But 25 million of them voted, and they did like up-from-nowhere 16-year-old firecracker Allison Iraheta, who was the first contestant to be swept into the "Idol" top 12 on Thursday night's results show. She was followed by surprise pick Kris Allen and self-styled Broadway rocker Adam Lambert.
Following a corny group-sing of Ne-Yo's "Closer," during which the remaining contestants mugged shamelessly for the camera, Iraheta reprised her version of Heart's "Alone," again nailing the tricky song's quiet-loud dynamics like a pro seasoned beyond her years and impressively working the stage in some killer red high heels. She then took the walk over to join the first top-three finishers, Danny Gokey, Alexis Grace and Michael Sarver. The news was not so good for her group-mates. Sultry Minnesota singer Jesse Langseth and welder Matt Breitzke were the first to be sent packing.
The next group of three included Megan Joy Corkrey and Kris Allen, whose cover of Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" got mixed reviews from the judges on Wednesday night, making him seem doomed to wither in fellow soulman Gokey's shadow, despite Cowell's quip that the girls were going to love his boyish good looks. Host Ryan Seacrest also brought down Matt Giraud, who was lambasted for his wobbly take on Coldplay's "Viva la Vida," and Jeanine Vailes, who showed off her gorgeous gams once more with a pair of short shorts.
No surprise, Vailes was quickly sent back to her bartending gig, followed by Giraud and, in the night's biggest shocker, tattooed mom Corkrey — who looked genuinely shocked and maybe even a little mad. That paved the way for Allen to make his way to the fifth top-12 slot.
Following a retrospective of some of the show's most memorable moments, season-seven finalist Brooke White returned to sing her new single, the 1970s-style, soft-rockin' piano ballad "Hold Up My Heart ," before the night's sixth seat was filled.
The final group included the too-stiff Mishavonna Henson, the too-safe Kai Kalama and the so-so Jasmine Murray, all of whom were quickly dispatched. That left the unlikely duo of comedian Nick Mitchell and musical-theater rock belter Adam Lambert standing center stage and looking like a pair of brothers-from-different-mothers in a high-concept Will Ferrell comedy. Cowell admitted to praying for several hours the night before that Mitchell, 27, whose outrageous shtick had turned into a Joaquin Phoenix-like viral sensation, would not make it through.
And those prayers must have worked, because Mitchell's improbable run finally ended. That meant Lambert could reprise his lip-curling, hair-flipping, Axl-channeling, banshee take on the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." It was a bit of anticlimax for a show whose most dramatic moment came when the growing rift between Cowell and new judge Kara DioGuardi was laid bare after DioGuardi snapped, "Do you ever shut up?" following a series of interruptions from Cowell during one of her critiques.
The competition heats up again next Tuesday (March 3), when the third group of 12 finalists — Arianna Afsar, Felicia Barton, Kendall Beard, Ju'Not Joyner, Nathaniel Marshall, Kristen McNamara, Lil Rounds, Scott MacIntyre, Jorge Nuñez, Von Smith, Taylor Vaifanua and Alex Wagner-Trugman — sing for a chance to join the first six. Then, on Thursday (March 5), the judges bring back their favorite singers for the wild-card round.
Cowell promised that some of Thursday night's castoffs — we're looking at you Megan Corkrey — might be among the judges' choices next week. "Maybe even a couple from tonight you're going to see again," Cowell hinted.
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