While we’ve only reached the top 12, season nine of “American Idol” is already shaping up to be quite a doozy, especially after Thursday night’s befuddling results show , which saw Lilly Scott, Katelyn Epperly and Alex Lambert kicked to the curb in favor of far inferior talent (and we mean, like, faaaaar).
And while those early exits were pretty shocking, “Idol” fans should be used to having their jaws hit the floor by now, particularly when it comes to the voting whims of the American public. Over the course of eight and a half seasons, those dastardly dialers have provided viewers with no shortage of shocking eliminations … ignoring things like genuine talent and common sense in favor of good looks and, well, more good looks.
We’ve compiled a list of the five most shocking “American Idol” eliminations to date, and while we’ll missy Lilly (and her earrings), her exit doesn’t even make the list. But give it a year or two … who knows how hard we’ll be kicking ourselves then?
#5: Chris Daughtry
At the time, his exit was slightly unexpected, but in hindsight, it was a slight of epic proportions. Daughtry finished fourth on the rather disastrous fifth season of “Idol” (he was booted in favor of Elliott Yamin, Katharine McPhee and eventual champ Taylor Hicks), and all he’s done in the time since is sell more albums than all of them combined, land a Grammy nomination and generally become one of the most popular guys on modern-rock radio. Also, one could argue that his exit — and his subsequent success — was part of the reason David Cook won the seventh season of “Idol.” Not too shabby.
#4: Michael Johns
A good-looking, golden-voiced Australian sorta-rocker, Johns was a presumptive favorite during the show’s seventh season. When he was voted off the show — viewers decided they preferred the flag waving histrionics of Kristy Lee Cook, the bong-glazed vibes of Jason Castro and the milquetoast stylings of Brooke White instead — it was definitely a shock. He’s never really recovered from his eighth-place finish, and last year, his self-titled album sold just 7,000 copies in its first week of release.
#3: Clay Aiken
The second-season “Idol” finals came down to the gawky, supremely talented Aiken and the big-voiced, lovable Ruben Studdard. In the end, it was Studdard who came out on top — in one of the closest (and most controversial) votes in show history — and though that decision raised eyebrows at the time, it’s only become more questionable as the years pass. Aiken still commands an undyingly loyal fanbase and has become a sort of catty cult figure (he still sells records too), while Studdard has struggled to take his career to the stratosphere.
#2: La Toya London
She finished in fourth place in season three, despite earning raves from the judges for her performances. During her time on the show, she also landed in the bottom three — along with eventual champ Fantasia Barrino and Jennifer Hudson — which sparked outcries from the public (and Elton John). Despite her supreme talents, she was axed in favor of the likes of Jasmine Trias and Diana DeGarmo, and her farewell performance of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” remains one of the most memorable in “Idol” history.
#1: Jennifer Hudson
London’s fellow contestant on season three, Hudson’s early exit from “Idol” — she finished seventh, in favor of folks like John Stevens — is the most shocking elimination in show history, not just because of her performances (standouts included John’s “Circle of Life” and Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing”) but because of everything she’s accomplished since (you know, like winning an Oscar). She was brought back as a wild-card performer but didn’t stick. And as a result, we’ve never looked at the American public the same way.
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