'American Idol' Recap: And Then There Were Fifty - Rolling Stone
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‘American Idol’ Recap: And Then There Were Fifty

The wheat and the chaff are actually starting to part ways

Contestants at the Hollywood rounds of 'American Idol', February 17, 2011.

Michael Becker / FOX

How far we’ve come! From the oddly-specific number of 327 singers to the also not round 168, we finally reached a logical base in Hollywood last night: 100 dream workers in the dream factory. It didn’t seem right to cleave them in half so soon, but the Idol train is at full speed now, no room for hangers-on.

The stars first: Casey Abrams strummed on an upright bass and worked himself into “Georgia On My Mind” in a way that made it hard to figure out what song he was singing at all. He made it his own, as they say. Then a soft-featured man who is a spa concierge by day did damage to “God Bless The Child.” He ran out of the auditorium and straight into the arms of two waiting women who held him, while he cried like he was being healed. Lauren Alaina delivered a very Idol version of “Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing,” and Jacee Badeaux drew out a classy laud from J. Lo: “It’s my pleasure to listen to you.” Can we all agree she’s making a good case for giving “Monster-in-Law” another chance the next time it plays on TBS? Haley Reinhart growlsang and it was nearly impossible to make out the words, but it was a very melodic growl. All the while she knew “her future hangs in the balance,” according to Seacrest. Did she really? If so, please set her straight, Mr. and Mrs. Reinhart. A future of not being America’s next Idol is still a future, as 68 recent entrants can attest. Clint Jun Gamboa wore yet another pair of glasses, this time the same ones as the Monopoly man. For some reason the only remaining Gutierrez boy went the way of his brother. What happened to them?

The unhinged next: Last night Ryan called Ashley Sullivan “the emotional time bomb,” with a weariness that seemed like maybe he was tired of it too. It was telling, his article. The emotional time bomb. Because there’s only one and we’ve all seen her sitting there, ticking. Ashley couldn’t even get through her pick, Michael Buble’s “Everything.” It’s the song she sings to her soldier boyfriend and so she thought it was a clever choice, but it was actually too meaningful for her to manage with the stakes so high. Fair enough. But the stakes are only getting higher. And yet she made it through. What happened to the kinder, gentler Idol of twenty eleven? No need for a teenager who loves Liza Minnelli to fall apart on television. The country is in a recession, folks. Enough has fallen apart.

By the end they were split into four rooms. There were two loser rooms and two winner rooms, and we never actually saw the second loser room get told the bad news. Probably they figured it out when the lucky bastards in the two winning rooms ran out to cheer about their balanced futures. Anyway it couldn’t have been too much of a surprise. If you looked around and saw Lauren Alaina, Jacee Badeaux, Ashley Sullivan (sigh), or any of the other little monkeys we’ve come to know and love in your room, that’s it. Case closed, you’re in. And so it went, and they ran out and hugged each other – Casey Abrams and Julie Zorrilla very tenderly – while the losers sat in their rooms and contemplated a future in which they are not Idols. It’s strange to imagine the herd narrowing down any more than it did last night, but there’s no stopping what’s begun.

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