Four say goodbye and we name the Top 12. But not before last season's runner-up Blake Lewis performs his new single "How Many Words." Nice dance moves but not a great vocal. I think five of the performances this week would make stronger singles. But in defense of last season's finalists: Blake's album is easily one of the best reviewed debut albums by an Idol alum (only Carrie Underwood's blockbuster was received better). And while people dismissed Jordin Sparks as just teen fluff, who's that I see with two hit singles at the moment ("Tattoo" and "No Air" with Chris Brown)? Yep, Jordin Sparks.
David Cook, David Archuleta and Jason Castro all took seats in the Top 12. Does this, I wonder, track with the number of votes they got? I wouldn't be surprised if they were this week's top three vote getters among the men. For the gals, Brooke White (singer-songwriter, Brooke; think "singer-songwriter!") and my crush Syesha Mercado made it through. I find it hard to believe Syesha was in the top two of vote getters but I'd like to think so. They gave each other a half-hearted hug. Brooke is all sweetness and light but I think she's gunning for the finals. Brooke don't mess around.
Kady Malloy -- Nodding her head because she knew she was going home. My first pick and I was right. Asia'h Epperson burst into tears even before Kady gave a dreadful, off-key rendition of Queen's "Who Wants To Live Forever." No final insult from the judges, which was nice, though someone could have said, "You're an entertainer; not a singer." Take acting lessons, try out for sketch shows, Kady. A group hug from the gals at the end, which did NOT include Brooke or Syesha. Hey, once you're in the Top 12 you do not want to give up that seat.
David Hernandez must have been nervous since the first gal was eliminated. But David sported military tags (a leftover from his days as an adult entertainer, one couldn't help wondering?) and sailed through. Michael Johns also made it. I should have been smarter and realized he was safe: when all three judges anoint you as going through to the next round, it's very very rare that someone gets cut.
Luke Menard -- All three judges did not anoint Luke, who was sent home. He was very composed and seemed to know his number was up. At the very least, he can switch from his job of carpet cleaning to a little runway work. Paula said some nice things, of course. All night long she told every single person going home that they were going to be a great, big beautiful shining star. Your appreciation for her kind words dims a little when you hear her saying it to the janitor, the chauffeur, the doorman, and on and on.
Ramielle Malubay was safe and got a hug and gentle pat from Danny. Both he and Chikezie were on the spot, but he was still able to applaud her. Nice kid. Carly Smithson and Amanda Overmyer were also safe. That left a showdown between...
Asia'h Epperson v. Kristy Lee Cook -- I had picked Asia'h to go and I was right. Kristy gave a very nice distinctive, fresh performance of a classic tune. (And Middle America loves country; I was wrong by the way -- listening to the song again she gave it more than a little twang than I first thought). Ryan said, "I'm going to give you the choice" again when it came time for her to sing. Ryan, they always have a choice. What are you going to do? Kick her off the show if she refuses? She did a fine job with Paula yelling out that it was her best vocal yet. Danny and Chikezie clapped dutifully along though they looked like they were at a funeral.
Danny v. Chikezie -- Chikezie took Danny's hand and held it as they walked to the center of the stage and then put his arm around Danny while Ryan spoke. Ramiele is crying because Danny looks upset. Then Chikezie nodded his head because he just knew he was the one going home. He does this every time and every time he's safe. Chikezie has to start believing in himself. Danny is sent home and now he starts crying and Ramiele is crying and he and Chikezie have a big long hug and Chikezie doesn't seem to want to let go and his parents are seen giving thanks to God for his win. Danny was totally bummed about not making it because he knows getting into the Top 12 means the tour and immortality of a sort that just missing the Top 12 does NOT get you. I'd felt he reached a tipping point of campiness with "Tainted Love" but wanted to believe one of the most entertaining contestants had another week or two in him. Is America ready for an openly gay Idol? He gave a stronger vocal performance tonight, with David Hernandez clapping and pumping his fists and dancing along. Good to see scandal hasn't inhibited him.
So Kady Malloy and Asia'h Epperson and Luke Menard and Danny Noriega are going home. I got three of four right (I picked Michael Johns to go instead of Danny) so maybe I'm finally starting to hit my stride a la Brooke White. Hope I haven't peaked too soon. Are you happy with the final 12 and is David Archuleta still the moppet to beat or has HE peaked too soon?