This time, America didn't vote, the judges did, and the wild-card round will see the return of such favorites as Matt Giraud, Megan Joy Corkrey, Anoop Desai and drama magnet Tatiana Del Toro.
Sadly, MTV favorite Nick "Normund Gentle" Mitchell will have to go it alone. His histrionic joking didn't charm the judges enough to include him among the eight wild-carders who will give it another go on Thursday night (March 5).
Following Wednesday night's elimination round, which sent Lil Rounds, Scott MacIntyre and Jorge Nuñez into the top 12, the judges took turns picking the returning singers who will fight it out for the final three stools in the top 12.
"Historically, this process enabled people like Jennifer Hudson and Clay Aiken to make it into the 12," Simon Cowell said, explaining why the judge-certified round was brought back after a four-season absence.
"If we didn't have a wild-card pick they wouldn't have made it," Cowell said. "Certain people we think made stupid song choices, or they were just in a tough group, so we totally, totally support this system. I think it's fair, and it gives somebody, a few people, a second shot. And you know what? One of these wild-card picks could actually win this show."
The picks were a team effort, and Cowell said that even during the final break before the announcement, they changed their minds once again.
Randy Jackson had the first pick, choosing the "really, really talented" Von Smith, who had been eliminated just one segment earlier. Kara DioGuardi waved over someone she said had good commercial potential: Jasmine Murray, who DioGuardi said had to "kill" the judges with her vocals this time around.
Paula Abdul went with Ricky Braddy, who was eliminated in the first round, and Cowell brought back
Jackson kicked off the second group of four with one of the most surprising selection, which Jackson said had kept the judges up "day and night": drama queen Tatiana Del Toro, whose wild antics ended up overshadowing her singing skills. True to her nature, Del Toro burst into tears and was breathless upon getting the news, crying, "I want this so much, and this means so much to me, and I worked so hard to be here."
Then came Matt Giraud, who promised to "bring it," and a last-minute selection, another bluesy belter, Minnesota's Jesse Langseth.
Cowell left "one of the easiest decisions out of the eight" for last: Anoop Desai, whom he called original, likable and talented.
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