This part of the "American Idol" season is full of stress and nerves. In theory, we're down to the four very best contestants, picked from more than 100,000 wannabes, and it's painful to see any of them go. But the awkward tension following the judges' Haley Reinhart pile-on Wednesday night made Thursday night's (May 12) results show even more intense.
Clearly fans were invested in supporting their favorites, because, according to host Ryan Seacrest, more than 72 million votes were cast Wednesday, the highest top-four total ever. And America obviously still loves an underdog, because even after openly sneering at the judges and putting on both the worst and best performances of the night, Reinhart growled her way from certain oblivion into the top three while rocker-with-a-heart-of-gold James Durbin went down in a blaze of glory.
Pundits did not see that one coming, with our experts predicting that it was teen Lauren Alaina who might be sent into the void, or at the very least Reinhart. But the first person to be waved into the top three was Alaina, making her the youngest contestant to ever make it this far and guaranteeing her a hometown parade and celebration in Rossville, Georgia, on Saturday.
Then Ryan dropped the bombshell: Haley was also safe. The shocked look on Randy Jackson's face said it all. That meant that either James or Scotty were on the chopping block, and both looked as nervous as they've been all season.
When Ryan called Scotty's name, the country kid looked relieved, as the pain on Durbin's face was palpable. He was giving the OK sign to his fiancée, but it was clear James was struggling to keep it together. As he watched his farewell package, the emotional rocker gritted his teeth, jumped up and down and fought back tears. Jennifer Lopez could not, though, as she cried while giving JD a standing ovation.
"Man, I worked so damn hard to get here," Durbin said. "And ... God, I was really hoping to get there, but I had a feeling today. ... I did so much stuff that's never been done on this show before. ... In my eyes, in my mind and what I believe is that I did what I came here to do, and that was to give metal a chance," he said, his voice cracking, his face wet with tears. "And to bring it and give 110 percent every week!"
Pulling it back together again, Durbin serenaded the IdolDome one more time with Wings' "Maybe I'm Amazed," grabbing a hug in the audience from pal Casey Abrams and an embrace from his fiancée, the mother of his young son. Ending on a tender high note, Durbin created one of the most emotional sendoffs in recent "Idol" memory on a night when few predicted that he was even in the running to pack his bags. "Thank you! You guys are the best!" he told the audience. "I love all of you. Thank you so much. This is amazing! Amazing!" He ended, of course, with a big rock jump and a toss of his black jacket into the crowd.
The evening began on such a different note, with Scotty and James trying to harmonize on the Brad Paisley/ Keith Urban giddy-up tune "Start a Band," which they attempted to turn into a "he's a little bit country and he's a little bit rock and roll" hoedown. Then the girls gave Miranda Lambert's "Gunpowder and Lead" a shot, and while Lauren sounded in the pocket, her cocked Colt .45 gestures were a bit off-putting and Haley just couldn't pull off the country sound.
This week's mentor, Lady Gaga, also performed on the show — kind of. The top four watched a taped performance from one of Gaga's Monster Ball Tour stops in New York, during which she played the tune Reinhart was dinged for trying on the show just a week ago, the new Born This Way power ballad "You and I." Enrique Iglesias brought along his green lasers for a run through his new single "Dirty Dancer" as well as the smash "I Like It."
Season-six "Idol" winner Jordin Sparks also dropped in to sing her new girl-power anthem, "I Am Woman," proclaiming her womanhood loudly and proudly while rocking a silver trench coat, a body-hugging black minidress and heels while rocking out to the Beyoncé-like R&B jam.
And, in keeping with the judges' (and Jimmy Iovine's) ceaseless shilling this season, Steven Tyler debuted the exotic animal-infested video for his debut solo single, the smooth pop/rock trifle "(It) Feels So Good."
But in the end, even with all those celebrity cameos, the lasting image from Thursday night will be Durbin standing center stage, his eyes wet with emotion, reveling in his final moments in the spotlight.
What do you think of tonight's results? Let us know in comments below.
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