American Idol's seventh season finally began in earnest this week, with Tuesday and Wednesday's first performance shows culminating in last night's live results show that eliminated the four seventh-season Top 24 semifinalists (two male, two female) who had received the fewest home viewer votes after this week's performances.
However before they got to the week's voting results, Idol's producers decided to try and use Paula Abdul -- yes, frequently incoherent Paula Abdul of all people -- to do spin control for the prior professional experience controversy centered around heavily-promoted Top 24 semifinalist Carly Smithson. (After more than a month, the show's broadcasts finally acknowledged Smithson's past during a brief interview clip that aired before her Wednesday night performance.)
"Absolutely not, it shouldn't effect it at all because the whole thing is it doesn't matter if any of these kids sing in the shower or if they're backing up someone who sings in a stadium," Abdul told Idol host Ryan Seacrest after he asked her whether the fact that some of the semifinalists aren't "strangers" to the stage should "effect the voting at home."
"They all went through the same lines, all the times, slept in line, had to put up with [sharp-tongued fellow judge Simon Cowell's] stuff," Abdul continued. "And you know what, by now, these kids are talented, it's a savvy business -- if they haven't already tried to make a name for themselves they don't deserve to be in this competition."
After Cowell -- presumably as stunned as everyone else that Idol's producers had actually selected Abdul to serve their on-air mouthpiece -- openly laughed at Abdul's comments, she ended her response by inventing a former sixth-season Idol contestant named "Brandon Davis." (She presumably intended to refer to Brandon Rogers -- a then 29-year-old voice coach, wedding singer and background singer that finished in twelfth place in last year's competition.)
"Well wait a minute, does everyone remember that Kelly Clarkson had a deal that dismantled? Last season, Brandon Davis, Mandisa [Hundley], a lot of kids," said Abdul.
After the damage control segment, a photo shoot video, and a Top 24 group melody performance of 1960's songs all aired, the results show finally got down to business.
The first semifinalist to see their Idol journey end on Thursday night was Garrett Haley, a 17-year-old Leif Garrett look-alike from Elida, OH.
"It's over for you on Idol Garrett, but a lot more I'm sure is in your future," Seacrest told Haley after summoning him to his side to become the first male semifinalist to learn his fate. "Thank you very much for being on our show, we appreciate it."
Haley had sung Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" on Tuesday night and the performance had left all three judges unimpressed.
"It was boring, your voice sounded a bit whiny, you looked terrified, and you look like you've been shut up in your bedroom for a month," Cowell had told Haley. "You look verging on haunted."
However despite voicing his own previous less than flattering comments about Haley's performance on Tuesday, Idol judge Randy Jackson attempted to lift the teenager's spirits after his elimination.
"Man just keep trying to work it out dude, you can definitely sing," said Jackson. "Every time you have to step up here it has to be your best, it can't be kinda so-so and [Tuesday night] wasn't your best."
Next it was time for one of the Top 12 female semifinalists to be sent home. After calling Kristy Lee Cook to his side in a manner similar to what he'd done with Haley, Seacrest revealed Cook had made it through to the next round and Amy Davis -- a 25-year-old Lowell, IN-native who was still sitting with the rest of the female semifinalists -- had been eliminated.
Well you should rest up because you're SAFE and you'll be back again next week," Seacrest told Cook. "Get some rest, okay?"
"I will, thank you," Cook, one of several female semifinalists that been battling the flu during her Wednesday night performance, responded.
"[Instead] the person leaving us tonight unfortunately is Amy Davis," said Seacrest.
Similar to Garrett, Davis' Wednesday night performance of Connie Francis' "Where the Boys Are" hadn't impressed the judges, who had instead mostly complimented the graduate student/trade-show model's looks.
That focus continued right on through to Abdul's parting comments to Davis.
"It's just getting more experience and knowing who you are as an artist and picking the right songs," Abdul advised Davis. "But this is the most amazing platform for you, because now you have millions of people and it's your chance now to do what you want to do. You gotta go paint that door and that knob and go for it because you're a beautiful, talented girl."
After another break for the world premiere of the music video for Abdul's new "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow" single, the eliminations resumed with the focus still on the girls.
"I can tell you everyone [still] sitting on the sofa is safe and will be back again next week," Seacrest announced after calling Amanda Overmyer, a 23-year-old nurse from Mulberry, IN, and Joanne Borgella, a 25-year-old plus-size model from New York, NY, to the stage.
Once Borgella was revealed to the second female semifinalist going home, both Jackson and Cowell reiterated their prior comments about her Wednesday night performance of "I Say Little Prayer For You."
"It's tough... I think your nerves got the best of you [on Wednesday]," said Jackson. "Really, you just never quite got it together, you know what I mean? It wasn't your best performance and you needed it, you needed it."
"It was a horrible song choice and it wasn't a great performance," Cowell scolded. "And that's a lesson learned... you can't breeze your way through it. We've heard you better, it was your worst performance and that's what happens."
Finally it was time for the night's second male finalist to be eliminated. After calling Chikezie Eze, a 22-year-old from Inglewood, CA, and Colton Berry, a 17-year-old from Staunton, VA, up on stage, Seacrest revealed that Berry's Idol journey had also ended.
"America voted... one of you has to go [and] that person is Colton," said Seacrest. "Chikezie you're safe, you may have a seat."
Berry had sung Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds" on Tuesday. Although Jackson had termed it "pretty good," both Abdul and Cowell had been less positive -- with Abdul admitting that she hadn't thought it was his "best performance" and Cowell terming it an "okay" performance that was still "just a complete waste of time."
Abdul attempted to advise the high school senior that he should keep honing his singing and still has "a whole career ahead" of him, however Cowell wasn't nearly as encouraging.
"I wouldn't agree with Paula actually Colton," said Cowell. "I would say get a good job -- no seriously -- and then [just] enjoy singing, because I don't think you'll make a successful career out of it... I don't."