‘American Idol’ Recap: Seven In, 17 To Go

I imagine Tuesday night’s (February 16) “American Idol” was a lot like watching Brangelina’s vacation videos. On one hand, you think you should care because it’s Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and their 14 children on a banana boat. But on the other hand, if you’ve seen one family vacation home video, you’ve seen them all. Nine seasons in, the final Hollyweek episodes are as old hat and predictable as an ensemble romantic comedy.

There just wasn’t enough drama to sustain an hour of “Idol,” let alone two. Yep, “Idol” decided last week that the Olympics were on and holy crap we need to do something desperate fans deserved an extra bonus hour of Hollywood week to help us get to know the Top 24 better.

Ironically, out of the seven names they revealed a day earlier than usual, only one was that of a contestant we hadn’t seen that much of before. But did “Idol” take time to teach us anything about Lee Dewyze (or DeWyze, depending on whether you believe his website or “Idol” producers)? Hell no. We got to hear a few seconds of his weak Hollyweek (Hollyweak?) “You Found Me” and then Kara babbled about him not having any confidence. Way to give the guy a fighting chance, Simon Fuller!

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Mimicking Tuesday night’s pointless “Memento”-like structure, let’s arbitrarily rewind and go to the beginning.

The opening chunk of the episode gave us too-brief snippets of the remaining 71 contestants performing with the band one last time. Most sang that Jason Mraz song we’re all sick of, including eventual Top 24er Todrick Hall, who had the good sense to turn the twee tune into a Maxwell-style dirty slow jam. Forget a ukulele — that dude would uke your lele!

A few contestants tried that Colbie Caillat song about tickled noses we’re all sick of. Like Casey James, the now infamous shirtless dude who finally proved to me that he has something to offer other than chest hair and a ponytail thanks to a husky rock interpretation of the tune. (In honor of the needlessly complicated editing, cut to: Casey James, making it to the Top 24. Congrats, man. Hope you’re prepared for drooling ladies tweeting unspeakable things at you and your family members in the coming months. It will happen.)

And lastly, an insane amount of people tackled Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” — most notably church singer Jermaine Sellers, who pulled a diva move by blaming the band for messing up the arrangement. (How Christian of him!) The band also goofed when playing “Bubbly” for momma’s boy Thaddeus “I’m Not ‘Bubbly’” Johnson instead of the MJ tune. Thaddeus should have probably stuck with “Bubbly” instead, as his “Man in the Mirror” was so broken he’s going to have seven years of bad luck.

A few other early standouts had their 15 seconds of fame. Crystal Bowersox proved she could play the harmonica (but not brush her teeth) on a soulful but pitchy “If It Makes You Happy,” and Siobhan Magnus‘ “Living for the City” had a controlled rocker yowl that reminded me of Adam Lambert. I think my two fave final Hollyweek performances were the little I heard from Tasha Layton and Tori Kelly. Tasha’s acoustic Aimee Mann-y take on Coldplay’s “The Scientist” was compelling, and Tori’s reggae-influenced “Hot N Cold” looked as though it could have been as eye-opening and game-changing as Andrew Garcia‘s “Straight Up” was last week. If ever there was a reason for “Idol” producers to show us more Hollyweek performances, Tori and Tasha were it.

The second hour began the slow process of revealing a handful of singers we’ll all be nitpicking come next week’s semi-final performance shows. I can’t say I was surprised by many of the judge’s choices. 16-year-old Aaron “Countryleta” Kelly was a no-brainer, even if he messed up his lyrics twice during Hollyweek. Remember that whole “If you flub the words, you’re gone” speech? Oh, well forget it. Because clearly “Idol” has. I was happy to see emotional Didi Benami make the Top 24, although she needs to tread lightly, as her “dead friend” storyline is starting to smell a little like blogger punching bag Danny Gokey. Also, she’s not winning over any fans by smooching Kara’s Maxim-approved butt every chance she gets.

Friend of Fantasia (and colleague of Oprah’s!) Todrick Hall should be a fun addition to the show. Not only can the guy sing his face off, but he’s one of the few contestants to get a belly laugh out of me this season with his “Will your parents be happy to meet me? Do they know I’m black?” line of questioning with one of the show’s interchangeable blond girls.

The only confusing choice for me (for you for me, in Randyspeak) was Katelyn “My Parents Got Divorced” Epperly. She’s a pretty girl, but her shaky “Something to Talk About” was called out by new judge Ellen, and she followed up with a competent but forgettable “Bubbly.” (Ugh, that song again!) Katelyn will need a genius semi-final performance out of the gate if she wants to avoid becoming the next Alaina Whitaker or Kady Malloy. (Who? Exactly.)

The night’s most dramatic cut was Jessica Furney, the persistent bespectacled contestant who reacted to news that she was cut by delivering a jaw-dropping monologue that is destined to be performed by acting students everywhere. In fact, it was so epic in its desperation, I transcribed it in its entirety here:

“No please! Guys, I have so much. You have no idea. You have no idea. I haven’t had my voice, I know. I know I can do better. And, you guys have no idea. It sounds pathetic to beg up here. But, you guys, seriously, I have this in me. You have no idea what I can do. And I have tried to show it and I lost my voice on group day. Just, just, you have … The passion in me and the drive! It is unbelievable! Just please see that! I can do this! Do not send me home! I have it! I do! I have it. I’ve got it. You’ve got to see that. It’s in here. This is so important to me. Please! Please! I have got it! I have it. I have it in me. I have it. Just … ”

And for an advanced acting class, the instructor could add an Ellen DeGeneres character to the conversation:

Ellen: This is not the end of the road of your career.
Jessica: How do you know that? You don’t know that!

I may have agreed with the judges about Jessica’s voice (it wasn’t the best), but there’s no denying the girl’s a fighter. Maybe “Idol” should hire her as a producer?

What do you think of the Top 24 so far? Any names get dropped that you were rooting for? Has your favorite made the cut yet? Will Alex Lambert always wear sunglasses indoors? Did you wince when Seacrest told viewers that Angela Martin‘s confidence was “wavering” while she awaited her verdict? (Do you think it’s possible that her emotional state was because her mom went missing right before Hollywood Week? Nah, she was just wondering if her “American Boy” was good enough to get her through this year. That’s it!) Leave a comment below, and follow me on Twitter for more “Idol” plans.