'American Idol' Recap: And Then There Were 40 - Rolling Stone
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‘American Idol’ Recap: And Then There Were 40

Contestant ranks thinned in preparation for Vegas Week

It was the final day of Hollywood Week and there were 47 women angling for a spot in the top 20. In order to move from Hollywood to Las Vegas, the women had to sing for their lives (or at least for that part of their lives they wanted to spend on reality television). Contestants were given the choice of singing a song from a list of Idol-approved numbers or performing a royalty-free original song. Opting for the latter was 18-year-old Angela Miller, who easily earned herself a spot in the top 20 by sitting down at the piano and performing an original number called “You Set Me Free.” 

‘American Idol’: Rolling Stone’s Complete Coverage

Within the first few notes, Randy Jackson and Keith Urban were slackjawed and staring at the previously forgettable teen becoming a star in front of them. As the song ended, Randy muttered, “That was no joke!” as all four judges got on their feet to applaud. Nicki Minaj delivered the verdict straight up, “Before today you weren’t in our top. You just changed that. It was amazing.” Keith wanted to buy the song on iTunes right then and there. The producers should have ended the episode with that, because no other performance came close to matching the wow factor. Other standout acts included Candice Glover, who managed to out-sing Alicia Keyes with her rendition of “Girl on Fire,” and Janelle Arthur, a sweet country crooner, although when Nicki noted that she loved that Janelle “keeps it subtle,” it wasn’t clear whether it was a compliment. 

After the remaining 47 women were whittled down to 20, the men (remember them?) returned from whatever holding room they were stashed in, to be subjected to further humiliation. They were herded out on stage en masse and a few were forced to engage in a sing off. Eight men were mercilessly cut, including Adam Sanders, whose version of Celine Dion’s “Taking Chances” sounded like Freddie Mercury ate a hyena. 

Here are a few other highlights from last night’s final installment of American Idol‘s Hollywood Week: 

Zoanette Johnson is the rare Idol contestant who is simultaneously talented and also a walking spectacle. She opted to sing a song she wrote on stage, accompanying herself on a drum, Sheila E.-style. The performance was so strange that it hardly mattered when she stopped playing to tell the band to slow it down and to find her drum stick. Mariah Carey was certain that “people will be looking at that performance for years to come.” Nicki added, “I am bowing down at your feet today,” but Nicki says that to all the crazy ones.  

Zoanette took Kez Ban to the mall before her performance. But the judges weren’t looking at her outfit so much as busily making sideways glances at each other during Ban’s dramatic performance of an original tune. Nicki diplomatically saluted Ban’s artistry before sending her home. 

Orphan Kree Harris sang “Stars” by Grace Potter, giving Keith goose bumps in the process. “Your voice is one of my favorites in the entire competition,” Keith said. More impressive, the country-inflected singer made Mariah smile. She felt there was something genuine in Kree’s voice, but Nicki one-upped her: “You became a star in front of me.” Mariah woke up enough to get the last word though, adding, “That’s what I meant by genuine!” and shooting Nicki a dirty look. 

Rachel Hale, the happiest contestant on Idol, was called out for an impromptu face off against Stephanie Schimmel for one of the remaining spots in the Top 20 after both failed to impress the judges during their earlier solo songs. Rachel delivered a straightforward rendition of “Undone,” while Stephanie over-sang Phillip Phillips’ Idol coronation anthem “Home.” Rachel won the spot, cementing a strong country presence in the 2013 Idol top 20. 

Most Mariah Moment: When Shubha Vedula sang a Mariah song, Mariah deemed it “really special for her.” It doesn’t get much more diva than that. 

Best Reason to Come Back Next Week: It’s Vegas Week and you never know when Elvis Presley might stop faking his death in order to up Idol ratings. 

Previously: Hollywood Week Begins for Women


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