American Idol Top 12

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Thank god it's the end of three-times-a-week Idol. Tonight, we lost four more contestants to the ether and said hello to our Top 12. It's been a long road coming, and while I can't say I agree 100% with the Top 12, I will agree that most of the contestants in it deserve to be there.

Honestly, I think the Idol team accomplished their goal of creating the most talented Top 12 in Idol history. Say what you want about their professional pedigree and the lack of true amateurs in this group because in the end it won't really matter. What they will bring is a better more consistent product to the screen. Sure there's early favorites, but who can honestly predict the winner at this point (I know some of you are very certain you know who it will be)? Can you even predict the Top 12?

Blake Lewis, "How Many Words"
The show actually opened with the return of last season's runner-up. He came to debut his new single, and brought back his enigmatic dance moves. It definitely channels the synth-sound of the '80s; he indicated a heavy influence from that era. Yes, I haven't yet bought or heard his entire album, even though I enjoyed tremendously the creativity he brought to song arrangement last year. Overall, though, the song is a little dull for me. Even when he snuck in a little of his trademark beatboxing, it just fell kind of flat for me.

36 million votes came in collectively for the Top 16. Ryan has twelve shiny stools set up and the Top 16 divided up into the Top 8 boys and Top 8 girls. Instead of picking out the bottom four, he'll be one by one putting people through into the Top 12.

Ryan started with David Cook, who was extremely popular with the judges. In fact, Lionel Richie said he loved what David did with "Hello." David Cook's in. David Archuleta has been a favorite since day one and his string continues as he too makes the Top 12. Jason Castro brought the house down with "Hallelujah" and secured himself a spot in the Top 12. This left five boys and three spots.

Don't you love how Idol builds drama? Ryan shifted gears at this point to award some silver stools to the girls. Ryan kicked it off with Brooke White, who's folksy rendition of "Love is a Battlefield" was the performance of the night and catapulted her straight into the Top 12. Syesha Mercado was consistently good, if predictable for Simon's tastes. She was definitely good enough for the Top 12.

Kady Malloy stood up next, with incredibly deep cleavage. Too bad she didn't wear it last night as it might have given her enough of a boost to make the Top 12. Her personality in her videos just didn't translate well enough on the screen and she was the first to fall tonight. Even her encore performance was incredibly boring and out of tune. Kady never really shone onstage. While she might do very well on television as she's incredibly photogenic, singing doesn't seem to be her calling.

David Hernandez, who's been consistently strong vocally, withstood the controversy surrounding his prior profession to dance into the Top 12. Michael Johns has been picked by the judges to sail right through the competition, and he kept right on sailing into the Top 12.

It was his time, and I don't think it really came as a surprise to anyone when Ryan revealed that it was the end of the road for Luke Menard. For some reason, his approach just never really worked. He had some good vocal performances, and has a nice voice for adult contemporary alternative rock. But there were always so many singers who out performed him week after week.

And again, on his final performance, Luke was good but there was still something missing. Maybe it's a distinctive lack of power in his delivery. Honestly, I can't quite put my finger on it, but I never connected with Luke the way I have with several of the other contestants.

The next girl up was Ramiele Malubay who may have stumbled a bit in her latest performance, but still found her way into the Top 12. Carly Smithson has been another early favorite since her first audition, and continued her successful run right over to a stool in the Top 12. The next to stand was Amanda Overmyer, who finally found a satisfying groove with Joan Jett. It was enough to get her into the Top 12.

It had come down to Asia'h Epperson and Kristy Lee Cook for the final spot in the Top 12 from the girls side. After the obligatory commercial break, Ryan turned to the judges for their thoughts. Randy's pick was Asia'h to make it in. Paula, of course, wasn't going to make a decision so instead she did a little cheer for everyone. Simon said it ultimately didn't matter, but he guessed Asia'h would be the one going home. Finally, Ryan finished slowly peeling off the band-aid and cut Asia'h Epperson from the competition.

The only thing I can figure on this one is that Kristy appealed to the large country-and-western-midwest demographic because I think Asia'h can out-sing her any day. In fact, Asia'h is one of the strongest singers on the girls' side when she's on her game. Every season on Idol's stage someone is cut who doesn't deserve to be. Asia'h is this year's Sabrina Sloan.

On the guy's side, we've narrowed it down to Danny Noriega and Chikezie. Both have shown sass and attitude with the judges, and both had mid-level at best performances last night (though Chikezie brought it more than Danny in my opinion). Honestly, at this point I don't know that I'd miss either one over the other, though Danny is more entertaining. I think I'm still upset that Asia'h is gone.

Danny NoriegaChikezie didn't wow the judges, while Danny went over better with Randy and Paula than Simon. In the end, Chikezie moved into the Top 12, and Danny Noriega was cut. Of course, considering the close friendship that's been evidently blooming between Ramiele and Danny, the camera immediately cut to her so they could catch her falling apart.

Danny is a good vocalist, but his strength always seemed to lie more in his personality rather than his vocal talent. I think as the weeks passed, we began to see more and more that there was just no way he was going to be able to win this competition. Still, Danny's a great personality and I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see him as a correspondent on E! or some other celebrity trash show as soon as his contract allows.

The theme is songs by The Beatles. Also, they will be talking live to fans on the phone during the results show. That can only go fabulously. The stage set is all new this year as well. From here on out, it's only one elimination per week until we find the next American Idol. And it's one of these twelve...

Need more American Idol? Get an inside look at Season 7's contestants and think back to these scathing (and hilarious) Simon Cowell quotes.
Also: Who do you love? Rank the contestants!

Jason Castro
Amanda Overmyer
David Cook
Brooke White
David Hernandez
Syesha Mercado
Michael Johns
Carly Smithson
David Archuleta
Kristy Lee Cook
Ramiele Malubay

Boys Voted Out: Luke Menard & Danny Noriega
Girls Voted Out: Kady Malloy & Asia'h Epperson

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