At 7am in the morning, cameramen are creeping around the 71 contestants bedrooms as they wake up. I would be so startled to wake up with a boom mike hanging over me. Such a startling way to be woken up can only mean one thing: time for final solos.
The contestants got to perform with the band, but they didn't get any feedback. In honor of Season 3 American Idol guest judge and Season 8 mentor Quentin Tarantino, the show was shot out of order. First we found out who was in which of the three holding rooms, and then we flashbacked to their earlier performances. If a smoke monster and island appear, I will become very confused.
We find out that room one holds singers such as Casey James, Tim Urban, Tyler Grady, Andrew Garcia, and Todrick Hall. Keia Johnson, Mary Powers, Hope Johnson, Lloyd Thomas, and Christian Spear among others are in room two. Room three contains Shelby Dressel, Haeley Vaughn, Maddie Penrose, Jessica Furney, Angela Martin, and more. This means nothing to me because I think all of those people are good.
Close up on a visibly nervous Angela Martin in room three. She sang "American Boy" by Estelle. Her vocals were great and she was proud of herself for having the confidence to perform after all she's been through. And [American] boy, has she been through a lot! Casey James is in room one and although he struggled with choreography on group night, he took a risk by singing Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly" for his final solo. Another risk taker was Jermaine Purifoy, who sang "Brick House." Angela, Casey, and Jermaine are all in different rooms, which still doesn't make it any more clear to me which room is going home.
Room one also contains Jermaine Sellers, who sang "Man In The Mirror" but he had an issue with the music. Ellen DeGeneres thought Siobhan Magnus seemed too old and serious for a 19 year old, until she let loose with "Living for the City." She is also in room one with Crystal Bowersox, who managed to play harmonica, strum her guitar, and sing "If It Makes You Happy." I feel accomplished if I can walk while chewing gum. Ukulele player Alex Lambert played it safe but strong with his hometown audition choice of "I'm Yours." Michael Lynche and Todrick Hall also took on the Jason Mraz track, and they're in room one too. Since Thaddeus Johnson is a minor, his mom has accompanied him to auditions. We see a montage of her screaming, jumping, and rooting on her big little boy. The band began to play "Bubbly" and Thaddeus turned to them and said, "I'm not Bubby!" and then turned to the judges and said, "But I do have a bubbly personality!" His mom danced along and was confident about the performance. All I have to say is Thaddeus' mom FTW!
Room two is full of anxious competitors. Charity Vance sang the beautiful song "Gravity" for her solo, Tasha Layton took on "The Scientist," Mary Powers rocked out to "Hot N Cold," and Lloyd Thomas sang "Man In The Mirror." They weren't the only early favorites in the room. Hope Johnson, who sang "Simple Man" and "Home," was also in room two (who knew she was a rocker girl?!) with Tisha Holland and Christian Spear.
Hanging out in room three we saw Didi Benami, Lee Dewyze, Jessica Furney, Angela Martin, Lacey Brown, and Shelby Dressel. Ellen DeGeneres was a fan of Shelby when she first saw her, but Shelby was struggling with her lyrics during final rehearsal. Aaron Kelly was in room three and he forgot his lyrics during his final performance of "Angel." Other notable room three performances included Ashley Rodriguez with "Battlefield," Lee Dewyze sang "You Found Me," Joe Munoz was another "Man In The Mirror" crooner, Haeley Vaughn also sang "I'm Yours," and a sick Janell Wheeler managed to sing "Love Story" without having her voice due to a pesky cold. The judges thought it was the wrong song choice for Janell, and now she doubts herself.
It's 11pm, and as the judges are about to approach the rooms and set one group free, we saw performances from Tori Kelly, Lilly Scott, Andrew Garcia, and JB Ahfua. I like everyone. Can no one go home?!
The judges greeted the first room and they let Ellen speak. Since Ellen's new, I figured they wouldn't make her reject an entire room. Sure enough, Ellen sent room one through to the final decision round. The other two rooms could hear room one explode with joy, and they begin to feel even more anxious as their chances dwindled from a 33% chance of going home to a 50% chance (who doesn't love percents and fractions?!). The judges greet room two, and I suspect they are the unlucky folks. If they were sent through and they cheered, it would be anticlimactic and unfair for the third group to not hear it first from the judges. Sure enough, Simon delivers the bad news and tears begin to flow, but Mary Powers' tears were flowing before Simon even spoke. After the judges shared good news with room three, everyone ran into the hallways to see who they were advancing with. It became one big celebration and I did the Macarena in front of the TV...by myself.
It was time for the final judgment, which would take place in the Kodak Theatre. The judges looked as nervous as the finalists. I'm nervous and I'm just the AmericanIdol.com writer!
First up was Michael Lynche. Please let it be good news. I would hate for him to have missed the birth of his first child only to be sent home two days later. He looks more nervous waiting for the results than he was when his wife delivered their daughter over the phone. The dapper dad took his seat across from the judges, and the seat appears to be a stage length away from them. Perhaps the seat is placed so far away in case one of the hopefuls receives bad news and reacts poorly, security has time to step in. The judges have seen improvement in Mike and they think he's a nice guy. Big Mike said he recently realized that he could possibly win it all. The decision was unanimous--Big Mike is the first semifinalist! He picks up Ellen and aligns her spine, and then does the same to Kara. Randy got a firm handshake/hug, and Simon was bench pressed. Not really, but that would've been a sight!
Didi Benami showed she was a risk taker in Hollywood when she took on Kara's "Terrified." She is here to carry on her best friend's legacy, which is why she sang "Angel" for her final solo. How the usually emotional Didi managed to stay composed during this song, I'll never know. When it was her turn to find out her fate, she broke down in front of the judges. You can tell she really wants this. The judges say she's not one of the most consistent performers, but when she's good, she's really good. As a result, the judges unanimously decided to make Didi a Top 24 contestant. She said it was so awesome to sing Kara's song, and then gave her a hug. As Didi exited, her brother immediately celebrated. How did he know it was good news? Did they decide that if she was wearing her blue sweater it was bad news and if she was holding it the news was good? It must be a brotherly instinct.
It was Katelyn's turn to find out her fate. She sang "Something to Talk About" during day one in Hollywood, and the judges wanted to see more of a connection from her. She sang "Bubbly" for her final solo, and since then she's been writing positive affirmations in her journal. She entered the judges' room wearing a striped overall skirt, purple knee high socks, and a hat. I don't get it. Ellen drags the verdict out in a way that can only be compared to Ryan reading voting results. Katelyn tries to follow where this is going, and then Ellen relieves her by telling her she made it through.
Shelby Dressel sang "More Than A Feeling" and she was choked up just thinking about this experience. Randy revealed that Shelby didn't make it this year but she showed a lot of growth. They would like her to continue growing and come back next year. As Shelby walked away, the judges talked about how hard that decision was.
Casey James took the long walk through the Kodak Theatre. Kara quickly tells Casey that he's moving on, and they hug. Casey exited theatre with bursts of cheering, and Randy joked with Kara about the way she kicked her leg up when hugging Casey.
Aaron Kelly is a high school student who experienced some ups and downs during his life and during Hollywood week. As the judges reviewed his performances with him, he said "Yes, mam" often and is quite the young gentleman. We'll be seeing more of his southern hospitality in the Top 24.
Simon called Lee Dewyze's first performance "indulgent," but Lee bounced back. His looks and voice remind me of David Cook. Although the judges said Lee lacks confidence and star power, he disagreed and said if he wasn't confident he wouldn't have auditioned. Touche! The judges said they agreed five minutes ago. Weren't they sitting with Casey five minutes ago? Anyways, it is good news for Lee, and the Idol semifinalist shed some tears. He admitted that the process made him care so much about making it this far.
Todrick Hall meets a girl at the pool, and within seconds he asks her to marry him. He is a fan of the show and when he worked with Fantasia, he was inspired by her journey of small-town-girl-turned-star. With a simple "yes" from Kara, Todrick was shocked that was it...he's one step closer to being a star like his friend Fantasia!
Jessica Furney completed her second Hollywood week with some impressive performances. She's been looking forward to today being the day when this Kansas' girl's life changes. Randy takes the reigns on this "no" too. Jessica can't believe she didn't make it and pleads her case. She asks what she did wrong and Simon said she didn't sing as well as the others. That's always hard to hear, but it's something she couldn't argue against. Ellen digs from personal experience and said that this is just one "no" in a course of a lifetime. Jessica regrets that she didn't take better care of herself. Hopefully we'll be seeing her in Hollywood once again next season.
What do you think of the first seven contestants? Next, we'll find out who made Season 9's Top 24. Hoorah!