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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 02/24/2011

'American Idol' heads to Las Vegas

By Lisa de Moraes

The contestants perform in Vegas on "Idol." (Fox)


"American Idol" opens Wednesday with some good news and some bad news.

The good news: the singers who survived Hollywood Week are are going to Vegas. Okay, they're going by bus, but still...

The bad news: Everybody's got to learn a Beatles tune in 24 hours! And what better place to do that then at The Beatles Love by Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage in Vegas," Seabiscuit asks rhetorically. It's Beatles Re-Education Camp - a new "American Idol" feature, which only one third of the 61 remaining competitors will survive.

"Sing damn it!" vocal coach from hell Peggi Blu screams at two wispy teen chicks who long for the safety and comfort of their mani-pedi hangout in the mall.

"Guess What?! You're gonna die on the stage in front of all those people...I'm going to be laying in bed, watching you just croak and when I get the phone call that says 'did you do these two/' I'm gonna go, 'Hell no!'," Blu shrieks. We love her.

And many have "a harder pill to swallow" Seabiscuit intones, "just learning who the Beatles are."

Cut to panicked singers wailing, "I don't know many Beatles songs!' and "I have never heard a Beatles son in my life!' and "I never, ever heard the Beatles, but my momma told me they would eat me if I didn't finish my vegetables!"

Cut to an interrogation scene from "The Manchurian Candidate" - oh wait, it's Jimmy Iovine, record mogul and new "Idol" in-house "mentor" finally making his first working appearance on the show.

Iovine actually worked with The Most Talented Beatle, John Lennon. Iovine's here with a bunch of his fellow music producers and they look scary as they watch some of the singers with " we will make you sing till you agree to cooperate with our propaganda" looks in their eyes.

To help the singers better understand the Beatles, the "Idol" producers take them to see the Cirque du Soleil Beatles show "Love." Because if this group of aspiring pop singers can't grasp the Fab Four, surely they'll grasp a high concept circus with skateboarders on big ramps, and clowns. So now everything is perfectly clear: The Beatles were Shaun White's old band, and they were a warm-up act at a circus.

In honor of Beatles Re-Education Camp, "Idol" judge Randy Jackson has come dressed as Marlon Brando in "The Wild Ones," while judge Jennifer Lopez has come dressed up as Lois Lane. The show's third judge, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler has come as Steven Tyler who, he says, lives in "BeatlesLand."

Adam Lambert Lite, aka James Durbin, who's already fallen into our Life is Too Short category before this competition even gets under way, and Stefano Langone sing "Get Back" like it's an upper decibel duel. There may be some harmony in there somewhere that canines can detect, but we cannot. "I don't think I've ever heard two higher voices together before," Tyler cracks, speaking for us all.

Next we meet up again with the two chicks from performing arts high school in new York, Pia Toscano and Karen Rodriguez, who get swallowed up by the Coca-Cola décor and logo as they're interviewed by Seabiscuit. We get it "Idol" -- they're old friends and we're thirsty. They sing "Can't Buy Me Love" like they're old friends.

We're treated to a flashback of Haley Reinhart, Naima Adepado, and Jacob Lusk rehearsing for Jimmy Iovine who warns Lusk, "You can't over-sing all the time - that's the worst thing a singer can do." Immediately after which they perform and Randy criticizes Lusk for not over-singing all the time: "You got the gas in the car -- drive it and go! Put the pedal down!" Randy shouts.

Well, at least the guy editing the show is having some fun.

Tim Halperin, and Julie Zorrilla duet like they've been working for months in a Beatles tribute show. Julie looks overconfident.

Whoa, attitude adjustment time. Remember how Ashley Sullivan, waif-ish, crazy Ashley, just barely made it through Hollywood Week with some talent and a big ol' drama-queen meltdown? Ashley's found a way to make Beatles Re-Education Camp all about her too.
She's gonna get married in Vegas. Of course she is! Right here, right now, "in the same place where Britney got married and she's my hero!" Ashley explains. Then she tells her loyal boyfriend, who has been cheering her all along., "If you get cold feet I don't care - you're going to go through with it or I'll kill you in your sleep, my precious!"

Ashley looks for a white wedding dress and settle on pleather. Ashley's boyfriend looks like he's starting to have second thoughts. Ashley's boyfriend waits for her in the chapel with third-thought looks. After a quick ceremony, Ashley wraps her legs around her new husband's waist in a passionate kiss to seal the deal. "Getting married was a blast, but I have a really big day tomorrow so bye!" she says to her husband of 5 minutes, and leaves him.

Robie Rosen, Aaron Sanders and Jordan Dorsey form a boy band to sing "Got to Get You Into My Life" while standing in front of a giant cross outlined in Vegas lights. John Lennon rolls over in his grave. It's seriously creepy.


The judges and Seacrest take a trip to Vegas as the "Idol" auditions continue. (Fox)

Brutal cuts must be made, says Seabiscuit, stating the obvious, while the stage is lit to look like those who are cut will be snatched up by the mother-ship, never to be seen again on earth. Ah, Vegas!

Gone is White House Intern Chick -- the only contestant who seems to have other career options. "It's always been on the side, and maybe that s where it belongs," she says philosophically.

Gone is Ashlet who matured before our eyes from a scared little girl into a scary woman married to a scared little husband. " I got married in Vegas. How can I say I wish I got more from this?...I've been to 'American Idol' - that's sick!" she cackles. She actually looks relieved. Then again, her husband is nowhere in sight, so on to that drama.

Can we all agree Beatles Re-Education Camp was a bust? Maybe they'll cut it next year. Anyway, they cut it short by one hour this year - because, exec producer Nigel Lythgoe insists, the drama of picking the crop of Idolettes was so great this season they decided to expand the traditional Judgment Walk to one of the two hours on Wednesday as well as both of Thursday's two hours. You betcha.

Remember the good old days when the wannabe Idolettes had to take some crummy elevator to get to the judgment room, which appeared to be a cheap hotel suite? Now it looks like something the aliens installed under the "Lost" island.

First up: Naima Adedapo. "Your story was so beautiful: two little babies and all the while cleaning toilets," says Tyler.

[crickets]

So of course they're sending her through to the top-24.

New judges -- same old gag.

More buckets of tears from various contestants. Seabiscuit to 17-year-old Hollie Cavanagh, in re the somber occasion-ness of it all: "Its not TV -- it's reality."

I know, let's call this thing "reality TV"!

Tyler to Hollie: "We're not going to put you throughthis time." JLo to Hollie: "I was outvoted. I wanted to put you through...Randy said something that really hit home: You're 17 years old; in a year or two you could come back and win, win the whole thing...grow a little bit, figure out who you are as an artist."

So they lower the contestant age limit to 15 then bounce them because they still have so many more years to compete?

Walk and cry, walk and cry. Next up: Clint Jun Gamboa. Randy wants to revisit how June Bug dumped adorable 15-year-old Jacee Badeaux from his group during Hollywood Week; Randy implies June Bug is going to be judged on his coldness as well as his singing. Randy even shakes his head "no" - then they put him through. Head fake - never gets old. Oh wait - it does. The amount of time spent in this episode on walking, crying, and transparent judge head faking is approaching 20 minutes. That's 20 minutes we could have spent watching more of Beatles Re-Education Camp, or the Cirque du Soleil clowns and skateboarders. We've been robbed.

Haley Reinhart: walk, walk, head fake. Good voice, cute, was there any suspense here?

Deandre Brackensick really looked promising but, we're told, blew it on his solo (though he looked fine to us). Randy: "it's about being consistent. Being great every time you're up there. Blah, blah, blah, you're 16 years old, blah, blah, blah work hard, blah, blah, come back. JLo chimes in that he has a "great chance of being a recording artist right now." Say what?

In re Paul McDonald: "Distinctive voice," says Seabiscuit, giving away the ending. But before Paul sails through to the top-24, we get to see him perform part of his solo number, dressed in an embroidered white suit that's coveted by Tyler. Paul sounds like a male Sheryl Crow. OK, he just sounds like Sheryl Crow. JLo makes a feeble attempt at suspense, saying Paul sounds "unique" but may not "fit in". Randy, the senior statesman of "American Idol," weighs in: "This is my 10th season," he begins. We settle in for a nap.

Turns out, Randy says, that "American Idol" material is anyone who's "great" and "unique" and has "unbelievable talent." Apparently Randy wasn't paying attention when Lee Dewyze won the competition last year.

Ashthon Jones performed a Whitney Houston number for her final solo performance. In the good old days, judge Simon Cowell would carve up and snack on anyone who attempted a Houston tune. But change is good so, after JLo makes a feeble stab at a head fake, Ashthon is through.

And, finally, Chris Medina does the walk to find out his fate. Chris says the high point of his fiancé Juliana's life - she's the fiancé who was in the car accident and must now use a wheel chair -- was meeting the "Idol" judges. The judges say they feel blessed to have met her. JLo tells Chris it breaks her heart to tell him he is not going to continue in the competition, adding, "We wish you the best with everything; we wish Julie the best. Don't stop." Hugs all around for Chris. JLo begins to weep: "Hard for me to do," she chokes.

"You did it. You did it the best way possible," Randy says to console her.

"I don't feel I told him in the right way," JLo wails.

"I'm going to take care of my fiancé and make a miracle happen," Chris says on his way out.

Back to JLo: "I don't want to do this any more!"

To be Continued, "Idol" says on the screen.

"Tomorrow night, will Jennifer find the strength to continue, or will Steven and Randy have to hand out the eliminations alone?" Seabiscuit faux wonders.

Gak.

Meanwhile, here's a look at "Idol's" 2011 Top 24 list, in progress:

By Lisa de Moraes  | February 24, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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Comments

You crack me up, Lisa! That circus thing was horrible, and I want the elevator back as part of the walk of shame. I think they cut some people that are more promising then who they put through but then again, that's AI for you.

Posted by: MILWI | February 24, 2011 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Last night's show made me feel silly for watching it -- as if I'd just sat through an episode of Real World Las Vegas. At least getting to smile at Lisa's satiric account restores a bit of my dignity!

Among moments I feel almost embarrassed to have actually sat through:

The mean vocal coach looked to me like one of those embittered people who never made it in the business and now is a "teacher" who takes out her resentment for her faded dreams on aspiring young people by giving them vicious, unconstructive critique masked as a "reality check."

Ashley and her new husband's co-dependent relationship. I see there the kind of man who is drawn to intense, troubled, needy girls he can rescue. Kind of like the kind of guys who married Marilyn Monroe. She mentioned once he had been a soldier in Iraq. I rest my case. Good luck, buddy.

The music performances were edited weirdly, so you'd have one performer singing the first half of one verse, and another singing the second half of a different one. That's the way to do a tribute to the Beatles, all right. Never occurred to me that it was because the performances were probably pretty bad in the main -- interesting point, Lisa.

The ludicrous sci-fi set where they're giving the news to the top 24. The long dark, walkway seemed designed to ratchet up the tension, and it seemed to be working. In fact, it seemed to be working so well, even J-Lo had a breakdown. For heaven's sake someone open a window and let some sun in!

Oh no am I really going to watch more of that tonight? 'Cause I do want to see who else is selected. But geez...

Posted by: owingsmills | February 24, 2011 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Last night's show didn't even make sense. Did anyone else notice the 2nd hour began with a "new show" beginning like it was supposed to be on another night. And then they kept mentioning a final performance that we had never seen that was "done yesterday" (like this was supposed to be the 2nd episode of the week instead of the first) as if the Beatles songs weren't the last thing they did. Very strange.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 24, 2011 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Jimmy Iovine's garage was probably a good place to have the long walk of destiny.

Posted by: molsonmich | February 24, 2011 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Sadly I'm not buying the J Lo breakdown. She was thinking "OMG how do I fire ppl who CAN SING when I can't, hahahahaha" Come on folks how many mad constestants have called J Lo on this FACT hahahaha Barbara Walters is right this morning ALL these ppl have sob stories Idol manipulates for ratings etc. and lets be real everyone luvs a good come back story in sports so why not in music as well but give me a break. J Lo is going NO WHERE!!!! Now I luv how Steven sings with contestants and shows why he's a LEGEND!!!!!

Posted by: MDlady2 | February 24, 2011 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"Randy says, that "American Idol" material is anyone who's "great" and "unique" and has "unbelievable talent." Apparently Randy wasn't paying attention when Lee Dewyze won the competition last year."

Fine dig, except Dewyze IS talented and unique. He had pitch problems singing life and underperformed in front of 4 dysfunctional judges that were out to tear contestants down rather than push them to sing their best. (OK, Ellen actually did want them to sing well, but had no more background to do that than coach cardiac surgeons).

And regarding digs on Jennifer Lopez - 99.9% of the people trying to make a living in showbiz would trade THEIR career and their money made for what J-Lo has done. It's early, but I'm already wishing Lopez had been around for last season, and definitely Steven Perry over Cowell, who "checked out" sometime towards the end of Season 8.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | February 24, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I like J-Lo, too. So far she seems like a grounded human being. Not missing Simon, either. You mean Steven Tyler, though, not Perry ;-)

Posted by: owingsmills | February 24, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Lisa, I am surprised at you for not going for the jugular re JLo's 'breakdown.' That acting was worse than what I saw her doing in Maid in America.. or Gigli. C'mon! Don't lose your edge now, Lisa. I love the way JLo was keeping her head down the whole time during the 'emotional breakdown' moment. So we couldn't see she wasn't really crying, I'm sure. And I love how no inch of her makeup was disrupted by the 'emotional breakdown.' That's her showbiz experience showing right there.
I am already hating JLo and I haven't even watched full episodes of AI. I can't bear it, I just can't. It's so painful... although I do love Steven. I just tune in for him.

Posted by: tmeintermedia | February 24, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse

"Fine dig, except Dewyze IS talented and unique. He had pitch problems singing live and underperformed"

How can someone be vocally talented if they have pitch problems? Good to see a fan of his admit that he underperformed.

"in front of 4 dysfunctional judges that were out to tear contestants down rather than push them to sing their best."

You are way off the ballpark on this one. Yes, the judges teared down most of the contestants. However, the one huge exception was Lee. They built him up with praise even though his performances didn't merit such praise. It was if the narrative was written in advance. That is why everybody hates Lee. We are projecting our frustration on Lee, but the true source of the evil is the judges, annointing a winner by fiat rather than by merit. That is why we are all amused by his lack of success. It validated what we knew all along - he wasn't very good.

Posted by: niceshoes1 | February 24, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Excellent commentary. I didn't get to watch, but strangely feel as though I did after reading this. Will watch tonight, can't wait to see the whole Vegas-y thing along with the absent walk of shame.

Very glad that the weird crying chick is gone; seems like every year they put someone like that through to the Top 24, glad it won't be the case this year.

Posted by: lanehatcher | February 24, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

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