After Wednesday night's drama-filled cliffhanger -- in which we saw three cities, a whole lot of shocking eliminations, the partial reveal of this season's top 24 and one truly epic meltdown by judge Jennifer Lopez -- "American Idol" cut down on the theatrics Thursday night (February 24) and got down to the business of unveiling the remaining finalists.
That's not to say there still weren't tears (there were, mostly from Lopez), but most of the names the "Idol" judges chose for the top 24 were drama-free: front-runners like Julie Zorilla, Lauren Alaina, Jordan Dorsey, Pia Toscano and Jacob Lusk all breezed through, though Lusk earned the highest praise, as Randy Jackson told him his performance of "God Bless the Child" was "the single best performance on 'Idol,' ever." And even some of the tight decisions weren't really all that suspenseful. Karen Rodriguez, Robbie Rosen, country crooner Scotty McCreery and Casey Abrams all earned spots in the top 24, even if they had to sit through a few minutes of psych-out tactics by the judges.
Kendra Chantell, Lauren Turner, a tearful Tatynisa Wilson, Jovany Barreto, Tim Halperin and Stefano Langone also moved on to the "Idol" semifinals. In fact, there were really only two shock inclusions in the top 24: quirky opera singer Rachel Zevita (who swayed the judges with her final performance, a searing take on Lady Gaga's "Speechless") and rocker James Durbin, who wailed through the Sam Cooke classic "A Change Is Gonna Come."
There were, however, more than a few shocking exclusions. Not really the likes of John Wayne Schulz or Jackie Wilson (who took umbrage with the judges' decision, asking them bluntly, "Really? Why?"), but in the final cuts, which saw the show bid adieu to some favorites.
Seven-time "Idol" auditioner Jessica Cunningham and 15-year-old prodigy Thia Megia were the last two female singers left standing, but only one of them would move on to the top 24. In the end, the judges took Megia, sending Cunningham packing once again, on her birthday no less (she thanked them with a pair of middle fingers).
And that left three guys competing for the final spot in the top 24: teen favorite Jacee Badeaux, wiry-haired Brett Loewenstern and dour rocker Colton Dixon. All three held hands as they walked toward their final judgment, and, after some serious moments of tension, Loewenstern's name was called, leaving Badeaux and Dixon on the outside looking in.
All in all, 19 singers were selected Thursday night, joining Naima Adedapo, Haley Reinhard, Paul McDonald, Clint Jun Gamboa and Ashthon Jones in the top 24. And the competition goes live next week, with the guys kicking things off Tuesday.
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