It was another week with no save on “American Idol.” Didi Benami’s ride to potential stardom screeched to a halt Wednesday night (March 31) when even a strong reprise of her signature Fleetwood Mac cover wasn’t enough to keep her in the game. The action-packed hour featured performances from Usher, season-two “Idol” champ Ruben Studdard and Diddy-Dirty Money, as well as a visit from Justin Bieber, but all eyes were on the top 10, as nearly half the finalists were potential bottom-three fodder after an uneven night of R&B performances on Tuesday.
It’s on to the next one, though, for Lee Dewyze, Casey James, Aaron Kelly and Siobhan Magnus, who survived after her wobbly take on Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire” elicited a thumbs-down across the board from the judges. Also safe were Crystal Bowersox, Andrew Garcia and Michael Lynche, who celebrated his luck with a near body slam of Ryan Seacrest after the host tried to fake him out.
Teen Katie Stevens had no such luck, taking another trip to the bottom three after the judges had mixed reviews for her cover of Aretha Franklin’s iconic “Chain of Fools.” She was joined, not surprisingly, by Benami, who got mostly poor notices for her jazzy attempt at “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” a departure from her singer/songwriter lane that drew predictions of a trip home from our “Idol” experts .
Joining them was perma-grinning “Teflon” Tim Urban, who got flamed for his shambolic attempt at Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love.” He took the time to explain that the reason he’s always smiling onstage is that he appreciates the opportunity to sing for millions, and if it’s his last chance to do so, he doesn’t want to leave the stage wearing a frown.
The sojourn in the cellar was short for Stevens, who was the first one sent back to safety, followed by the seemingly bulletproof Urban, who busted out his signature smile upon hearing the news.
Benami gave it one more chance, taking another swing at her well-received folky ramble through Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” which she imbued with the coffeehouse flavor that made the judges fall in love with her the first time. Though she flubbed a note near the end, the performance was a mostly strong one, but, alas, not enough to keep her in the mix.
After not even considering the save last week when they sent Paige Miles packing , Simon Cowell seemed torn over whether to bust it out this time. “It’s bad news, sweetheart. We’re not going to save you,” he said with a frown. “[But] it was a million times better than what you did last night.”
Benami took a gracious bow and smiled as she watched her farewell montage before breaking into tears as her fellow finalists crowded around for a warm group hug.
At the top of the show, producers amped up the drama in a whole new way, intercutting footage from the upcoming “Clash of the Titans” remake with clips from Tuesday night’s performances, setting up the night’s eliminations as a battle between the monolithic judges and the starry-eyed contestants.
Among the performers was nearly slim season-two champ Studdard, who spread some velvet-teddy-bear love with his silky ode to the perfect lover, “Don’t Make ’Em Like You No More,” working the stage like an old-school soul veteran and encouraging the audience to get into it as he swayed and bobbed to the beat.
Also in the house was Justin Bieber, who was on hand to see a performance from his musical guru, this week’s “Idol” mentor, Usher . Wearing a dark suit with silver lapels and a black bowler hat, Ush popped and locked his way through his new single, the spare dance anthem “OMG,” with help from Will.I.Am.
Making his “Idol” debut was Diddy, with Dirty Money , performing their new single “Hello, Good Morning” in public for the first time. The throbbing Euro-disco club burner with a Timbaland-style beat found the Bad Boy boss busting out his signature shoulder-shrugging dance moves while sporting a white leather suit and bouncing across a fog-enshrouded stage.
Next week, the top nine will take on the Lennon/McCartney songbook as they sing Beatles songs.
What did you think of tonight’s elimination? Did America send the right singer home? Leave your comments below!
Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page, where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.