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The Top 36 Emerge

This round marked the end of the judge’s decisions and the beginning of America choosing its own Idol. From the Top 54, the judges narrowed the contestants down to 36, even forcing them to engage in “Sing-offs” with one another when they weren’t sure whom to progress.

As far as contestants who made it to the Top 36, judge favorites Anoop Desai, Scott MacIntyre, Lil Rounds, Matt Giraud, Jorge Nunez, Jasmine Murray and Danny Gokey all sailed through.  Von Smith, who said “this is why I’m alive,” made the cut, too, thanks in part to his choice to be a little more subdued during Hollywood Week, as opposed to doing his typical Judy Garland drag queen impersonation. Another drama geek, Adam Lambert, will progress to the Top 36 as well; Simon’s explanation was that “strange things happen on this show.”  Joanna Pacitti, former girl-with-a-record-deal who was fired from the title role of “Annie” on Broadway impressed the judges too.  They think that she deserves a chance, despite being given numerous chances in the industry already.  Less memorable singers also made the grade. They include: Taylor Vaifanua, Arianna Afsar, Casey Carlson, Megan Corkrey, Mishavonna Henson, Stevie Wright, Kendall Beard, Alexis Grace, Ricky Braddy, Brent Keith, and Jeanine Vailes.  Kai Kalama and Anne Marie Boskovich also moved forward. 

There were a few surprises, though.  Jamar Rogers, best friend to widower Danny Gokey, did not make the Top 36.  Hopefully we will see him as one of the judges’ wild card choices.  While the judges noted that Rogers took a risk by putting a soulful spin on “Hey There Delilah” in Hollywood Week, it is interesting that Ju’not Joyner did progress, even though his take on the same song came off as rather lascivious.  Although Stephen Fowler gave up in the middle of his audition and left the stage, the judges clearly saw talent in him and asked him to stay.  Somewhat surprisingly, they also asked Nick Mitchell/Norman Gentle to stay and even expressed disappointment at his subdued nature as he came before them.  Basically, they were begging for more character cabaret performances.  We’re all looking forward to that.  America will also get to vote for Jackie Tohn, whom Randy said was definitely a “fun girl;” I think that’s Dawg Talk for “annoying.”  Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the judge’s decision to keep Tatiana del Toro on the show.  While she has a nice voice, her emotional ups and downs are what keep us (and, I’m guessing, the judges) coming back.  As she came out of the judging room screaming, the look on fellow drama queen Nathaniel Marshall’s face was priceless. 

The most dramatic and nerve-racking moments of the show involved the never-before-done “Sing Offs.”  This happened five times on last night’s show.  First off was Cody Sheldon, the “alternative” looking young lad with the plucked eyebrows who was up against the forgettable-looking but stronger-voiced Alex Wagner-Trugman.  The judges chose Trugman’s voice over Sheldon’s marketability.  Next up was pretty Jenn Korbee versus former “Nashville Star” contestant Kristen McNamara.  Taking into account that Jenn Korbee’s presence on the show hasn’t even been documented until now, the judges’ decision was easy to predict.  They went with McNamara, but warned her to work on her image. Paula, of all people, even remarked, “What is she wearing?” at one point. Paula.  Cocky mom Frankie Jordan and forgettable Jesse Langseth (have we ever seen her before?) went head to head as well, with Langseth prevailing.  Theatrical Nathaniel Marshall competed against Jackie Midkiff, a strong singer with no personality.  Marshall came out on top and hopefully he will bring the drama to the Top 36! The last two to engage in a “Sing Off” were oil roughneck Michael Sarver and welder Matt Breitzke, both likable blue-collar dads.  Instead of choosing one, the judges decided to keep both of them. America will no doubt keep both of them around for awhile, too, not only for their talent but because they represent the “American Dream.”