As if the waiting for the final word from American Idol judges, Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick, Jr., and Keith Urban, wasn’t torture enough, the tagline for the process of pruning from the 77 surviving from Hollywood week to Season 13s Top 30 was deemed “final judgment.” After the strongest auditions ever, the hopefuls who headed to Hollywood with stars in their eyes had to hear either the hardest or the most welcome words in their young lives. Who proved they had the artistic fortitude to sustain through the pain?
The final test for the standing talents was to literally sing for survival once more before the panel, and Harry Connick, Jr. pronounced that he had no patience for those who pleaded sickness was slighting performances, noting that the paying public who buy tickets don’t need to know how bad any performer feels-they pay to see the best show. Harry invoked a “no whining” ordinance even before we the verdicts came. Sometimes, second thoughts changed chances into goodbyes, while much of the cream of talent kept rising. It was a night for many to define themselves with original songs, and most stuck to those guns. Emily Piriz added piano to her version of Grace Potter’s “Stars,” and the panel couldn’t stop praising her. Her walk across the wood floor of the ballroom was worth it. She got the first pick of the night for the 15 girls. Spencer Lloyd always had the smile and the look of the Idol type, but what about talent? His original song sounded like “an advertisement” to Harry, and did nothing to improve his chances, but considering the whole of his performances, he made it as one of the 15 guys going forward. Jillian Jensen was another who eloquently spoke about her desire for artistic staying power over winning a season, and she won a top spot, too. Madelyn Patterson put for a bluesy, peasant girl performance, but this time, Keith had to tell her that it was the end of the road. Kudos to her for offering such comfort and smiles to so many friends left behind. Cuts came for Labryant Crew, Michael Simeon, and Sabrina Lentini, too. Past contender, George Lovett was determined to stay around this time, and he shined with “I Won’t Give Up on Love,” making sure he’ll be seen for a few more weeks. Teenager, Sam Woolf stuck by his original song, too, of his heartfelt and palpable pain around his mother’s leaving. He had the panel visibly moved in unison, and he has a spot at the top, his grandfather cheering him on along the way. Keri Lynn Roche called on Etta James again for her performance, but didn’t stand out quite enough this time.
The little tuba player from Detroit with the big voice, Malaya Washington, did it again with “I Believe,” despite a rough start in which she was ordered off stage by Harry until she and the band could get on the same key. She came back soaring, and she reminded Harry how to say her name, and left him saying he was glad, because her name will be around in music for a while. Maurice Townsend, 26-year-old father of four and worship leader, came ready to make that “connection” with a daring turn on “Wrecking Ball,” so he’ll be around at the top, too. Randy Jackson made his first public appearance as mentor this season, and Keith and Harry couldn’t resist doing a little Cajun-infused “Fire Water” for him. Fortunately, Bria Anai was much better prepared for her moment– she was brilliant, in fact taking “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” to places where even seasoned singers never dare, leaving no wonder why she deserved a place. Jessica Meuse and Jesse Roach were called into the panel together, and told they would duel then and there in song for a single spot. Muese really had trouble during group week, always sparring that she didn’t need to be told what to do, and Roach had shown the panel she had something, too. Jessica sang “Simple Man” and Jesse chose the KT Oslin. It was Jessica chosen for the spot, and let’s hope her temperament can stand the test. Dexter Roberts has been the “real deal” from the get-go, and he still is for the panel, putting himself among the top 15 males. Jennifer Lopez promised a pair of shoes to Emmanuel Zidor for a “walkoff,” and he’ll need them, because he sang his shoes off with “I’m Goin’ Down,” and to the top place along with J-Lo’s footwear! MK Nobilette came on like a “quiet storm” with her performance, ever so serious, and she openly discussed being gay with the panel, and always facing haters, but insisting “the world is changing.” Her world is changing big time, because she’s going on, too. Nurse, Kristen O’Connor earned a spot, calling the nerves “nuts.” Jordan Brisbane had his 16th birthday the day of his verdict, and got the best present of all–his Top 30 place. Casey McQuillen and Nica Nishae didn’t get good news, and it brought Jennifer Lopez to tears. Leah Guerrero and Andrina Brogden were called together for their news, and only Andrina moves on.
Austin’s Malcolm Allen laid it all out on his own rendition of “I’m Going Down,” and the panel was down with giving him a Top 30 place. Alex Preston will keep going on, as well, and hopes that he will be a voice for “writing your own music.” The last call of the night came for another pair of friends from Alabama, who actually live just 40 miles from each other, C J Harris and Casey Thrasher. Both these young men were part of the traveling auditions but came to Salt Lake City. Both are young fathers, for whom this opportunity would be life-transforming. Casey sang Lonestar as his selection, and CJ stayed true to the blues. The show ended in a gut-twisting cliffhanger, true to American Idol form, waiting to hear which of these kindred spirits would take a spot. The truth will be told on Thursday, as final trims to make the Top 30 conclude.
The competition airs Wednesday and Thursday on FOX.