Dear American Idol producers, I have been a fan of this show from day one. With the exception of the hiatus we took from each other after the elimination of Melinda Doolittle (seriously, that one still kills me inside), I have been loyal, steadfast, and true. If only you were as passionate about me (and my fellow fans) as I am about you.... Here's the thing, Idol. You had a tremendous opportunity last night to get people really pumped about the next level of competition. You had roughly 100 talented performers take the stage and half of them earned tickets to go perform in Vegas next week. And yet, you chose to devote only an hour to the auditions that earned them those tickets. After sitting through the two hour pressure cooker that was Group Night, I think that America has EARNED a little more, even if it's just a chance to get to see some of our favorites shine...or stumble. I'll admit that we got some TREMENDOUS performances (which I'll get into later), but we also had some people slip through without a second of coverage last night (or any night). For example, we know that James Durbin made it through, but we didn't get any coverage. His was one of the top sob stories of the audition rounds, so wouldn't seeing him nail his final Hollywood performance make his story that much more powerful?
There was a lot of head scratching last night as we caught glimpses of those who had survived Hollywood. Scotty McCreary, while giving us one of the best botched lyrics of all time ("Nuts of Wonder" ... I want a t-shirt that says that...and I don't even have ... well, you get the idea), is one such head scratcher. I still question Scotty's versatility and how in the world he'll manage on, say, Michael Jackson night. (Think back to the nightmare that was Josh Gracin on Bee Gees Night all those years ago...I'm thinking that is nothing compared to a Scotty version of "Beat It.") I also kind of question the motives behind allowing Ashley Sullivan to stay in the competition for another round. Seriously, the girl is mentally unstable. I fear for her...truly. I don't think she can handle this pressure cooker, and I really worry that she will snap. Sure, that will make for some great television, but at some point, shouldn't the mental health and well being of a person outweigh the entertainment factor of witnessing a total meltdown on national television. Okay, yeah, I see their point. Welcome, Ashley!
In my mind, last night belonged to two guys -- Casey Abrams and Jacob Lusk. What can I say but "HOLY CRAP!" Those two were AMAZING. Casey's rendition of "Georgia on My Mind", accompanied by a stand-up bass, was truly inspired and mesmerizing. I am a sucker for jazz-infused pop, and that was absolutely gorgeous -- it managed to reinvent the song while still remain true to the original at the same time. This guy is definitely one to watch.
Jacob Lusk...where the heck did this guy come from? His group day audition earned him a spot on my "watch list", but it in no way prepared me for what he delivered last night. His version of "God Bless the Child" gave me goosebumps. Without a doubt, it was the best Hollywood audition I have ever witnessed and MAY be the best American Idol performance I've ever witnessed period. It's most definitely up there with Fantasia's "Summertime" or Melinda Doolittle's "My Funny Valentine." (Two of my all-time favorite Idol performances.)
Thankfully, most of my power 10 from yesterday made it through to the next round; although we didn't get any footage of Naima Adedapo or James Durbin, we know they advanced. As did many of the people on my "I know they will but I'm not putting them on my list because I'm not buying the hype yet" list. I have to continue to say that I don't quite get the love shoved towards Lauren Alaina and Jacee Badeaux. I thought both were a little on the weak and even boring side, especially when you had so much other talent onstage that completely outshone them both. I have to say, too, that the fact that both Lauren and Jacee are so young is probably a factor. They need some time to "get" the power they're working and really develop it into something more meaningful. I kind of feel like both of them are going through the motions, and while they're going through the motions quite well, a little life under their belts could really make them powerhouses. Idol is not doing either of these kids a favor by pushing them into the competition at this point, no matter how good or cute they are, and it's frustrating to watch and realize how heavily these kids are getting promoted, making their presence in the top 10 seem like as close to a sure thing as there is in this show.
And so I remain the loyal but frustrated viewer, wishing that Idol would just make some sense once in a while but knowing that part of my love and loyalty stems from the very things that frustrate me so.