‘Idol’ Recap: Is 40 Fabulous?

Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Ryan Seacrest, Nicki Minaj, and Keith Urban on "American Idol" (FOX)

In the last “American Idol” elimination—before the next one, anyway—judges Thursday night shaved the pool down to just 40 contestants, evenly split between the two genders that don’t include Kez Ban.

The show opens with the big looming question: Can a girl win this year? It’s been a while, and the answer is probably not, but certainly it’s worth pondering.

The girls take the stage one-by-one for their final solos, starting with Angela Miller, who only really surfaced to our consciousness on Wednesday in a couple decent clips. Thursday, she performed her own original song, on piano, called “You Set Me Free,” and it was really wonderful. She has a great voice, enhanced by the comfort of doing one’s own music. Songwriters never quite excel this way on pop covers. The judges all loved it, giving her a standing ovation, and she’s through to the next round.

Candice Glover’s been pretty much a knockout since her audition, and continued that route with her insanely high belt on “Girl on Fire.” Then Janelle Arthur, whose country accent is a bit overbearing, still gave a solid performance of “I Told You So.”

It’s almost like they’re putting through only good singers this year, or something. How novel.

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Next up: Zoanette Johnson, who makes Nicki Minaj feel “honored” to be on “Idol,” “just to say I was a part of the Zoanette era.” Zoanette made up her own song the day prior, and accompanied herself on drums—it was an aggressive jazz ditty about her relationship with the judges, in which Randy Jackson and Nicki got a lot of love, followed by the lines: “And then there was Mariah. And there was Keith.” In the middle, she stops and tells the band to slow it down, then loses her drumstick, stops and gets it, and continues on in what is certainly the most persistent performance of the night. It’s amazing.

“Seriously,” said Mariah, “I think people are going to be looking at this for years to come.”

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Also through: Shubha Vedula, who sang “When You Believe” and got this comment from selfish Mariah: “That was a nice moment for me, personally.”

Then we got some footage of Zoanette taking Kez Ban clothes shopping at the mall, something I will forever wish I had experienced in person. Kez settles on a tight red dress, which somehow still looks like circus-wear. She does an original song, and I’m hoping it’ll be as interesting as her first audition, but it’s not. It’s literally two lines, and then she steps back and bows. The judges don’t even make her wait with the other girls for the verdict, they just send her home right there. As the era of Zoanette dawns, the era of Kez has fallen. But not before Kez asks for a job getting Ryan Seacrest water.

Ashlee Feliciano, the girl with the big foster family, was another casualty, as well as Briana Oakley, who was bullied for appearing on a daytime talk show. But Melinda Ademi and Kree Harrison, who became an orphan at 19, are still in the game.

The judges got it down to 24, then did another round of cuts, getting rid of Lauren Mink, Holly Marie Miller and Ariel Sprague. With 21 left, bleach-blonde Stephanie Schimel and deep-voiced country girl Rachel Hale took the stage once more. Stephanie sang “Home” and she did a more interesting job in her final moments, but the judges went the country route, keeping Rachel for another couple weeks.

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Then it was time for the boys, who last week were left with 28 and needed some trimming. Right off the bat, cutie Adam Sanders and gospel guy Josh Holiday were told they’d be singing once more. Adam picked Celine Dion’s “Taking Chances,” but he lost all control over the notes to a painful degree. Josh got so into “Georgia on My Mind” that he ripped his pants apart.

So it was Josh to the semi-finals, and Adam sent home, along with Peter Garrett, Marvin Calderone, Devin Jones, Kenny Harrison, Will White, Tony Foster, and last year’s Hollywood reject David Leathers, Jr.

So that’s it! Except not, because the next couple weeks are semi-finals in Las Vegas, at the end of which, just one in four of the remaining contestants get to move on to the live shows, and try to carve out their own little space in time in the era of Zoanette.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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