'American Idol' Recap: The 'Zoanette Era' Begins

This "American Idol" contestant continuously defies expectations by putting in stranger performances each effort. Her vocals are on the border between kind of great and exceedingly over-the-top. She played a song that she made up on the spot about the judges, playing drums proficiently in the process. She is... the most interesting "Idol" contestant in the world.

Apparently we're within what's being called the "Zoanette Era" at the moment.

At least, that's what Nicki Minaj is calling it. And with good reason -- from her audition to her recent solo performance, Zoanette Johnson has been one of "Idol's" craziest.

Her performance Thursday, during which she barked orders at the backing band while pounding away at the drums, was by no means a commanding vocal showcase, but it overshadowed a plethora of other good, sometimes great efforts. I guess during the Zoanette Era, that's just what happens.

Take Angela Miller, for instance. She also started off the show with an original tune. Her "You Set Me Free" stunned the judges, garnering a standing ovation after its radio-friendly sound and Miller's radio-ready vocal. But in the Zoanette Era, it takes second.

Candice Glover, Janelle Arthur and Shubha Vedula put in masterful performances that solidified their standing in the top 20 girls, Glover with a commanding rendition of Alicia Keys's "Girl on Fire." And yet, although Glover has been one of the show's most noticeable performers in recent weeks, folks will barely remember her "Girl on Fire." But they will remember Zoanette's... well, whatever that was called.

Kez Ban went home. Her original song wasn't enough, nor were her vocals. But her elimination, especially considering the sheer amount she was featured last episode, paled in comparison. She sang, she was sent home, no more Kez Ban.

Let me be clear: I'm not mad about this era. I for one welcome our drum-slaying overlord. I do, however, wonder if the show will focus on Johnson's quirky, near-train-wreck performances while avoiding singers like Jett Hermano and Juliana Chahayed, who we simply have not seen enough of. Perhaps there's a reason for that. And perhaps they're merely throwing the focus at what's going to get people talking. I suppose the latter's working, as I've already mentioned Zoanette like 100 times in this recap.

Prior to the reveal of the top 20 girls, a few were sent home aside from Kez Ban that, in most cases, weren't too prevalent in the competition, so their eliminations weren't incredibly shocking. Among these: Kiara Lanier, Lauren Mink, Briana Oakley, Ashlee Feliciano, Sarina-Joi Crowe, Ariel Sprague, Holly Miller and Stephanie Schimel.

But the girls weren't the only ones with cuts to be made. After teasing the moment a week ago, the 28 remaining boys in the competition were finally whittled down to 20. Say goodbye to Peter Garrett, Marvin Calderon, Adam Sanders, Kenny Harrison, Devin Jones, Tony Foster, Will White and David "Mr. Steal Your Girl" Leathers. Before you ask: yes, I am incredibly salty about the latter going home.

"Idol" didn't give a full list of the top 40 moving on, so next week could promise new contestants that haven't been featured yet.

Speaking of next week: Vegas, baby! The contestants head to Las Vegas, where dreams are broken and the shrimp cocktails flow freely. Backed by a studio audience, it's going to be similar to the live shows in Los Angeles.

Other notes:

  • Before her performance, Kez Ban went shopping at the mall with Zoanette Johnson. Can that be a show? I'm serious. I would watch it forever.
  • Rachel Hale beat out Stephanie Schimel for the final spot in the top 20. I love having her in the competition; she always has a smile on her face. Well, except when she's close to elimination. But still!
  • Josh Holiday tore his pants while singing to stay in the competition (see: #singforyourlife). I'd make a joke, but Keith Urban already covered the "tore it up" base.
  • "That's the voice." NO NICKI, YOU MUSTN'T SPEAK ITS NAME!

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