‘American Idol’ Reveals First Batch Of Top 24

There were plenty of tears — mostly from Jennifer Lopez — as early faves like Chris Medina failed to make the cut.

In its 10th season, “American Idol” has already gone coast-to-coast (and, uh, Milwaukee), in search of the next pop superstar. So when it came time to whittle their list of hopefuls down to the top 24, a few additional miles probably weren’t going to hurt anyone.

On Wednesday night’s (February 23) show, “Idol” trekked from Hollywood to Las Vegas — where the 61 remaining contestants were hacked down to just 40 — and then back to the show’s hometown of Los Angeles, where, at long last, the voyage came to a close with the unveiling of the 24 singers who will compete for this season’s crown … or, at least, that’s what we were told.

But before we got to the cliffhanger climax, we had to make the trip from Hollywood to Las Vegas. The action on Wednesday’s episode began immediately following the oft-treacherous Hollywood Week , which meant that those who had survived didn’t have long to celebrate. Rather, they boarded buses and headed down to the Mirage Resort and Casino in Vegas, where they performed songs from the Beatles’ legendary catalog.

And the results of those performances were mixed. Singing in pairs and trios, some “Idol” frontrunners kept up the pace — Jacob Lusk, Haley Reinhart and Naima Adedapo thrilled on “The Long and Winding Road”; Tim Halperin and Julie Zorilla turned in a sweet version of “Something”; and Paul McDonald and Kendra Chantelle wowed the judges with their soulful take on “Blackbird” (“So beautiful … I really loved it,” Jennifer Lopez raved) — while others fell off.

Those in the latter category included the trio of TaTynisa Wilson, Jerome Bell and Lakeisha Lewis, who puzzled the judges with their version of “I Saw Her Standing There,” and (most notably) the duo of hotly-tipped teens Melinda Ademi and Thia Megia, who failed to wow with “Here Comes the Sun.”

Others who stumbled in Vegas included the trio of Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery and Denise Jackson, who fumbled through “Hello, Goodbye” (first before a cadre of producers that included Interscope honcho Jimmy Iovine, Alex Da Kid and Jim Jonsin, and then on the Mirage stage), and quirky Ashley Sullivan, who decided to get hitched at Vegas’ iconic Little White Chapel before her performance, and then whiffed on “We Can Work It Out.”

At the end of the two-day Vegas performances, most of those who stumbled were sent packing — not to mention memorable contestants like White House intern Molly DeWolf Swensen, goofy Carson Higgins and rocker dude Caleb Hawley — as the “Idol” judges cut the remaining 60 down to 40 … and then put them back on the bus for Los Angeles, where the Top 24 was revealed in dramatic fashion.

Or, part of it was anyway.

Because though “Idol” producers had spent most of the two-hour episode touting that big reveal, in the end, we only learned the identities of a handful of the 24 finalists: Adedapo, Reinhart and McDonald plus Clint Jun Gamboa and Ashthon Jones. And while that swerve was somewhat shocking, it was the news of who didn’t make the final cut that really caused jaws to drop.

Namely, breakout star Chris Medina , who won over viewers — and the “Idol” judges — with his dedication to his fiancée (who was seriously injured in a car accident. And when Lopez broke the news that his “Idol” journey was over— “It honestly breaks my heart to say this,” Lopez said — she broke down and needed to be consoled by her fellow judges.

And with that (and Lopez’s sobbed admission that she didn’t know if she could continue on as a judge), Wednesday night’s episode came to a dramatic close. The remainder of the Top 24 will be revealed on Thursday … and who knows what will happen then.

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