in the Top 24. He celebrated with interesting moves.
Ashthon Jones greeted the judges and said she missed them. She was near tears as Jennifer Lopez called her "one of the most consistent contestants," and Ashthon seemed genuinely humbled by her words. Ashthon is moving on to the semifinals, and she psyched her family out the way that the judges like to trick the contestants. She fell onto the floor with her mom and celebrated.
The night ended with Chris Medina. We saw his story again, which made me emotional again. He sang Coldplay's "Fix You" for his final performance, and I have no idea how he was able to get through the performance. When Chris sat down with the judges he said that his fiance Juliana is more popular than he is, and that the best time of her life was when she met the judges. Jennifer delivered the news and said that it has been a blessing to meet someone with such conviction and love. She then said that the competition is ultimately about singing talent and stated, "I don't want to drag this out any longer." It was dragged out for a while longer and she told him he's not in the Top 24. After he gave them hugs goodbye and walked out of the airplane hanger, Jennifer was crying--like seriously crying and gasping. Steven and Randy were sweet as they consoled Jennifer who felt terrible and like she couldn't get across what she wanted to tell Chris. Aww, I love mama Jennifer. The show ended with Jennifer saying, "I don't want to do this any more" and a cut to a "To be continued." Chris is going to be fine--check out our News section for an exciting update!
The show will be continued with the announcement of the Top 24. What did you think of the first five chosen? What did you think of the first five turned away? Sound off in the Idol Community.