Tuned In

Idol Watch: The Final 12; or, Are You Kidding Me, America?

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Spoilers for last night’s American Idol coming up after the break:

American Idol unveiled its twelve finalists last night, with a last round of four eliminations that ranged from questionable to insane. And a season that was already looking weak is suddenly looking a lot worse.

The questionable first: Todrick Hall and Katelyn Epperly were never seriously going to win American Idol, so I’m not shocked that they left. But they were both the wrong choice for the same reason: they were just more interesting, fresh voices than several other singers who are also never going to win, but inexplicably stayed on the show. Todrick in particular was booted after his best performance yet. Katelyn’s “I Feel the Earth Move” was significantly more meh, but it would have been much better to see what she could do with her sunny singer-songwriter style than to see the not-quite-there diva performances we’ll instead get from Paige and Katie, who should have gone in her place.

But Idol saved America’s truly WTF-y choices for last. Look, I myself said that Alex Lambert had a stage presence problem—more like a stage-terror problem—but he also had a great set of pipes. With Alex, you had the potential to see how Idol could turn a mullet-y duckling into, well, if not a swan, at least some higher grade of poultry. Give him enough of a comeback arc and he could have even have been a dark horse in the finals. Instead, we got another week for Aaron Kelly: no more confident, and a worse singer, but apparently one who struck some kind of protective parental chord in the home audience. (Not to mention a chance for Andrew Garcia to cut more tracks for his eventual novelty album, Andrew Garcia Sings the Songs of Girls!)

And Lilly Scott? Seriously, America, I throw up my hands. I had Lilly pegged as a likely candidate for the top four, or two. And this is not my personal taste talking: personally, whenever I hear someone warbling that brand of Adele/Duffy blue-eyed-soul-jazz, I feel like I should be watching a Gap Christmas commercial. But Lilly was far and away a better practitioner of the style than Didi or the inexplicably unkillable Lacey. Moreover, she had poise and a sense of herself as an artist: unlike Paige or Katie, she seemed fully formed, someone you could imagine getting on a real stage and knowing what she wanted to do there.

“I don’t know what America wants to hear,” Lilly said after she was eliminated. You and me both, sister.

The big winner last night: Michael Lynche, who is suddenly a much bigger contender as the only person who can pretend to put up a fight to Crystal Bowersox. Can anyone else win this thing?