One of the most talented groups to ever grace the "American Idol" final round (according to Randy Jackson, anyway) is down to five.
After 45 million votes cast on the disco-themed night of "Idol," the highest total to date this season, Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai were shown the door Wednesday night in a rare double elimination, which also found judges' pet Allison Iraheta making another visit to the bottom three.
But the big surprise for Wednesday night's show was that judge Paula Abdul choreographed this week's group routine, putting the singers through their paces and making them sweat a little more than they were used in an extra-cheesy performance of Michael Jackson's "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)." Under Paula's direction, the contestants let loose a barrage of hip thrusts while wearing era-appropriate disco gear, including gold chains, polyester shirts and white go-go boots.
The results began with Lil Rounds, 24, who once again faced harsh criticism on Tuesday night, this time for her take on Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman," which the judges said did not prove to them what kind of artist she would be. Looking determined, the married mother of three who'd gone from front-runner to punching bag over the past three weeks, again made the long walk to the bottom three. She wasn't there long, though, as host Ryan Seacrest immediately informed her that the ride was over, eliciting a standing ovation from the crowd.
Rounds went out with grace, reprising her Khan cover with a gospel fire and bringing some of the Mary J. Blige-style attitude the judges had been looking for throughout much of her run. "Why didn't she sing like that last night?" Abdul mouthed during the performance. "You sang brilliant tonight and what a classy way to go singing on the top of your game." Simon also praised Rounds' amazing voice and said he would miss her excitable family's screaming most of all.
Kris Allen got a pass for his original, salsa-fied take on Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money," followed by audience favorite Adam Lambert, whose chilled out "If I Can't Have You" once again drew raves, and passed him through to the top five as well. Danny Gokey's cover of Earth, Wind & Fire's "September," drew good notes from everyone but Simon Cowell, who said it was awkward and lacked star power, which didn't matter because the audience made sure Gokey was safe.
On Tuesday, Simon said Desai's cover of Summer's "Dim All the Lights" was one of his worst performances to date. America agreed, sending the genial singer to the bottom three yet again. That left Iraheta and Matt Giraud, who got the season's only save last week. He caught another break after an uneven performance of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive." The night's biggest shocker found Iraheta sent to the bottom three for her pseudo-goth take on Summer's "Hot Stuff."
Not surprisingly, it was Desai, 22, who eventually drew the short straw. He ended his improbably long run — after making it into the finals when the judges decided to break tradition and make it a top 13 — with a heartfelt rerun of "Dim All the Lights," slapping hands with the crowd and going out with a smile on his face.
"I am so really disappointed, I really am. This is all of our dreams," he said. The double takedown hour ended with Desai throwing his arm around Rounds, who shouted out her kids and told them, "I'm comin' home!"
The show also featured a medley of classic disco tunes from Freda Payne singing "Band of Gold," Thelma Houston powering through "Don't Leave Me This Way" and a not-so-agile KC from KC and the Sunshine band doing a bit of funky walking during a somewhat listless "Get Down Tonight." Last year's runner-up, David Archuleta, performed his single, "Touch My Hand" and reminded the bottom finishers that not winning "Idol" doesn't mean you can't have a career.
Next week's performance show will have the top five singing swinging standards made famous by the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.), with a visit on Wednesday from season-five winner Taylor Hicks, who will sing "Seven Mile Breakdown" from his recent independently released album, The Distance.
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