American Idol: First 7 of Top 24 Named

Didi-Benami_175Every once in a while, a show needs to change things up to keep it fresh, and that’s exactly what American Idol did last night. For the first time in their nine seasons, they gave us a glimpse of who some of the Top 24 contestants are.

The night started off with 71 singers. By the end of tomorrow night’s show, we’ll be down to the Final 24. But first, we have to knock out the first group and that involves separating them into the three rooms and sending one of the rooms home.

But before we do that, we get to see an excruciating hour as many of the contestants’ perform one last time in front of the judges. Of course some made a great last impression, while others made a damaging last impression. Depending on how it was edited, we were left to guess which was which and hope we were accurate.

And here’s a question: Just how many times do we have to hear Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror, anyway? Why do I have the feeling this isn’t the last we’ve heard this one? I’m sure we’re going to hear Black and White a few times this season, too. Not to mention Human Nature.

Room #1 includes Casey James (who Kara seems to be deeply infatuated with), and Todrick Hall, Michael Lynche, and Thaddeus Johnson, all of whom have great voices. Room #2 includes Brian Walker, the cop from Atlanta who had a great first audition, Mary Powers, the over-confident mother with the great voice, and Jermaine Purifoy, who strangely picked Brick House for his final performance.

Room #3 has Shelby Dressel and Ashley Rodriguez, who has some powerful pipes, as well as 16 year old Aaron Kelly who messed up his lyrics not once, but twice. And the very, very good Didi Benami who blew away her first audition with a very difficult version of the Beatles’ Hey Jude.

Rooms #1 and 3 get to stay. Room #2 goes home. . No surprise at all, with the sole exception of young Aaron Kelly. There may have been a couple of others who I may have kept, or a couple of others who I may have let fly, but overall, it’s hard to argue with most of the selections so far.

There are two others contestants of note who made it to the next round. The first is Siobhan Magnus, the 17 year old who was first shown being told by Ellen DeGeneres that she was too old for her age and to just have fun. The next time we saw her she clearly took Ellen’s advice as she looked more her age belting out a superb rendition of Stevie Wonder’s Living for the City.

The other contestant worth mentioning is Crystal Bowersox. Keep your eye on this girl. She has the potential to go far in this competition. She can sing. Her final performance last night was Sheryl Crow’s If It Makes You Happy, which she performed while playing a harmonica and an acoustic guitar simultaneously. Don’t be surprised if she makes it to the Top 10, or better. A bit of an image change would not hurt this girl at all and would help her go a lot further once the general public gets involved in her future.

So far, neither have been named to the Top 24, but my hope is that by tonight, they both will be and I’ll look like I know what I’m talking about.

So now they’re down to 46. They have to cut 22 more. We saw a couple of interesting twists in last night’s show. The first one was that we got to see a few of the Top 24, rather than having to wait to see them all at the same time as in seasons past. The second change was that there was no “elevator of death”. No room where the contestants were all sitting around, waiting for their fate while their peers were sent up several floors in an elevator to talk to the powers that be, only to come back down either in tears or rapture.

Instead, the contestants walked into a room, quite civilly, sat down in a very comfortable looking chair across from the judges, and were told their fate: Final 24 or time to go home.

Michael Lynche is the first to sit in front of the judges, and he’s the first to be told that he’s going through to the Final 24. Easy choice. He’s very good. Very nice version of Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours helped seal the deal for him. Quite unexpected from a guy his size.

Next up, Didi Benami. They go over her sad backstory of how she lost her best friend in a car accident and how she’s there for her and she’s beside her always. Very poignant and gives the shot of her singing Sara McLaughlin’s Angel a little more meaning. Simon tells her that she’s been inconsistent. I think he’s nuts. She’s been nothing but consistently good. She reminds me a lot of last season’s Megan Joy, but not as spunky and not quite as good. I just wish she’d stop blubbering. It’s going to get old, fast. Oh, she’s in the Top 24, by the way.

The next girl, Katelyn Epperly, also had a sad backstory. In her case no one died, but her parents are in the middle of a divorce. Thankfully there are no tears. Simon clearly likes her right from the beginning so it’s no shock that she makes it through to the next round. She’s pretty good, and very good looking, but my bet is that she won’t last long. There are better female singers in this competition.

Unfortunately, the next girl, Shelby Dressel, doesn’t make it to the next round. Randy tells Shelby that she had some high points and low points, but she just wasn’t good enough. She may have had a shot if she picked something other than Boston’s More Than a Feeling for her final number. Tough song, and in this case, as in many others, it was about song choice. She took it well and with dignity.

Casey James, the guitar slinger from Texas who better watch out for Kara, easily made it to the next round, and in truth, he deserved to go.

Next in was 16 year old Aaron Kelly. The judges talked to him about what a nice kid he is, and then told him that he was going to the Final 24. What’s interesting about this choice is that somewhere I seem to remember that it was an Idol cardinal sin to forget the words during Hollywood Week, and here is young Mr. Kelly getting sent on to the next round after forgetting the words not once, but twice. Is this Idol’s producers’ version of No Child Left Behind??? I find it equally as disturbing.

Lee DeWyze is next in the big chair. We really didn’t see much of Lee up until last week, but what we saw was pretty good. I’m not sure it was good enough to go through to the Final 24, but the judges thought so, and put him through. Although, Kara did tell him that they were in disagreement “until about 5 minutes ago”, so that tells me that they weren’t exactly sure either.

Todrick Hall sits across from the judges next. We are reminded that he was in The Color Purple with Season Two winner Fantasia Barrino. He’s hoping to follow her to greatness. He stares at the judges…they stare at him…Kara says, “Yes.” He says, “That’s it?” It was about the quickest judges’ interview we’ve ever seen.

Jessica Furney could have taken some lessons in dignity from the aforementioned Shelby. Rather than leaving with her pride intact, she decided to plead for her American Idol life. She said that she knew she could do it, she had it in her. She only failed because she lost her voice covering for her group during the group competition. It really wasn’t a pretty site.

I was thinking, damn, girl. Enough already. Leave while you still have a shred of dignity left. She finally asked the all important question: Why? Simon told her that she just wasn’t as good as the others. Finally, she got it and left.

Tonight we will find out who the next 17 are. We still need 10 girls and 7 guys. Come back right here to for a recap of tonight’s show and a look at the rest of the Top 24.