'American Idol' Recap: What Happens in Vegas - Rolling Stone
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‘American Idol’ Recap: What Happens in Vegas

Trimming down to the Top (top?) 40

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Contestants line up in front of the judges to learn their fate on 'American Idol.'

Michael Becker / FOX

Welcome back to American Idol. After the slash-and-burn eliminations in Hollywood, there are still 70 wannabe stars remaining. So what lies in store for the singers who are making their way in tour buses to Las Vegas? More brutal cuts, songs from the Fifties, gratuitous Elvis impersonators, and maybe a white tiger. I’m not sure about the white tiger, but I think Siegfried and Roy left some littering the road for teenagers to pick up as souvenirs.

The remaining contestants were ordered to Wonder Twin power activate in the form of a group of three or four to perform a song. Skyler Laine, the 17-year old country crooner, lost all her friends during the Great Hollywood Massacre of ’12 and winds up in a group with skunkhead Colton Dixon, Cari Quoyser and some guy named Chase, who may have just wandered in off the street. Skyler struggles during rehearsals, but it’s Cari who ends up going home, promising to take only good memories and her really funny facial expressions home with her. Ryan Seacrest promises others will be joining her in disgrace soon enough.

Next to hit the stage are the cast of the Kids Incorporated reboot, which may not be in the works yet, but will be as soon as some wily producer catches on to the charms of David Leathers Jr., Jeremy Rosado, Ariel Sprague and Gabi Carruba. Wait what happened to Eben? Bring Eben back! They need his dimples if they want to succeed on ABC Family. The kids sing “Rockin’ Robin” admirably, considering it is older than any of their parents. Randy Jackson thinks the performance is hot, which means they all make it to the next round.

The next group looks positively geriatric in comparison to the kids, but that’s no mean feat. I have socks older than Eben. Adam Brock accompanies their performance of “Great Balls of Fire” on the piano, leaving the choreographed dancing to Erika Van Pelt, wackadoodle Angie Zeiderman, who is surprisingly still in the competition, and Shelby Tweten, who is 17 and thus too old to play Myra to Adam’s Jerry Lee Lewis. The performance is solid and everyone makes the cut. Where are the brutal cuts that Ryan promised? I was told there would be blood!

Colton’s sister, a.k.a. Schyler Dixon, Brielle “Not A Stage Mom” Von Hugel, and some girl they don’t even bother introducing do a Forties rendition of “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.” With so many adorable girls on stage, obviously Steven Tyler has to chime in with some vaguely inappropriate comments. Shockingly, the girl they didn’t introduce is out. So are Wayne Wilson, Stephanie Renne and Tina Torres, whoever they are. These eliminations are ridiculous. I’ve had more brutal paper cuts!

Reed “Boop Boop Deedoop” Grimm‘s bebopping is contagious (it’s the true Idol plague), and Eben Franckewitz, Elise Testone and Haley Johnson have been infected. The judges give their shooby doop performance a standing ovation – clearly they too have been infected with the bug. All the performers go through. Next on stage are the unlikely pairing of gentle giant Jermaine Jones and Richie Law, the Talking Cowboy Hat, who seems to have no compunction about ticking off a giant. After a serious chiding by vocal coach Debra Byrd the duet sings a passable rendition of “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” that gets them through as well. OK, it was more than passable. Jennifer Lopez may have cooed. Also advancing? Hallie Day, Baylie Brown and Chelsea Sorrell, whoever she is. Speaking of people we’ve never heard of, Jessica Sanchez, Candice Glover and Deandre Brackensick funk up a Buddy Holly song. The judges like it and they go through as well. Where are the cuts? I am starting to suspect that Ryan Seacrest is a dirty, dirty liar.

Ryan (whose pants are strangely not on fire) and Randy finally clue us in on the big twist they’ve been teasing all night. There are 10 groups performing tomorrow. If some of them do a better job than the first-day performers, the judges will go back and cut performers who thought they were safe. Vicious! I like it.

It’s finally Day Two, and the first group to perform sing Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock” (Elvis sighting!) and deliver a performance that warrants actual musical criticism from the judges. The incredibly forgettable Clayton Farhat, Adam Lee Decker and Scott Dangerfield are in, while Curtis Gray is out. Following in their (who was that again?) footsteps are a group of professional singers who didn’t feel they needed to rehearse. These future MENSA members include Courtney Williams, Britnee Kellogg and Jessica Philips singing “You Keep Me Hanging On.” The judges rightly tell the group it seems like they didn’t, you know, practice. Then they kick Jessica out and leave the other two. Joshua Ledet and Shannon Magrane are also still in the running to be America’s Next Top Idol.

Peggi Blu, the vocal coach, is about to kill Lauren Gray, because there is no crying in singing, which is not something she says to, say, Pavarotti. Peggi’s yelling pays off, though, because Lauren makes it through while Mathenee Treco is out. He should have been out yesterday with the rest of his sad-sack group, so he shouldn’t complain, just pick up his souvenir white tiger on the way out.

Heejun Han is rightly scared of Peggi Blu but she loves him, as well as Neco Starr, Jairon Jackson and Phil Phillips. They deliver a stellar performance that the judges insist on fake deliberating over and dragging out until they all go through. The final group (finally!) is a nice barbershop quartet featuring Creighton Fraker, Aaron Marcellus, Nick Boddington and Jen Hirsh. Jen steals the show and Nick is out, because he was the least memorable and someone has to go, apparently.

The performances are over, but the drama is just beginning. Or so Ryan promises. But as we all know, he’s a lying liar who lies. The contestants file on stage and the judges are under strict orders to cut them down to a Top 40. There are lots of tears as the judges line them up for humiliation. Out first is Gabi Carrubba, which is a surprise. She is extremely shocked and embarrassed and this is just another reminder of how much Idol is not The Voice. Also out is Colton’s not-quite-as-talented little sister Schyler. Colton cries, while Schyler promises to exact her revenge next year. Kookie Angie, Candice Glover, Jairon Jackson, Brittnee Kellog and 21 other people are all cut from the Idol ranks. Most surprising elimination? The much touted and featured-in-every-promo Johnny Keyser is out. In total they cut 27 people, leaving 42 to vie for the title. It’s not quite a massacre, but it’ll do.

Last episode: Still in Hollywood Hell


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