With half the finalists already comfy on their stools, there are still plenty of Season 8 mysteries left to ponder

By Michael Slezak
Updated February 27, 2009 at 05:00 PM EST

American Idol

S8 E15
  • TV Show

We’re seven weeks into American Idol‘s eighth season, and while I ought to be celebrating the fact that the puzzle is coming together, that half the show’s finalists have been revealed, there are too many questions plaguing my Idol-addled mind to indulge in such a luxury. Like, for example, how good really are the six contestants who’ve already assumed their positions on the Silver Stools of Safety? Could Idol‘s return to a top 36 format be robbing us of the types of contestants who need a few weeks of televised experience to bloom (like, say, David Cook or Jordin Sparks)? Do the show’s producers realize that we all realize that they’re trying to manipulate us harder, earlier, and more blatantly than ever before? Are the Sway-Bots plotting a return to the Kodak for the start of the Top 12? Is there a way to ensure I never again have to see footage of the auditioning imbecile in the Statue of Liberty costume? And will Lil Rounds get the pimp spot next week?

Okay, so we already know the answer to that last one. But still, if you’re like me, and experiencing symptoms of Premature Idol Panic Syndrome (PIPS), I have just the thing to calm your nerves. Yes indeed, in what’s fast becoming a results-night tradition here at EW.com, I’ve penned a little ode to tonight’s Group 2 Semifinals, set to the tune of Heart’s ”Alone.” Feel free to sing along — unless your name is Ramiele Malubay! (Badum-bum!)

I hear the ticking of the clock

I’m on the couch it’s nine-oh-five/

One of my favorites just went home/

Two others are still quite alive/

Oh this episode went by so slow/

But the judges’ pet he closed the show/


Oh wow, Kris Allen’s support just went tidal/

He wasn’t even crushed by lack of screen-time/

But Matt Giraud looked homicidal/

This is what happened on Idol/

This is what happened on Idol/

You don’t know how hard I had voted/

To lend support to Mishavonna/

I’ll pray she gets a Wild Card but/

Won’t do the same for Kai Kalama/

Adam Lambert is so not my fave/

Yet he sure makes Kara rant and rave/


And now, the pink-haired teenager, she sidled/

Onto a silver stool of safety/

When she sings Heart she’s sure unbridled/

This is what happened on Idol/

This is what happened on Idol/

This is what happened on Idol/

On Idol!!!

Whew! Okay, that was cathartic. And because tonight’s results are now 100 percent official, let’s press pause on my aforementioned litany of cynical questions and take a closer look at our trio of successful semifinalists — who they are, how they advanced to the top 12, and what kind of chance they’ve got at taking a coveted confetti shower on a storied Wednesday night twelve weeks from now. We’ll start with…

NEXT: Allison’s promise

The one I’m hoping is as good as I want her to be. Yep, with tonight’s terrific encore presentation of ”Alone,” Allison Iraheta proved she can belt Heart’s ubiquitous anthem without sending me into a rant about how it should be banned from Idol forever. (Even though, after being performed by five different contestants over the last five seasons — yeah, I’m counting Carly Smithson’s Hollywood Week cover last year — it really should be.) I loved the way Allison changed up some of the notes on the verse, so as not to produce a pale carbon copy of Ann Wilson’s original. I loved the bizarre-yet-endearing look she shot up into the stands (presumably to her family) midway through her performance. I loved how she got startled by the Idol outro music just as she was offering a ”thank you” at the end of her number.

And almost as much as I love Allison’s power growl, I love the way there’s something a little off about her, that at 16 years of age, she’s not all pre-packaged sound bites, appropriately timed smiles, and soul-smothering ambition. She’s a real human-type teenager, the kind who utters things like ”I am so freakin’ happy right now” even as her lack of media training threatens to alienate viewers in search of the perfect ”package contestant.”

That said, I also harbor some slight (and hopefully unfounded) fears that as easily as Allison could contend for the season 8 crown, she could also spectacularly crash and burn before April Fool’s Day. That’s the danger of getting excited about an unpolished contestant who goes after her performances with near manic gusto, and who scored barely any screentime prior to Wednesday night. Which is the peril of the top 36 format: You only get to hear Allison once before the finals, so there’s no telling if she possesses a depth of talent, or if she’s the master of one song only.

Much like last week’s results show, though, I thought the producers could’ve wrung a little more drama from the various head-to-head matchups. Instead of lumping Allison in with Jesse Langseth and Matt Breitzke, I’d have preferred to see her standing before the judges alongside Jesse, Mishavonna ”she got robbed!” Henson, and Megan Corkrey. And that would’ve changed the matchup for…

The one who might have hurt Ricky Braddy’s chances at a Wild Card slot. Seriously, imagine this on-stage grouping: Kris Allen standing alongside Matt Giraud, and (dun dun dun) Nick Mitchell! Because, honestly, we all knew ahead of time that Adam Lambert was cracking the top 12 tonight, but if Kris had been standing in between Matt G and Nick, I wouldn’t have felt overly confident betting my lunch money on the outcome.

As it was, though, America deserves a standing ovation (and not just from Paula) for choosing Kris and Allison despite the fact that neither one had been shown doing much in the way of singing for the prior six weeks. Oh sure, Kris got about 10 seconds of Hollywood Week kudos as part of White Chocolate, and another 10 belting ”A Song for You” during the Louisville auditions, but he was at a serious disadvantage going into Wednesday night’s show against more hyped contestants like the dueling Matts, Jasmine Murray, and the dude with the red headband.

NEXT: Adam’s still not doing it for Slezak

Now here’s hoping Kris takes his adorable puppy-dog eyes to Idol‘s big stage and proves he’s not just a potential seventh-place finisher, that he’s got the goods to cause some nervousness among the producer-selected front-runners. His ”Man in the Mirror” was once again a little rough around the edges during the opening verse, but once Kris loosened up and turned the stage into his personal dancerie, you could understand why voters selected him over the interesting yet rhythmless Megan Joy Corkrey.

The lumping together of Megan, Kris, Matt G, and poor Jeanine Vailes not only created the one modicum of suspense during the hour-long telecast, but also resulted in its biggest laughs (aside from Simon’s remark about rooting for Norman Gentle’s ouster: ”I’m hoping me and God have a good relationship right now.”). I loved how Simon began chanting ”answer the question” as Paula danced like there was no tomorrow around the question of which singer was going to advance. Better still, though, was Simon’s tart ”Kara, take your time,” after the newbie judge launched into a long-winded discussion of Kris’ prospects in the final head-to-head matchup with Megan.

In Kara’s defense, I don’t think she was engaging in revisionist history and trying to act like she was on Team Kris after being critical of his performance on Wednesday, even though her fellow judges seemed to suggest otherwise. I was, however, flabbergasted by the way Ryan’s recaps of Matt G’s and Matt B’s performances seemed to suggest it was merely their song choices, and not their respective performances, that were the problem.

Anyhow, with Kris advancing to sit alongside Danny Gokey and Michael Sarver, I wonder if the judges will consider letting yet another white, twentysomething, soulful(ish) male singer crack the top 12. In other words, Ricky Braddy fans: Start your novenas! The guy’s got mad talent, but he’s facing an uphill battle. Meanwhile, it’s been a clean, downhill trip all the way for…

The one who is just not pleasing to my ears. Once again, I don’t think there’s room for debate about whether or not Adam Lambert has singing ability. The guy has a monster range, he rarely (if ever) misses a note, and what’s more, he works the stage as well or better than any other semifinalist we’ve seen thus far this season. All that aside, gun to my head, I’d choose Britney Spears’ God-awful cover of ”(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (off her Oops!…I Did It Again disc) over a third round of Adam’s ”look, ma! I’m rocking!” rendition. I’m not sure if this will make any sense, but to me, Adam is almost like a technologically advanced alien from another planet who’s deconstructed the idea of what it means to be a rock star for the sole purpose of trying to reinvent himself as the second coming of Mick Jagger. Except that, while he’s achieved all the technical aspects — the strutting confidence, the frenzied howling, the tongue play — he’s so obviously missing the two qualities that would make any of it believable: Heart and Soul. Mick Jagger’s probably never analyzed it using a blackboard and a piece of chalk, but you don’t have to hold a note for 30 seconds to make it count.

NEXT: Belated grades for last night’s show

Heck, even mild-mannered folkie Brooke White (who looked and sounded gorgeous tonight, even if her new single ”Hold Up My Heart” would’ve sounded better on that stage with just the piano) rocks more convincingly than Adam.

Oh, and while I’m offering advice to Adam, can we discuss that crotch-grab during tonight’s performance? Dude, I don’t think that’s what Kara meant when she said the show is looking for a ”package artist.”

Yeah, I went there. Maybe I shouldn’t have? Well, then let me do something I should have done last night (but forgot in the wee small hours of the morning) and that’s to offer letter grades of last night’s performances. Yeah, I’m giving ’em out post-results, but voting trends have not affected these grades. Otherwise, why would the much-maligned Mishavonna be tied for head-of-the-class honors? Without further ado…

Allison Iraheta: B+

Mishavonna Henson: B+

Kris Allen: B

Jesse Langseth: B-

Megan Corkrey: B-

Adam Lambert: B-

Matt Breitzke: C

Kai Kalama: C-

Jasmine Murray: C- (though I ought to knock her down a grade for her ludicrous belief that she might’ve scored more votes than Adam)

Jeanine Vailes: D+

Matt Giraud: D

Nick Mitchell: F

And finally, my current tally (in no particular order) of the contestants who absolutely, positively deserve a chance to perform on March 5’s Wild Card show: Anoop Desai, Ricky Braddy, Mishavonna Henson, Jesse Langseth, and Megan Corkrey. Contestants who didn’t score a B- or higher over the last two weeks, or who looked like they wanted to kick someone in the shins while watching Adam’s encore (hello, Matt G!), you’re dismissed.

What did you think of tonight’s results show? Were you surprised to see Nick Mitchell playing his part all nice and obedient during the not unbelievably bad group performance of ”Closer”? Is it too late to have a special vote-off for Kai’s dreadful white t-shirt emblazoned with a sparkly black necktie? Did anyone else notice Megan clapping out-of-time during Adam’s number? And who are you hoping scores a Wild Card slot among Group 2’s booted hopefuls?

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