And there you have it. “American Idol” has chosen its final Top 24. For the very last time, we watched a parade of talent take the “agonizing walk,” as Ryan Seacrest called it, down the long gray carpet that cut through the cavernous black-walled space, some shuffling along in sensible shoes, some teetering precariously in high heels.
“Do not take off those shoes!” Jennifer Lopez barked at one uncomfortably shod contestant who tried to remove her stratospheric spikes before making the lengthy return trip back from the judging platform. “That’s right. Struggle back.” She hollered after her, and then muttered to herself, “Don’t ever take off your shoes. Not on camera, anyway.”
Words of wisdom from someone who should know. The moment underscored one thing: Top 24 results night, or whatever this stage of the competition is officially called, can be punishingly brutal.
During the course of the two-hour show, 27 singers would be sent home — many in tears — as 51 shrank to 24.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Saying farewell to the competition show that changed television
On the bright side, this particular trio of judges, unlike some of their crueler predecessors, is not terribly adept at the contestant fake out, in leading a hopeful young singer (some of them children) into thinking he or she would be sent home only to make a sneaky-fast reverse and welcome the singer into the top 24.
Oh, they tried, somberly intoning that they knew “how painful this can be” and warning that sometimes bad news would come a contestant’s way or that they were looking for something “rare” and “special.” But none could keep up the ruse for long — or very effectively — before blurting out that the singer had made it through to the next round.
And when they did deliver bad news, it was in the blow-softening disembodied way this panel relies on: “Unfortunately, it’s going to be a ‘no’ today.”
Those who received that carefully couched “no” included cowboy-hat-wearing Florida cutie Michelle Marie, redheaded beauty Colette Lush, ultra-lush-voiced Jessica Cabral and Miss Alaska Malie Delgado.
Two singers — Kosovo native Lindita, who had battled to lose weight ahead of the competition, and Kacye Haynes, who had fought a substance-abuse problem — got the bad news alongside contestants who received good news, which is always especially tough to watch.
But at the end of the day, 24 singers were left feeling pretty spiffy. They were:
- Stephany Negrete (she of the painful high heels)
- Powerfully voiced Shelbie Z, a former “The Voice” contestant
- Original-songwriting Ed Sheeran sound-alike (and also a onetime “Voice” contestant) MacKenzie Bourg
- Trent Harmon, who managed to make suffering from mono sound like no sweat whenever he performed (Ryan Seacrest ought to collect hazard pay for going in for the celebratory hug)
- Jenna Renae, who may look familiar to viewers of “America’s Got Talent”
- James VIII, a guitarist who hadn’t intended to audition for the show when he accompanied a friend to an audition
- Previous “Idol” season returnee Kory Wheeler
- Adam Lasher, another returning hopeful, whose uncle, it turns out, is Carlos Santana
- Unusual, living-off-the-grid mountain girl Jeneve Rose Mitchell
- Hard-gigging Memphis musician CJ Johnson
- Quirky teen Amelia Eisenhauer
- Adorable teen Lee Jean (his “Idol” BFF Sara Sturm didn’t make it through)
- Avalon Young, who enjoys dressing down
- Recovering boy-bander Dalton Rapattoni
- Manny Torres, who got the honor of being the last person to audition for “American Idol”
- Thomas Stringfellow, whose girlfriend just broke up with him
- Sonika Vaid, who has a beautiful tone but a performance style the judges thought needed improvement
- Olivia Rox, the pretty, determined daughter of jazz musician Warren Hill
- Emily Brooke, also pretty and determined, and a returning contestant from last season
- Gianna Isabella, whose mother is ’80s-famous pop singer (and J.Lo acquaintance) Brenda K. Starr
- Delightfully unusual Jenn Blosil
- Military offspring Tristan McIntosh
- Jordan Sasser, whose wife had unsuccessfully auditioned alongside him
- La'Porsha Renae, a single mom whose fabulous hair is outshone only by her sweet, smiley infant daughter
Next week, 12 perform — solos and duets with former “Idol” contestants, and five go home. Should be fun.