"American Idol," the land of prolonged, dramatic pauses and shattered dreams.
Wednesday night (Feb. 23), the singing competition announced the first 14 of its Top 24 finalists that will move on to the live shows starting next week. Along the way, we were treated with Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler telling nearly every contestant that it was a tough decision and that not everyone makes it through, followed sometimes by either Randy or Jennifer staring at the contestant awkwardly for waaaay too long before announcing their judgment.
Eight women and six men were put through to the live show. If you've been following the show casually enough to notice who the producers focus on most often, very few of the remaining singers will surprise you one bit.
Let us note that avoiding surprise is not necessarily a bad thing; rather, it means the judges are getting something right. While there is still no clear frontrunner on the show, the cast of singers within grasp of this honor isn't difficult to predict.
Take, for instance, Reed Grimm. The ebullient, effortless crooner, who sounds as though he absorbed Casey Abrams' life force (which apparently includes his vocal chords) and is using it for good rather than for evil, performed "It Don't Mean a Thing" on the drums. Yes, the drums again. His making the Top 24 comes as no surprise, but you can tell that the judges are growing tired of the schtick and would rather him wow them with his voice. Frankly, I'm inclined to agree.
Jen Hirsh and Creighton Fraker, pals during pretty much every group performance this season, whizzed through after strong performances... well, basically every time they hit the stage. During Creighton's bit, it was also noted that his biological father (who he first met just years ago) is the lead singer of thrash metal act Flotsam & Jetsam. The more you know.
Heejun-aholics be joyful, too -- Mr. Han is moving on. Though the judges basically flat-out said that he's not the best singer of the bunch, they wanted him around for his star potential. Heejun, who it was revealed works with special-needs children, was a little verklempt afterward, as he tends to be. After getting through, he was greeted outside by Phil Phillips, and the two embraced. BRO TIME. (Also, Heejun explained that "it is every -- EVERY -- Asian man's dream" to kiss J.Lo. Again, the more you know.)
Speaking of Phil -- shocker -- he is also through to the live show. So is Joshua Ledet, who took the news so well he just had to sing about it. Jessica Sanchez was also chosen on the heels of a superb final performance of Celine Dion's "The Prayer." The 16-year-old is just now being featured more prominently on "Idol," and it sounds like she may be here to stay for a spell.
Others gaining a ticket to the Top 24 include Elise Testone, Chelsea Sorrell, Baylie Brown, Erika Van Pelt, Brielle Von Hugel, Haley Johnsen and Colton Dixon.
In addition to the 14 happy folk, eight singers were told, after the all-important Randy Jackson stare-down, that it was the end of the road for them in the competition. Were any of the cuts surprising? Well, not exactly.
One might make the argument that Lauren Gray, a smoky-voiced songstress whose St. Louis audition had J.Lo getting all flustered, was a tough cut. Had this been three weeks ago, said argument might have held water. Alas, it's not about whether or not you can hit a home run with your audition -- you have to bring it each and every performance of Hollywood and Vegas weeks, and Lauren simply didn't.
Neco Starr, who we didn't see a ton of but was certainly noticeable if only for his fame-ready name, also got the axe. Again, Neco had a strong first audition, garnering comparisons to Bruno Mars (to which I may have contributed), but he never had a moment of greatness after.
And then there's Richie Law. Sometimes touted as a successor to Scotty McCreery's deep-voiced country throne, other times regarded as the season 11 contestant with the most grating personality, the 19-year-old's final performance was not enough to keep him onboard. He's just not ready yet. And if he did make the live show, he might've given Clint Jun Gamboa a run for his money on the loathe-entirely scale.
Blaire Seiber, Naomi Gillies, Caleb Johnson, Clayton Farhat and River St. James were also eliminated. What's that? You're wondering who most of them even are? So am I. Let's move on.
"Idol" left us hanging with Adam Brock, the 27-year-old who pleaded to be kept around despite a final performance the judges weren't particularly sold on (my thought? Homeboy could sing the phonebook and I'd listen intently). "I have to sing," he said. "It's where my joy comes from." To add to the suspense, Randy noted that the decision was not unanimous.
What was the decision, you may ask? I know about as much as you do -- cue the cliffhanger ending! Tune in tonight at 8 p.m. on FOX, where Adam's fate will be revealed, as will the remainder of the Top 24 (it also appears to promise a showdown between Bieberlicious buddies Eben Franckewitz and David Leathers Jr. for a spot on the show). Until then, check out the list of hopefuls who have for sure made it through below.
Top 12 Men (so far)
1. Joshua Ledet
2. Colton Dixon
3. Phil Phillips
4. Heejun Han
5. Creighton Fraker
6. Reed Grimm
Top 12 Women (so far)
1. Haley Johnsen
2. Jen Hirsh
3. Baylie Brown
4. Chelsea Sorrell
5. Jessica Sanchez
6. Erika Van Pelt
7. Brielle Von Hugel
8. Elise Testone