"American Idol' went live for the first time in Season 13 on a special edition of the show Tuesday evening, entering a never-before-seen section of the competition called "Rush Week." It's called Rush Week for a reason. In three consecutive nights, America will find out who the Top 10 girls are (Tuesday), who the Top 10 guys are (Wednesday -- including who made it into the guys' circle with America's vote), and who the judges will bring back into the competition via a Wild Card (Thursday). At the same time, five girls and five guys will be eliminated when they discover they won't be singing (during the live shows), America will vote for their favorites to make up the Top 10 for the Finals. And by the end of the week, along with the judges' Wild Card picks, the Finals will be set and the Top 13 revealed.
Rush Week, indeed...
But Tuesday night was all about the girls. Well, for the most part. Michael Slezak at TVLine noted in his Feb. 18 recap that "reality TV drama was the night's big winner" due to the set-up: 15 girls wait to hear their names called to come out and perform, then run out on stage like some giddy basketball player through a tunnel of extended hands, only to give a nerves-impacted, sometimes breathless performance. Slezak snarkily noted that those name didn't seem to be "legitimate contenders to own a piece of The House That Kelly Clarkson Built." But he later noted that things might settle down once the Top 13 were named.
On a new stage and new set for Season 13, host Ryan Seacrest explained what was going to happen and introduced the judges. Greeting them, he couldn't help but comment on Jennifer Lopez's clingy and sparkly dress as they settled in at the panel. Then he introduced former "Idol" judge Randy Jackson, who headed a "boot camp" (called the "Workshop") throughout the week for the remaining Top 31 contestants. Designed to bring out the best in each contestant, the semifinalists were matched up with vocal coaches, musical coaches, stylists, movement experts, and even spiritual advisors (nondenominational, of course). And to give them a little added incentive, the contestants also not only worked with Randy Jackson, but former "American Idol" finalists Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry, for creative feedback.
(An aside: Regardless of how Lambert and Daughtry were chosen to participate, they may have been the best choices of all the former finalists. All of the Top 31 understand that only one will become the next American Idol, so who better to act as mentors and coaches than two of the most successful non-winners the show has produced? Besides, Clay Aiken probably couldn't make it, running for Congress and all…)
One by one, the girls were called to the stage to sing. And one by one, the number dwindled in the waiting room Seacrest called "The Chamber." Each of the girls performed a song, hoping to capture enough votes from the viewing audience to make the Top 10.
Near show's end, when Malaya Watson's name was called, the ten was complete, leaving behind: Andrina Brogden, Austin Wolfe, Brandy Neely, Kenzie Hall, and Jillian Jensen.
The girls making the Top 10, in order of their appearance, were:
Just before they called out Watson's name, Seacrest announced the results of the vote to see which guy, Neco Starr or Ben Briley, would be among the Top 15 guys and get a shot at making the Finals. Unfortunately for Neco Starr, he may have become just another victim of the WGWG (White Guy With Guitar) influence that seems to hold sway over the "American Idol" voting audience. Ben Briley would have another shot at the prize on Wednesday night's live Top 10 guys show.
So who will make it through? It might have been somewhat difficult to tell, given that many of the girls' performances were a bit off -- some with timing, some with pitch, some with volume, all -- with the exceptions of Jena Irene and Emily Piriz -- with a noticeable bit of nervous energy. The "Idol" judges were mostly constructive but were quick to note the quirks in the performances, almost all of which they attributed to "nerves."
But now it's down to counting the votes.
"American Idol" returns for Part 2 of 3 on Wednesday night. The guys get their shot at the making the voters' Top 10. Then on Thursday night, Ryan Seacrest will reveal the Top 10 guys and girls (five each) and the judges will name their three Wild Card picks, creating the Top 13. A most appropriate number for the season.