The "American Idol" voters got loud and sent Emily Piriz home on Thursday, turning the top 12 into the top 11.
After the 18-year-old from Orlando, Fla., had done her best impression of Jennifer Lopez on "Let's Get Loud," a song lacking in emotional resonance and vocal firepower, on Wednesday night's performance show, Harry Connick Jr. had unfavorably compared Piriz to a passenger on a "big locomotive train," rather than its driver. On Thursday, the "Idol" train pulled out of the station and left Piriz on the platform, clutching a battered satchel full of unrealized dreams.
Her ouster seemed a bit premature. Joined in the bottom three by M.K. Nobilette and (more surprisingly) Jena Irene, Piriz had performed better overall than several contestants still standing. But you can't blame Lopez. She'd praised Piriz after the teen had performed her song, and even appeared to have wanted to use the judges' save to keep her around.
"No!" the former Fly Girl howled when Ryan Seacrest asked if the judges had come to a decision about whether to use their one save of the season on Piriz.
"It's not unanimous," she said, causing Connick to pause before he doled out a dose of his complete honesty.
"Tonight we have decided not to use the save," Connick declared.
So long, Emily. We wish you the best.
But back to Connick and his honesty for a minute. On Thursday night's show, judge-turned-bobblehead -- er, mentor -- Randy Jackson grilled the dude sitting in his old seat on the tough love he'd given the contestants the previous night. Did Connick have "indigestion" or what? Jackson wondered.
Connick looked stricken, saddened. He thought the contestants were "immensely talented," he explained, but he wasn't hired as a mentor, like Jackson -- and if he were he'd be working with them tirelessly. He was hired (take that, Randy) as a judge.
"I have a very short time to be very specific with information that I think will help you grow," Connick said, and he just didn't see the talent on display the previous night.
"If there's something to say, we have to say it," Lopez said, rushing to her fellow judge's defense.
The producers even enlisted Connick's own idol, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, to tease him via a pre-taped video. Connick seemed tickled, but took the opportunity to score a point.
"I promise you this, if Drew throws a bad pass, his coach, Sean Payton, isn't going to come up to him and tell him how handsome he is," Connick told the contestants. "He's going to say, 'Look, we got to make this work. What can we do to get you better?' He's already Drew Brees. You guys are already champs. Just trust me. I love you. I do."
It was a touchdown speech, but Connick shouldn't have had to play defense. Maybe Jackson's just bummed that the guy who took his place at the judges' table actually has something to say and doesn't have to rely on repeating meaningless catchphrases ad nauseam.
I don't always agree with Connick's critiques, but he's got a right -- and as a judge, a responsibility -- to express them, yo, you feel me, dawg? I think he's in it to win it.
Do you think Connick is too harsh? Are you sad to see Piriz go? And how great was it to see Phillip Phillips back on "Idol" doing his mad stomp and making his crazy faces?
Here's the video:
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