This week, "American Idol" is set to reduce the Top 14 (chosen by the judges) to the Top 10 (only partly chosen by the judges). For reasons that are not entirely clear (at least, to me) they're calling it the "Wildcard" round. Really, Wednesday's show was all quite tame, if a bit hurried.
While the rest of us were still absorbing quirky contestant Jenn Blosil's bedazzled eyebrows, the judges immediately put their four favorite singers – Dalton Rapattoni, Olivia Rox, Trent Harmon and La'Porsha Renae -- straight through to the Top 10, giving them "fast passes," in the show's vernacular.
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That left the 10 remaining contestants to compete for the remaining six spots. Each of them was subsequently summoned forth to sing – a snippet of a song they had previously sung on the show – and was given a very brief critique, usually by only one of the judges.
Manny Torres showed off his energy and enthusiasm with Stevie Wonder's "Master Blaster," which Keith Urban called a "great way to open the show," even though it may not have been "the right song" for Torres.
Pop-star offspring Gianna Isabella put some power behind Annie Lennox's "I Put a Spell on You," prompting Jennifer Lopez to declare that the teen was "coming into [her] own," that she showed the "most potential for growth" and that she believed she belonged in the Top 10.
Designated heartthrob Thomas Stringfellow ("T. String," Seacrest has cutely dubbed him) finally pushed his squeak-at-the-end-of-the-phrase thing so far Harry Connick Jr., couldn't help mention it. "There's a difference between an idiosyncrasy that you have that makes you unique and a bad habit," Connick chided, telling them he simply had to stop it with the "annoying" voice-crack routine. "It's too much all the time unless you're the lead singer for the Cranberries," Connick said, drawing a response from the crowd.
Tristan McIntosh said that, as a young woman of color, she wants to bring "diversity" to country music, and then tried to make it happen with Rascal Flatts' "What Hurts the Most." "Beautiful song choice," Urban said, adding that he felt McIntosh had shown a side of herself we hadn't seen before.
Looking lushly coiffed and tastefully made up, Avalon Young charmed her way through Chris Brown's "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)," a performance Lopez called "smooth like butter."
Jenn Blosil put her vocal color and character, as well as those eyebrows, on vibrant display with Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors." Connick dug it big-time, calling it "a flawless lyric delivery."
Lee Jean didn't stake any fresh ground with his rendition of Ed Sheeran's "Make It Rain," but he did offer a reminder of his lithe vocal style. Urban detected some "nerves," but complimented the young singer on his "chill," "laid-back" vibe, which he compared to "walking on a shelly Eastern beach."
Sonika Vaid easily mastered Celine Dion's "I Surrender," and earned a standing ovation from Lopez. "I don't think I ever got goosies on my face" before, Lopez told her. "The way your voice sits in the music, it's so out of this world."
Jeneve Rose Mitchell continued to showcase her unusual approach to music with her offbeat take on Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." Connick admitted that, although Mitchell's talent may not be to everyone's taste, he found it "compelling" and "interesting." "It may take some people a little bit to catch up to it," he told the fresh-faced 15-year-old, "but you are a very talented young lady."
MacKenzie Bourg's performance of his own song, "Roses," proved much more accessible, and probably more widely appealing. It certainly appealed to Urban, who gushed that it was "a great song" and that Bourg had sung "great" and "played great."
On Thursday, we'll get a visit from Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson – and find out which singers will be the last ever "American Idol" Top 10. If I had to pick six of these 10 singers to keep around, I'd choose (in no special order) Blosil, Vaid, Bourg, Young, Isabella and Jean and send home Torres, Stringfellow, McIntosh and Mitchell. (I could maybe see swapping McIntosh for Isabella.)
America will make its preferences known soon enough.