There is no doubt that Zoanette Johnson has had her detractors and those who did not think she would measure up or make it to the live shows, but the frenetically excitable Johnson proved that she was a force to be reckoned with on Wednesday night's "American Idol" (Feb. 27). Broadcast live from Las Vegas, the Sudden Death round saw ten more girls going head-to-head for a place in the Season 12 Top 20. And although some didn't make it through (five, to be exact), there were few that disappointed.
As for Johnson, there was just no stopping her.
Johnson pulled down the pimp spot, the last performance of the night. But it wouldn't have mattered had she been first, because the raw power she put into "The Circle of Life" from "The Lion King" was something to behold. The connection she had to the song was painfully evident on her face. And she didn't go unrewarded, because not only did the judges love her performance but she was awarded the first silver stool of safety and a place as one of the ten girls comprising the Top 20.
She was joined by Aubrey Cleland, who performed Beyonce's "Sweet Dreams"; Breanna Steer, who did a compelling "Bust Your Windows" (Jazmine Sullivan); Candice Glover, whose version of Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman" was a work in controlled vocal purity; and Janelle Arthur, who put a little life into Lady Antebellum's anemic "Just A Kiss."
Arthur had to undergo perhaps the most harrowing reveal, because she was paired with the ever-smiling Rachel Hale, who had simply owned the stage with her earlier performance of Grace and the Nocturnals' "Nothing But The Water." The crowd loved it and the judges gave it good reviews. Arthur's song -- well, not so much. Judges Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban panned her performance, the former telling her she didn't have to try so hard, the latter saying the "melody kept pulling you back down" and "it wasn't a good song choice." And they were right, but...
But Arthur won through and Hale went home.
Rachel Hale exited with Melinda Ademi, who sang Jessie J's "Nobody's Perfect" and was criticized for performing the same artist for a second time; Juliana Chahayed, who performed Demi Lovato's "Skyscraper," slowed down and acoustic; Jett Hermano, who did a so-so performance of Rihanna's "Only Girl In The World"; and Cristabel Clack, whose version of Alicia Keys' "No One" was disliked by only one judge, Minaj, who said her vocals were "out of control."
The "American Idol" judges may have made some iffy choices Wednesday evening, but, then, it seems that "Idol" does that every year. Usually some of those iffy choices make the Top 10 but are usually eliminated before the Top 5. So... no harm, no foul.
Except for one thing. And this is also where it is unfair that the Sudden Death round funnels ten of each gender into the Top 20, because if there are more girls than guys that deserve to be in the Top 20 (and vice versa, although this year it looks like the girls are in control), that's the way it should play out. But that isn't the way the rules are set up.
"Idol" has added an audience response meter to the bottom of the screen and when Janelle Arthur was put through over Rachel Hale, the meter popped up on the screen asking if viewers agreed with the judges choice. Overwhelmingly, they did not.
The guys perform for the last five seats in the Top 20 on Thursday, Feb. 28.
"American Idol" airs on Fox Television every Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. (EST).