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Posted at 5:30 AM ET, 03/ 4/2011

'American Idol' 2011: Lucky 13 [Updated w/ Poll]

By Lisa de Moraes

[Updated with Who Got Robbed poll question]

Pia Toscano was put through as a finalist on "American Idol." (Fox)

After the relentless piling on of back story upon back story -- she's the short house-cleaner condemned to a life of dirty work, she's the tall house-cleaner condemned to a life of dirty work, he's a shipyard worker who was bullied as a kid, or is it the country boy who bullies shipyard workers? (So many back stories, so few brain cells left) -- it's time to pour this year's clump of 24 Idolettes through the Tea Strainer of Fate to come up with the final "American Idol" contestants.

Tonight the 24 semi-semi finalists will be whittled down to the top 12, or 13, or 14 - Fox isn't saying. But they're culling the herd like it's never been culled before, says show host Ryan Seacrest.

All 24 of the singing hopefuls are seated at the fringe of the stage. It appears the producers decided to trim the budget and use the same stemware stools from seasons past. But the camera angle they're using this season makes the singers look like parrots on a stand.

Viewers voted Jacob Lusk into the "Idol" finals. (Fox)

For the occasion, judge Randy Jackson has once again dressed up as a young Marlon Brando in "The Wild One." Judge Steven Tyler and judge Jennifer Lopez have come dressed as a pirate and his moll in a Vincent Minnelli musical.

40 million votes came in over the last two nights of competition, Seabiscuit says. It's a sign, he says, of how popular this crop of Idolettes is. Or, it's a sign that if, for the first time, "Idol" decides to allow anyone on Facebook to log 50 votes, you can clock 40 million votes pretty easily.

These 40 million votes were used to tabulate the Top 10 vote getters, Seabiscuit says -- only they have to be an even split of five guys and five chicks, so if, say, seven guys got more votes than any of the chicks two of them would be out of luck. I'm not cynical about this process - not at all.

Anyway, the three judges will get to pick some Wild Cards - only no one's saying how many, which means it isn't two because that's what we've come to expect.

We see taped interviews with some of the guy contestants. They're talking about being thrust into celebrity. Their eyes widen as they facially re-enact being snapped by paparazzi. James Durbin describes being told "James look over here!" repeatedly ending with "Look over here, it's Country Living!" We're pretty sure he's making that part up. It's a little glimpse for us into what celebrities would be like without publicists.

Ex-victim of bullying Brett Loewenstern describes his "Idol" journey to self-esteem:

"This whole thing has brought me from being a burnt cookie in the batch to being a burnt cookie with frosting on top. I'm like the rainbow cookie in a pile of chocolate chip cookies. I'm like that cookie cupcake with the frosting on it and designs. I like cookies." Should Brett make it to celebrity-hood he will be buying a lot of cookies.

Seabiscuit lets us know he is all about the business of elimination tonight, no time to waste. He's like the master of ceremonies at a public hanging.

First pair to hear verdicts: Scotty McCreery (deep voice, only country-style male singer to make it this far, plays baseball, says things like "golly day") and Robbie Rosen (childhood disease, New York, and other stuff we must be forgetting). Scotty is through, though we know durn well he won't make it all the way to Idol-dom as a country singer.
Robbie returns to the parrot perch because there are going to be those wild card slots to fill tonight.

Three more guys are brought to center stage:

Clint "June Bug" Gamboa who gave a rousing performance in his last outing but who has all but had a scarlet letter A burned on him by the producers for "Being Mean to Cute, Pudgy Adolescents" after the whole incident in which he cast out cute, pudgy Jacee Badeaux from June Bug's group during group-sing prep for some reason which is too painful for us to remember now.

Also, Jordan Dorsey, he who last sang an Usher song so unconvincingly he seemed to give up about half way through the song. Dorsey also was seen swanning around imperially during group-sing prep.

And, finally, there's Jovany Barreto, the Singin' Shipwright (that's a word, right?) who seems to have a clean record in the character department.

Clint starts to hyperventilate. Seabiscuit and JenPez make Jordan squirm some more over his song choice. In the end all three are told by Ryan to "take to the stools" which has possibilities to catch on as a catch phrase, we think.

"It's going to be intense all evening long," Seabiscuit says. Which means about 90 minutes - Fox, thankfully, does not program the 10-11 o'clock hour of primetime.
Let's get some girls up here.

Pia Toscano was a dark horse in the competition, who got the big Standing O from the judges for her mastery of singing while performing a one handed hula as well as her full throated finishing notes.

We learn that First Season Winner Kelly Clarkson sent a tweet to Lauren Alaina, comparing her to Kellie Pickler, the country singer from Season No. 5 who didn't make it very far in the competition but went on to some success in her professional career which is, of course, the nicest thing anyone could wish on an "Idol" contestant. Ryan asks her about the comparison to KPick, as well as Randy comparing her to Clarkson with some Carrie Underwood mixed in. Lauren drawls endearingly, "Ah, don't know, ah'm just Lauren." She goes through, and so does Pia.

Next up Ta-Tynisa Williams and Julie Zorrilla. Now, Julie is a bit of a sad story, built up by the producers into a potential winner (good voice, good looks, good back story), then the judges and the producers turned on her and pegged her as having no heart. America agrees and she's sent off to see the Wizard. Ta-Tynisa too.

Next to be hauled out of the tumbrel and up to the guillotine: Kendra Chantelle, Ashthon Jones, and Karen Rodriguez. Only Karen survives. She blows dramatic kisses to her millions of fans and takes a seat with the others who have survived.

Next: Two of this year's major talents both in the singing and personality department: Jacob Lusk and Casey Abrams. Oh, yes, and Tim Halperin who looked good behind the piano in Las Vegas dueting with the then-lucky charm Julie Zorrilla, but didn't make the transition well to center stage this week. "Randy thought you didn't bring anything to the song," Ryan reminds him--which just reminds us that Randy never brings anything new to his comments, so what the hey?

Jacob and Casey go through after more reprising of the fact that Jennifer called Casey "sexy."

Next, Seabiscuit hauls up on stage the very tall Naima Adedapo, the tiny Thia Megia, and the solidly built Lauren Turner. Lauren has already let us know in a taped bit that she knows where America lives and if America cuts her from the competition "I'm gonna cut you!" This would have been useful information before "Idol" closed the voting.

Lauren's out. Naima's out. Thia's in.

Time to gauge America's interest in this season's two "quirky" guys: Brett Lowenstern (big hair) and Paul McDonald (big bright teeth). Brett did not so well two nights ago imitating Jim Morrison, while Paul did really well imitating Rod Stewart. Ryan asks the jittery Brett "How badly do you want this?" and he replies jumpily, "I want this so badly but I'm numb right now." Cookies, quick!

Brett's out. Paul's in.

That leaves only one more chick spot and Haley Reinhart and Rachel Zevita the only two chicks left who do not know their fate. Rachel, woman of many looks, looks tonight like a young Elizabeth Taylor in "National Velvet" and as nervous as Liz before that first big horse race. Haley, whose been a bit of a surprise in this competition, in that she looks like one of those fresh-faced chicks with the earpieces selling you clothing in The Gap but sings with a hard-edge bluesy voice, goes through to be the final girl in the viewers' Top 10.

Same drill, only it's two guys this time: Stefano Langone (motorcycle accident) and Adam Lambert Lite, aka James Durbin (Tourette Syndrome and Asperger's Syndrome).

Durbin's in and Stefano's out.

Time for the Wild Card competition and Seabiscuit is giving off a major vibe that anything can happen, though of course not anything that will mess with the commercial breaks. The judges will decide which of the singers in Parrot Perch Purgatory will get to sing again, in hopes the judges will make them one of their wild card picks to continue in the competition. The judges have ruled that six will get another chance -- three guys, three chicks.

First up is Ashthon. She chooses Jennifer Hudson's "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" because, she says, "I'm not going." Her performance is bombastic: 75% attitude, 25% singing.

The judges love her. JLo: "I felt your passion." Randy: "I still love the attitude."
Stefano is also chosen to sing on appeal. Fear of career crash brings out deep wells of talent; he really sings out.

The judges like him, too. Tyler: "You brought it right now ...(with) all the stuff that made me fall in love with your voice."

Kendra gets her second chance and chooses "Georgia". She also chooses to show off every single note in her range from bass to tweeter.

Jovany is brought back to sing "Angel" and he's switching in and out of English and Spanish. Hey, it worked for Karen Rodriguez. But he's not topping his previous performances. JLo lavishes him with faint praise: "You did a good job, baby, you did all you could do."

Naima gets another shot. But that means bye-bye to Ta-Tynesia, Lauren, Julie and Rachel since there goes the last slot for a girl. Naimi belts out "For All We Know" and then begins to weep. Judges rave.

Robbie Rosen is their final wild card candidate, which leaves Jordan, Brett, Tim and Clint out in the cold. Robbie sings an Elton John tune, "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word," which includes the appropriate lyrics, "What do I have to do to make you love me?" It's sweet, but not the show-stopper he needed.

Seabiscuit thinks this might be the toughest night - ever. The judges think so too. There are only minutes to go in the show and they can't make up their minds which singers to pick! What to do?!

Thank goodness, the producers just happen to have JLo's new music video, just lying around waiting for someone to give it its World Premiere!

Four minutes later, the judges have made their decision.

The judges announce they have picked: Ashthon.

Say what?

They have also picked: Stefano.

Then Tyler announces the final wild card: "Naima - you're in!"

And that makes 13.

Here are photos of the rest of the finalists:

Casey Abrams, 20, from Wilmette, Ill. (currently lives in Idyllwild, Calif.)


James Durbin, 22, from Santa Cruz, Calif.


Stefano Lagone, 21, from Kent, Wash.


Scotty McCreery, 17, from Garner, N.C.


Paul McDonald, 26, from Huntsville, Ala. (currently lives in Nashville):


Naima Adedapo, 26, from Milwaukee:


Lauren Alaina, 16, from Rossville, Ga.


Ashthon Jones, 24, from Nashville:


Thia Megia, 16, from Hayward, Calif. (currently lives in Mountain House, Calif.)


Haley Reinhart, 20, from Wheeling, Ill.:


Karen Rodriguez, 21, from New York


By Lisa de Moraes  | March 4, 2011; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: 'Two and a Half Men' star Jon Cryer: "This is a trainwreck"
Next: 'American Idol' 2011: 25 million watch unveiling of Top-13


For the wildcards:

Girls - Based on last nights preformances I think Kendra should have be in over Ashton. Not sure about Naima. Doesn't really matter - none of these are winning.

Boys - Stefano was definitely the right choice.

I would have just saved Stefano and sent everyone else packing and gon with a top 11.

But then where would they get those extra two weeks...

Posted by: a1icia | March 4, 2011 8:46 AM | Report abuse

You are too good, Lisa. Was pleasantly surprised - viewers got rid of the milk-toast boys and seemed to keep the interesting ones. Clint was a bit of a character but reminds my kids too much of one of Alvin's chipmunks... not seeing him as an idol. Missed the girls episode so can't speak to their talent (or lack thereof). Looking forward to next week's analysis!

Posted by: KOKensington | March 4, 2011 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Stefano was the only one worth saving! Ashthon? Really? She is cute etc but cannot sing. Naima is okay. Lauren Turner sang better than both of them though and she didn't make it! My prediction is that one of the boys wins in April!

Posted by: MILWI | March 4, 2011 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Brett the rainbow cookie... priceless. When the judges picked their 6 wildcards I really had the feeling that all were going to get a second chance, it just feels like they eliminated too many at once. Why even have a top 24 to begin with? Clint was a good singer, but he messed with Justin Blubber and the judges never forgave him for it.

Posted by: ozpunk | March 4, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

After watching the guys I broke them down to 6 interesting and quirky singers and 6 pop-cliche singers....fortunately 5 out of the 6 interesting guys went through and the weakest quirky guy (Lowenstern) got the boot...they had to keep one Pop Boy.

The girls are almost all boring diva wanna be's. All are nice singers, probably better singers than the guys. But none do anything unique or interesting. It's the guys season to win.

Oh....I miss Simon. Randy is trying but the brutal honesty we love is just lacking.

Posted by: Edgolfterp1 | March 4, 2011 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Ashthon! WTF! She definitely robbed Kendra - no question. The Diana Ross attitude and confidence only gives her the same weak voice as Diana. Bad move! Bad move!

Posted by: cymp65 | March 4, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Ashton should have been summarily eliminated for even ATTEMPTING the song that Jennifer Hudson made her career on! The comparison was not good, and Simon would have pointed that out. Overall, I like the kinder/gentler version of AI this year-- I don't think it's necessary to be cruel (usually)-- but Ashton's singing is weak, weak, weak.

I was sorry to see Brett go because I really like him, but his singing wasn't the best. Stefano was the right choice. But Jacob, Casey and Thia are through and Lauren is adorable, so I'm happy.

Posted by: inkydog | March 4, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I can't stand Karen Rodriguez. Too full of herself and haughty.

Posted by: SouthernLady | March 4, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I can't stand Karen Rodriguez. Too full of herself and haughty.

thank you for that. She drives me crazy. And I'm a proud latina. So sad to admit it.

Posted by: Babeeornge | March 4, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Lisa - maybe I'm naive to the tv column world but you seem so miserable writing this up. Are you telling the powers that be that you want to be fired? Why are you forced to write about something that you obviously so detest. I don't get it.

Posted by: Babeeornge | March 4, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Babeeornge....she always writes like that. Lisa always has a chip on her shoulder and disrespects everyone she writes about. It's the Washington Compost...need i say more?

Posted by: SouthernLady | March 4, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Babs and the Lady,

It's part snark, part humor, part satire, and part love-of-the-pop-culture-corniness (that can only come from watching AI for 10 solid years). If you don't like the style, go read something else. Many of us find it funny.

Posted by: anonymice | March 9, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

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