People of the United States of America, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that the decisions you made this week on “American Idol” were motivated because many of you flipped the channel to the Olympics after Tuesday and Wednesday’s semifinals instead of voting. Because otherwise, you’re making some strange choices in who you want to see stick around.
It was a surprising Thursday night episode of “Idol” as we said goodbye to the first four semifinalists before their 15 minutes of fame were even up. Not surprisingly, three of the four were singers we didn’t get to see much of in Hollywood, therefore lacking the head start that can carry people past these first few weeks when fewer people are paying attention.
Janell Wheeler was the one early departure with no such excuse, as she was featured in the auditions and in Hollywood, though more for her personality than her voice. She was the most poised singer I’ve ever seen in accepting her early exit, with no tears, arguments or excuses.
Of the people standing with her in the back row, Haeley Vaughn and Katelyn Epperly were worse than she was on Tuesday, and Michelle Delamor was about the same. But as Ryan Seacrest said, America voted, and it sent the wine salesperson back to the vineyards, which is a shame. Given her outgoing personality, she could have lasted a long time if she’d had more of a chance.
Ashley Rodriguez, meanwhile, was angry at getting her own ticket home. Not that she didn’t have reason to be, since she was sitting in the same row as Lacey Brown and Didi Benami and most people would have tabbed one of them for elimination. But Brown must have had the sympathy vote from her Hollywood heartbreak in season eight, and I guess people just didn’t want to see Benami cry again, so Rodriguez got kicked off instead.
The guys were no less surprising. I mean, I get why Tyler Grady was eliminated, since the people who like the 1970s vibe that he brings to the table are 40 years too old for the most-desired “Idol” demographic, but it’s hard not to feel bad for him. They made him do his rehearsals in a bathrobe and slippers, for goodness sake, and then they tossed him off the show. That’s just rude.
Oh, and note to Alex Lambert, who was at center stage with Grady when he got the news he was staying: When the judges say you need to show some confidence, you should probably try to show a little more poise when you get the last-minute save and not look like you’re about to hyperventilate from the stress. Just a thought.
But America, the vote you really have to answer for is the one that sent Joe Munoz home and kept Tim Urban around. What did Munoz ever do to you? What exactly did Urban do better than Munoz, besides look sad when the judges criticized him?
In addition to the drama, we saw a couple of last season’s stars returning to the Kodak Theatre like college freshmen coming back to their high school. Man, I missed Allison Iraheta, one of the most down-to-earth and fun singers we’ve ever seen on “Idol,” even if the costume people made her sing in a bustle so pronounced she looked like she had sprouted wings. “Should I give the awkward interview right now?” she asked Ryan after performing her single “Scars” onstage. Loved it. But please Allison, more rock numbers and fewer ballads.
Season nine winner and Ford salesman Kris Allen sang “Let It Be” as a fundraiser for the Haiti relief effort. I hope it sells a zillion copies, since the cause is a great one. But isn’t “Let It Be” exactly what we don’t want to have happen there? Don’t we want something involving change and transformation instead?
Next week, we drop four more semifinalists. Just 15 more after that, and we’ll have our next “American Idol” champion.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/craigberman.