The contestants (barely) meet the Beatles and J. Lo breaks down in a real circus show

By Annie Barrett
February 24, 2011 at 09:08 AM EST
Fox
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Field trip to Vegas! It was Beatles night for 61 American Idol singers, some of whom had never heard a Beatles song before. My instincts told me these people should be dragged into one of the dreary back rooms of THIS SPECTACULAR HANGAR to be killed at once, but instead they were allowed to sing. Living is easy with eyes closed. Misunderstand and you’re on TV.

Five of the 24 semifinalists were announced and five more headed home, so Fox has two whole hours tonight to deal with the life and death of just a few more trembling teens. (We are all teens at heart, and occasionally in mind.) We can rest assured Idol will find more tremendous ways to fill the dead air — perhaps “vocal coach from hell” Peggi Blu will get a half hour all to herself, and I think at least a whole segment should be devoted to Ashley Sullivan blubbering from a lonely jail cell about where she might have “hidden” her new husband. Spoiler alert: He’s dead.

I must now pause and give it up for Wednesday’s Unsung Hero of the Night: Camera man Dave, who sure was excited to bear the privilege of being the primary records custodian of Ashley Sullivan’s crazy. (I still can’t believe she didn’t sing “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” like I so politely asked, albeit several months after the fact.) Runner-up hero: Piano player who kept a straight face as the vocal coach from hell told Thia and Melinda they were going to die onstage.

We only got an hour of Beatles performances, because Chris Medina ended up serenely gliding away forever and the producers wanted us to see Jennifer Lopez cry. Did you cry with J. Lo, friends? I was about to — so on the verge — but then I began to thoroughly inspect the contours of J. Lo’s dress. I’m not proud of this; it’s just what happened. My job is to report the facts. So there was J. Lo completely losing it, and there I was in an entirely different place, wondering if her hair was extra greasy that day or if it was just a case of too much product. J. Lo cried for a long, long time; she was human, she was beautiful, and my God, the draping of that luscious green silk! To sum up our collective experience: “I felt so bad.”

NEXT: Whatever happened to Baby J. Lo?The judges’ 2-on-1 therapy session with Baby J. ended with a major cliffhanger, as Weepy said she didn’t know if she could do this anymore. I’m pretty sure she can. Besides, Chris should have gone home. It was the right thing to do. His final song (Coldplay’s “Fix You,” of course) was shaky and wandering. A powerful message considering his back story, yes, but the boy was just off.

After embarrassing themselves in front of Interscope’s Jimmy Iovine and his team of expert glarers, the Idols trudged up to the stage for their very own Cirque du So Lame and (barely) met the Beatles. Aside from a few standout performances, this exercise was one giant cringe for mankind. The bigger a Fab Four fan you are, the worse it was. I’m sure some of the kids thought everyone was fantastic!

Tim Halperin and Julie Zorrilla delivered my favorite performance of the night in their gentle piano duet on “Something.” I barely remembered Tim, and now I am living for Tim. He’s so tall! They could have stuck to their keyboards and earned raves, but these two kids took a chance and stood up. They eye-flirted with each other and pleaded with the competition, “I don’t wanna leave you now,” all while remaining afloat in an atmosphere of thick red smoke. Their vocals were so clear and in-tune, and their performance quality so high, the whole thing seemed almost like a finale exhibition.

Also great: Kendra Chantelle and Paul McDonald, the “Nashville duo” rarely seen before tonight. (Nice knowing you, Chelsee and Rob.) Kendra sounded sweet and was perfectly adequate, but Paul’s unique voice obviously stood out as it was the first time Fox has let us really study it. He sings as softly as possible, so it’s all about the vocal quality and pitch with him. His voice struck me as what “baby talk” would sound like if sung by an adult, if that makes sense. I wonder if I’ll get sick of this, but for now I love it. Paul impressed me even more with his original song “American Dreams” and (you had to know I would freak out over this) his FLORAL, SEQUINED LEISURE SUIT. Ladies and gentlemen, Paul is not dead. You heard it here first, in 2011.

All revved up from a hearty “lose yourself in the animated Coke bubbles” conversation with Ryan Seacrest, high school buddies Pia Toscano and Karen Rodriguez impressed the judges with a fine-tuned “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Their back-to-back posing would have seemed cheesy anywhere else, but on this sad, sad night for America, even the slightest whiff of English farmouse cheddar was a triumph. “I feel like you get it,” said J. Lo, and I can 100 percent guarantee this was due to their choreography and smiles.

NEXT: Bloody Beatles massacres and the first round of cuts

The ladies would be a hard act to follow, said Steven, but Jacob Lusk, Naima Adedapo, and Haley Reinhart tried mightily with “The Long and Winding Road.” What an apt description of Haley Reinhart’s singing style! Until last night, I had no idea the word before contains six syllables. Naima was strong, but poor, Beatles-unfriendly Jacob sounded a mess here. To be fair, he didn’t know the song (even though that should NOT be fair, like, in life), and Iovine had instructed him to be extra conscious of his tendency to over-sing. I like this guy overall. He won’t be doing very well with rules, which could be very amusing throughout the season. At the end of “Road,” all three of these singers just looked so miserable, squatting down and reaching out, like they were pleading to stay on the show and for the song to be over — emphasis on the latter. Me too.

James Durbin and Stefano Langone sounded god-awful verging on embarrassing on “Get Back” to kick off the night — either that or I was too focused on James’ “Steven Tyler Wannabe” Halloween costume to give them any credit whatsoever. I felt terrible for Sophia Shorai, who chose to partner with emotional time bomb newlywed Ashley Sullivan on “We Can Work It Out.” I had to strain to find Sophia’s voice in the wreckage, but it was prettier by far and I remember enjoying her solo last Thursday. Lauren Alaina, Denise Jackson (who looked ready for a day at the special disco pool), and Scotty McCreery nearly struck me dead with their hokey “Hello Goodbye” complete with “dancing” and a British telephone booth. Better roll out the fancy set pieces for Nigel’s favorite 15-year-old! They changed the order of the lyrics, which I found almost as sacrilegious as the admittedly hilarious image of Robbie Rosen singing in front of a giant cross. There are no double hellos in the background, people. Goodbye!

And now for the really deep cuts, said Ryan suddenly, “THE RESULTS. RIGHT NOW.” Randy chimed in to clarify, as he does: “We definitely need to make some cuts.” Oh, okay. Seven chosen ones got to step forward — Thia Megia, Scotty, Jordan Dorsey, Ashthon Jones, Robbie, and Lauren. I found it interesting that Randy just said “Lauren” and Miss Alaina Real-Last-Name was shown stepping forward. There was definitely another Lauren there (Turner), and Randy would have had to clarify which one he meant. I guess they just cut that part out, or blondie had already been established as the dominant Lauren. Either way, this is telling. Just trust me. I’m really on a roll with this train of thought. Eh, it’s over.

Goodbye: Her majesty the White House intern Molly DeWolf Swenson Elkhart Reindeeré Amy’s Organic IV, lovable-in-the-end Carson Higgins, Caleb Hawley, Denise Jackson, Ashley Sullivan, and Melinda Ademi, the pretty girl from Kosovo who was scared out of her mind by the vocal coach from hell (and, to a lesser extent, her partner Thia Megia).

NEXT: The first 10 suckers walk the terrifyingly futuristic plankThis “Green Mile” crap got real old, real fast. If it weren’t for Naima’s sparkly turquoise gown from another time and another land, I don’t know if I’d have stayed awake. Oh wait, this helped: Thanks to reader Joe Tranchina for pointing out to me via Twitter that “the walkway for the final cut is modeled after Professor X’s Cerebro room in X-Men.” I had no idea!

In the Top 24: Naima Adedapo, grateful bully Clint Jun Gamboa, vocal gravelmonster Haley Reinhart, rhinestone cowboy Paul McDonald, and Ashthon Jones, who totally punk’d her mom.

In an Octopus’ Garden back in their hometowns: Chipper 17-year-old Hollie Cavanaugh, who has a better voice but less life experience than Haley. They encouraged her to come back in two years. (I’d be all, “Ugh, as if,” but I’m guessing she’ll do it.) Lakeisha Lewis, who for me/for you Dawg was the clear standout in her Beatles group with Tatynisa Wilson and Jerome Bell. She certainly never got a fair shake, at least in terms of screen time. Ditto Molly, obviously. I honestly can’t believe Deandre Brackensick‘s hair didn’t make it. Are they kidding? It’s not funny. As mentioned above, Chris Medina headed home with a sweet Steven Tyler kiss for Juliana. Oh, and I’d like to extend my daintiest farewell princess-wave to Alex Ryan.

Who’s Alex Ryan?!?

It may be the greatest mystery of season 10. What’s he like? What are his fears, besides watching this season of American Idol? How boring and privileged must his life have been to warrant zero camera time? I shudder at the thought of him returning to a strong and happy home life. Sorry, Alex Ryan, but that’s just not what we turn on our TVs to see.

Go ahead, friends — tell me you have ever seen Alex Ryan before, and in the immortal words of Peggi Blu, “I will eat crow. I will eat crow, happily. I’ll put some salt on it and I’ll swallow it.”

Swallow singing in the dead of night….

“SING, DAMNIT!”

Hello!

Goodbye.

Follow Annie on Twitter: @EWAnnieBarrett

Read more:

‘Idol’: 20 Beatles Songs For…Whom?

Gallery: 15 Steven Tyler Faces

All ‘American Idol’ recaps

EW.com’s ‘American Idol’ Central

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