It may have taken two months of preliminary episodes, but we finally got our Top 10 on “American Idol” tonight. And it’s good.
So maybe the new semi-final round added like eight too many more hours of television we had to watch, but in exchange, we got a fine-tuned roster of finalists—all of whom are going on the “Idol” tour.
Almost every pick announced tonight was well deserved. How often can we say that about the Hollie Cavanagh/Katie Stevens/Sanjaya mistakes that overstayed their welcomes long past Hollywood round?
Almost 39 million votes were cast, we learned at the top of the show, 10 million more than last year at this time, which Ryan Seacrest attributed to “how dynamic this season’s group is,” not the new SuperVote that allows people to cast 50 votes in one thumbstroke. Though the group is pretty good, I’d say Ryan’s assessment was not totally accurate.
The only other mistake tonight was the format, an awkward arrangement that had Ryan running to and from the backstage area repeatedly. First, the top 10 boys, and then the top 10 girls, sat in a backstage room and one by one, got picked to move on. For every name Ryan called, he than sprinted with them to the stage, gave them some life coaching for a moment before opening the video screen—on the other side of which was the audience and the judges, who didn’t know the verdict yet. They came through, got their glory moment, and sang a “victory song,” which is code for a hurriedly rehearsed song with vague references to inspirational themes.
I bet it would have been way more fun to be in the live audience tonight, and get to be surprised as the monolithic monitor opened up. Instead, we got to watch a very brief reaction, followed by lots of urgent shuffling. The first few contestants that made it through, Paul Jolley and Burnell Taylor, didn’t even get a handshake. They just ran off and out to the other side of the screen.
Lazaro Arbos broke the spell, when he asked Ryan if he could have a word with Ray Chew, the music guy, about his victory song, which was a cool little backstage moment to witness. As the night went on, Ryan got a little more friendly with the other winners. By the time the girls were getting results, he was chatting with them casually about how they slept the night before.
So each contestant sang a song after they made it through, which in most cases confirmed they belonged in the Top 10. Special props for Candice Glover’s “I’m Goin’ Down,” Amber Holcomb’s “I’m Every Woman” and Burnell Taylor’s “Ready for Love.”
But some of the performances had contestants a bit out of their elements, or falling back on annoying habits. Paul Jolley did the “Idol” favorite “Alone”—as a victory song! What a waste! And smiled through it cheesily. He’s your classic “Idol” guy in the Clay Aiken mode—the moms have spoken.
Also trying for the Clay Aiken thing was Lazaro Arbos, but his pitch was all over the place on “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which then led me down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos from Season 2, and suddenly I’m back in college and there are posters of pop singers on my dorm walls and how did I get here?
And without a piano, Angie Miller is just not as compelling, even though her tearful rendition of Beyonce’s “I Was Here” made Keith Urban cry—legitimately! I saw the tears!
Still, the Top 10 as a whole is probably the strongest one I’ve seen on this show in years—and the most likable finalists of any group on a music competition in recent memory. Janelle Arthur dancing through Candice Glover’s rousing performance was adorable, and Curtis Finch, Jr. and Burnell hugging in the stands equally so. These seem like genuinely good people, and we have a fun next 10 weeks ahead.
In order of social media domination, (with Twitter and Facebook followers) here are the Top 10 of Season 12:
1 Angie Miller 31,065/29,097
2 Lazaro Arbos 18,504/6,190
3 Kree Harrison 10,586/3,477
4 Burnell Taylor 8,587/854
5 Candice Glover 6,976/2,351
6 Janelle Arthur 6,941/3,372
7 Paul Jolley 6,540/2,825
8 Devin Velez 4,740/675
9 Amber Holcomb 4,314/821
10 Curtis Finch Jr. 3,929/1,816