Jimmy went after the judges and the Top 9 contestants, one of whom got the boot. Plus, Jessica Sanchez unveiled her new single.

By Grady Smith
Updated March 22, 2013 at 07:20 AM EDT
Idol Lazaro Arbos

Last night’s Idol opened with footage of Jimmy Iovine in the studio, struggling to hear a word Janelle Arthur was saying from the recording booth. He wasn’t happy about it.

“I don’t want to make you nervous,” Jimmy hissed at Jose, the bumbling audio engineer sitting beside him. “When I used to make records at A&M studios — I worked there for three years — I fired 110 assistants…. and that was because when I would sit down and the vocal was on, I couldn’t hear.” And then, after a beat of silence, “We understand each other?”

Jose certainly did. He fixed the problem and ultimately got a pass (I’m guessing because he was wearing Jimmy’s beloved Beats headphones), but the rest of the Idol crew couldn’t escape the Interscope boss man’s wrath last night. He unleashed an avalanche of honesty, or at the very least a carefully constructed response to every media critique of last night’s Lennon and McCartney episode. Either way, in the words of Steven Tyler, “It was beautiful, just beautiful.”

By the way, in case you hadn’t already noticed by this recap’s lack of the term “dungeness crab,” I’m not Annie Barrett. Sorry about that. She’s pretty amazing at this whole recapping thing, but I’m a mere Amber to her Candice. Still, I’m a well-versed Idol junkie, and I’m confident that we’ll make it through this. So don’t cry. After all, Lazaro is probably already doing that for us.

In Jimmy’s performance recap, he started off by targeting the judges. “Critique is good as long as it’s consistent,” he rightly said. “What you can’t do is coddle people.” And by the time he got to the contestants, Jimmy was firing on all cylinders. He essentially accused Lazaro of lying about learning his song one day in advance and called out Nicki for implying that Amber was assigned her song, rather than picking it. “The show picks the genre. The singer picks the song,” he said. Damage control or legitimate clarifications? We may never know.

Jimmy’s remarks about the contestants were on-point across the board. You can hear them all here, but I’ve compiled the most incisive things he said about each — and the Lazaro smackdown in full — below.

Kree Harrison: “Kree is great, and it’s clear that she’s great.” True!

Burnell Taylor: “This whole thing about not knowing Beatles songs puts me off a little bit. American Idol is a job, like singing is a job. In order to get that job, you have to prepare.” Amen.

Lazaro Arbos: “This was easily the worst performance of the night. No matter how the audience votes tonight, this was the bottom of the pile. It was out of tune, it was out of rhythm. Nicki said because I was in the room, I made him nervous — of course I made him nervous. I’ve made a lot of people nervous, but you have to get through that and sing the song. Maybe it was nerves that confused Lazaro because he said he learned the song the night before when I worked with him on the song five days prior. Everyone on the show has the same amount of time to learn these songs, and I really expect, from me and the judges, to give him the right critique at the right time, good or bad.” Ohhhh snap!

Amber Holcomb: “She nailed the meaning of that song. Amber belongs in the Top 3, absolutely.” Mostly true. (But a recognizable melody matters too, and “She’s Leaving Home” lacks a big hook.)

Candice Glover: “By far, the best performance of the night.” Mmhmm.

Paul Jolley: “He’s not ready for prime time… He said he chose the song because of the lyrical content, but, to me, that’s where he missed the plot most.” Exactly.

Angie Miller: “At a record company, we get a lot of young kids that come in out of high school. They just dramatize everything. Angie is too dramatic. Everyone is saying how great she is, but I’m telling you, there is something wrong, and we have to fix it.” COMPLETELY TRUE! (And all the more awesome because Angie has always seemed so favored by the production.)

Devin Velez: “He has to work on his delivery and his consistency.” Yep. Also, yawn.

Janelle Arthur: “All the talk has been around the singers with the fireworks. Janelle’s restraint is explosive.” Well said!

So which of the nine actually bit the bullet? Well…

NEXT: The results!

Amber and Devin took a trip over to the silver stools of doom in the Bottom 3, but it was Paul Jolley, who performed a vanilla version of “Eleanor Rigby” the night before, that was ultimately sent home. The judges didn’t even bother conferring about whether they would save him after an unconvincing rendition of “Alone.” (In case anyone forgot, this is how you sing “Eleanor Rigby” and this is how you sing “Alone” on Idol.)

Paul was never going to go far in this competition. Guys that succeed on this show — I’m talking Kris Allen, Phillip Phillips, Adam Lambert, and, yes, even Taylor Hicks — have a swagger about them. They know who they are and what music they want to make. Paul, with his timid demeanor and unclear musical identity (let’s all agree to forget about the “male Taylor Swift” comments), came across as insecure, and that does not get Idol fans voting.

The producers were no doubt overjoyed when Paul got the boot. For the first time in six years, a white guy will not win American Idol! In all likelihood, a guy won’t win at all (Lazaro may be the last man standing thanks to sympathy votes), though one does get the sense that the powers that be may have stacked the deck to assure such an outcome.

What else happened on the results show?

The guys performed “Got to Get You Into My Life,” which was as cheesy and dated as it sounds. I got distracted and annoyed when I realized that they each kept doing the pose that Adam Lambert tends to, which requires putting your weight on one hip while doing a diva hand/raptor arm combo.

I mean this:

The girls, meanwhile, each got their own solo on “Here, There, and Everywhere,” which sounded lovely.

Casey Abrams, donning a serious set of friendly mutton chops, slapped the bass on a jazzy version of “I Saw Her Standing There” and was laid back and charming. I’m not sure Abrams would have been invited back to the Idol stage if the show still had Ford commercials and tours of the Idol mansion to fill airtime, but they’re missing this year. I wonder why…

Idol also welcomed back last year’s runner up Jessica Sanchez to remind us how crazy her year has been. She’s been on billboards! Billboards everywhere! The pint-sized belter, who has apparently developed an affinity for sparkly high tops and urban harem pants (wonder what Jimmy would have said about this outfit), performed her debut single “Tonight” with Ne-Yo. The dance tune may well take off at mainstream radio, but I’m still warming to it. It’s odd seeing Jessica as a club-hopping party girl when I still remember her reserved identity on Idol so vividly. But I’ve already said my piece about the song, and I do hope she does well.

So let me turn this over to you. How did you feel about Paul’s elimination? Were you as into Jimmy’s critiques as I was? Are you frustrated with Lazaro’s endurance? And, since it’s apparently up for debate, how much choice do you think the contestants really have over their songs?

If you feel so inclined (I don’t tweet much about Idol):

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American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

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