‘American Idol’ Top 13: The Experts Weigh In

All agree that Stefano Langone deserved his second chance, but some think Kendra Chantelle was robbed.

Hearts were broken, some dreams were dashed and others were realized while a trio of singers was saved from the pop-culture trash heap on Thursday night during the two-hour “American Idol” results show .

We reached out to some of our favorite “Idol”izers to get their take on the action on the elimination extravaganza, and while they all had their complaints about who did and didn’t make the cut, the one thing they could all agree on was that Stefano Langone absolutely killed it when the chips were down.

Entertainment Weekly critic Annie Barrett said that for the most part, the top 13 was dead-on. “Everyone who we knew in our hearts should be in the top 10 was voted in,” she said of such finalists as Casey Abrams, Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery, Jacob Lusk, James Durbin, Paul McDonald and Pia Toscano.

“The one surprise was that Haley Reinhart was voted into the top 10 by America,” she said of the singer who did a competent but unimpressive take on “Fallin’ ” by Alicia Keys this week. “I don’t think she would have gotten a judges’ wild card.” Barrett was firmly behind the decision to give Langone a second chance and said he killed it during his take on Smokie Norful’s “I Need You Now,” which she said was full of feeling and emotion.

As for the other wild-card winners, Barrett said Naima Adedapo did a nice job after choosing the wrong song on Wednesday night and proved she deserved to be on the show, but she wasn’t feeling Ashthon Jones. “I didn’t think she was good last night,” said Barrett of Jones’ just-OK attempt at the “Dreamgirls” number “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”

“I’m surprised, but not surprised they wanted her because of who she is and what she looks like,” said Barrett. “She has that diva attitude and she’s a good character, so it’s good casting.”

MTV’s resident “Idol” expert, Jim Cantiello, for one, was pissed at America and the judges for not giving Bette Midler-esque Lauren Turner another chance. “I’m livid with the judges for not letting her sing for a wild-card spot,” said Cantiello of the sassy former housecleaner. “Other than that, I’m not mad at the results, a far cry from last season’s semi-final bloodbath. Brett [Loewenstern] and Rachel [Zevita] were fun distractions, Robbie [Rosen] and Kendra [Chantelle's] attempts at nuance went over the collective head of the voters, and Tim [Halperin] and Julie [Zorrilla] were both contestants who wilted without instruments.”

For Cantiello, and for everyone, really, the night’s highlight was wild card Langone’s game-changing “I Need You Now,” which he said blew him away. “By the end of the two hours, America (and the judges) had selected a diverse, solid top 13 that should have us all glued to our TVs for the rest of the season. We have belters, young countrified whippersnappers, two sassy divas (one male, one female), a sex kitten, an exotic flower, a hair-metal throwback, and however you’d categorize Paul McDonald and Casey Abrams.”

TVLine.com “Idol” recapper Michael Slezak, was adamant about one thing: Chantelle was robbed, robbed, he tells you! “Call 911, that was a felony!” he said of Chantelle’s failure to earn a wild-card berth despite what he called her show-stopping performance of “Georgia on My Mind” during her second-chance slot on Thursday’s show. “There’s no way you can tell me [after that performance] that the judges didn’t have minds made up of who was going into the top 13. I think those six performances we saw were a bit of ‘Idol’ theater more than them making their decisions.”

Slezak also had high praise for Langone’s slam-dunk effort, saying the judges had already declared how much they liked him on Tuesday, even if America didn’t seem ready to commit. He thought the top 13 was solid and has him excited in a way last season’s finalists didn’t, mostly because there are no clear front-runners amid a talented group of vocalists who all have different, interesting strengths.

“Last year, Crystal, Lee and Big Mike had already emerged at this point as ones to watch,” he said. “But while some of this year’s contestants have gotten more airtime, there are seven or eight [contestants] with a legitimate chance to take home the top prize.”

Among his picks to watch are Toscano , whose story we haven’t really heard yet and who clearly was saving something in the tank considering her wow-worthy final slot on Wednesday night’s girls’
performance show
. He also likes McDonald’s “young Bradley Cooper-meets Mumford & Sons” look and style, though he worries the smiling singer’s quirky nature could doom him to “Idol” also-ran status.

“I’m hoping Stefano remembers that feeling every time he takes the stage,” Slezak said of Langone’s go-for-broke emotional performance in the wild-card round. “It would behoove the other contestants to play that every time they take the stage to remind them that it’s do-or-die each time.”

Do you agree with our experts on the top 13? Let us know in the comments below!

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