After one of the roughest first rounds in "American Idol" memory, voters appeared to get it right with the initial four eliminations of season nine. Though a few of the shakiest competitors from the debut week of live performances lived to see another day — think Tim Urban and Katie Stevens — Thursday night (February 25) marked the end of the road for Janell Wheeler, Ashley Rodriguez, Joe Muñoz and Tyler Grady.
Thanks to 24 million votes, the first singers who passed into safety include a glammed-up Siobhan Magnus, cowgirl wannabe Haeley Vaughn, Michelle Delamor, Katelyn Epperly and Stevens. That left all-American Florida girl Janell Wheeler on the outs. "That sucks," she said, snapping her fingers. "I had a feeling ... definitely wrong song choice," she admitted of Heart's "What About Love," which the judges felt was too big for her voice. After a reprise of the big rock ballad — which, frankly, was not much better than Tuesday night's effort — Wheeler's journey ended with a whimper.
The next woman to go was Ashley Rodriguez, once considered a potential finalist but who was undone with a shaky cover of Leona Lewis' "Happy." That left little-known Paige Miles in the running, along with Lacey Brown, who made it despite getting lambasted for her cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide." Suddenly surging Lilly Scott, early fave Crystal Bowersox and Didi Benami also survived.
Clearly disappointed, Rodriguez thanked her supporters, appearing eager to get on with her farewell performance, which, like Wheeler's, also provided proof that America got it right after another pitchy, all-over-the-place ramble through the big ballad.
The men lost little-known Joe Muñoz, who didn't win many fans with his just-OK swing at Jason Mraz's "You and I Both." Most shockingly, Tim Urban, who blatantly blew it with his all-over-the-place takedown of OneRepublic's "Apologize," lived to see another day, using up another of his nine lives as he extended his stay following a last-minute bid thanks to Chris Golightly's disqualification. Also fighting another day are: big Michael Lynche, who skated through thanks to his winning energy and personality, as well as, surprisingly, John Park, who appeared to blow it with his jittery stumble through the Billie Holiday jazz standard "God Bless the Child," high-schooler Aaron Kelly and singer/dancer Todrick Hall.
While Muñoz looked a bit peeved, the camera kept cutting to a baffled Urban, who clearly couldn't believe his second lightning-strike of dumb luck. Muñoz bopped around during his sing-off, but like the others, his quavery, weak vocals were proof enough that he was right where he belonged.
Not surprisingly, ear and eye candy Casey James made it, as did soulful Jermaine Sellers; the apple of Simon's eye, Lee Dewyze; early front-runner Andrew Garcia; and nerve-racked Alex Lambert, who barely made it through his take on "Wonderful World" Wednesday night and will need to get his stage fright under control if he's to advance further.
That left this year's only rocker, 1970s throwback Tyler Grady, on the outs after he flashed more style than substance on his cover of the Guess Who's "American Woman" on Wednesday. "I like all the judges, and I've really had a great time with them, but I feel like I didn't really get much constructive criticism during Hollywood Week, and what they told me was a little too late," he said, before halfheartedly reprising his retro-rocking showcase. He was joined by the other three rejected contestants for their goodbye video, which played over the new departure tune, original "Pop Idol" singer Will Young's "Leave Right Now."
The show included the traditional cheesy opening group song, which appeared to be a lip-synch-along to a smooth-jazz version of Estelle's "American Boy," which got kind of hard to follow when all 2 dozen singers crowded onto the stage. Last year's #4 finisher, Allison Iraheta, made a return to the "Idol" stage to sing her Pink-like new ballad "Scars," sporting her signature flowing crimson hair and a ruffled black minidress.
And last year's winner, Kris Allen, paid a visit to the stage as well, coming back to talk about his recent trip to Haiti with the United Nations Foundation and singing an emotional cover of the Beatles' "Let It Be," which will be available for download on iTunes as a fundraiser for earthquake relief.
The semifinalists do it all over again next Tuesday and Wednesday.
What did you think of Thursday night's eliminations? Did the right people get sent home? Let us know by writing your reactions below.
Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.