top 10 girl Skylar Laine celebratesSo after 33 million votes (and what felt 33 million hours of auditions and group performances this season), on Thursday night "American Idol's" top 13 were finally announced. And of course, there were a few surprises--and injustices. In fact, when two of my favorite guys of the entire season didn't make the top 13, and one of them didn't even get a chance to sing in the Wild Card round, I nearly suffered flashbacks to Season 9's top 12 results show, the infamous one too painful and horrific for me to go into detail about here.
Jermaine surprisingly makes it throughAt first, everything seemed to be going according to plan. The two-hour show started off with a long, drawn-out announcement of which contestants had automatically made it through to the top 10 via the public vote: Phillip Phillips, Joshua Ledet, Heejun Han, Colton Dixon, and Jermaine Jones for the top five boys, Jessica Sanchez, Hollie Cavanagh, Shannon Magrane, Skylar Laine, and Elise Testone for the girls. Few of these were major surprises; the biggest shocker probably was bonus 13th boy Jermaine Jones, who I'd totally assumed was a fodder contestant brought in at the last minute just to boost ratings, snatching away the final boys' slot away from presumed teen-baiter Eben Franckewitz, the youngest contestant in "Idol" history. It was also a bit of a surprise that Heejun, who I adore but who hardly gave one of the best vocal performances of the week, coasted through on his huge personality and huge Twitter fanbase. But since I'm actually one of Heejun's Twitters followers, I couldn't get too upset about that outcome. Heejun does kind of rule, and at least he'll keep Season 11 interesting.
But you know what I COULD get upset about? The soul-crushing fact that two of my far-and-away favorites, and two of this season's other most interesting contenders, Reed Grimm and Creighton Fraker, failed to get enough votes to make the top 10. (Boo, America, boo! How could you not vote for the dude who plays Sheila E.-style drums or the wacky street musician who always shows his true colors?)
Jen sings for her lifeAnd when it came time for the Wild Card round, during which the judges selected six rejected contestants to battle for three remaining open spots in the top 13, I got upset all over again. Sure, I was delighted to see the wonderful Jen Hirsh, Erika Van Pelt, Deandre Brackensick, and Reed Grimm get second chances. (Jen and Erika respectively slayed it on "Oh Darling" and "Edge Of Glory," Deandre's falsetto earned him a standing ovation this time, and Reed's Bill Withers cover was so entertainingly wild and crazy, even Steven Tyler looked spooked.) But I was much less thrilled that the judges wasted two precious Wild Cards on the likes of bland boy-next-door Jeremy Rosado and irritating Jersey-girl type Brielle Von Hugel--instead of giving Creighton another much-deserved shot.
Creighton and his amazing Technicolor dreamshirt go homeSigh. Without freaky Fraker's rainbows and hearts and flowers and loudly patterned shirts, Season 11 will be a lot less colorful, and a lot less fun. I miss him already.
And then...REED DIDN'T MAKE IT. AND NEITHER DID JEN.
Among the six Wild Cards that did sing for their lives, Randy Jackson picked Erika and Steven Tyler went with Deandre, and I suppose I couldn't protest either of those sound decisions. But then Jennifer Lopez picked...Jeremy Rosado. What does she see in him?
Jeremy breaks downSure, it was sweet to see Jeremy drop to his knees, thankfully sobbing, when Jennifer announced his name. But it was difficult for me to rejoice for the Jere Bear, as cute and cuddy as he may be, when I realized this meant the end for Reed and Jen, two total standouts of the season. Now they, along with Creighton, join the ranks of Season 9's Lilly Scott and Alex Lambert as some of the most-robbed semifinalists ever.
Oh well. So there you have it. Below are the official seven boys and six girls, ranked in my order of personal preference. I hope America gets it right on future shows and votes for the contestants at the top of each list, because right now, I think the voters (and judges) have already made a few mistakes.
Erika Van Pelt
Parting side note: Universal Records' Jimmy Iovine offered his own contestant-by-contestant critiques during Thursday's show, and he had more insightful stuff to say in two hours than Jennifer, Steven, and Randy have said since pretty much the start of Season 10. Whether boldly declaring that "we desperately need originality on this show"; criticizing Brielle Von Hugel's boring song choice and Shannon Magrane's even more boring prom dress; cautioning gospel singer Joshua Ledet not to turn into "Sister Act 3"; expressing confusion over Heejun Han's dual personality and Reed Grimm's cabaret act; or proposing an "Idol" ban on Adele covers, Jimmy was mostly savvy and spot-on. So why is he not an actual judge? Why does he only get to give his comments after the votes are tallied? My only guess is he's being kept to the sidelines because his smart and incisive critiques would just make J.Lo, S.Ty, and the Dawg look even more clueless than they already do. But "Idol" has had a four-judge panel before, and I will use this forum to strongly urge producer Nigel Lythgoe to consider that format again. Just give Jimmy Kara DioGuardi's old chair, and let him be the panel's new villain! (Even Jennifer suggested, "Maybe Jimmy should come to the show," and it was really the smartest thing she'd said all season.) Because even more than originality, "Idol" desperately needs honesty.