Elise Testone, Haley Johnsen and Jessica Sanchez on "Idol."
Recap: “American Idol” went heavy on the cookie-cutter country-girl vibe this year in picking its top 12 girls, and the result was a whole lot of repetition on Wednesday night.
It seemed like every other singer who took the stage came from a quirky small town with farm animals and charming locals. We had a Hollie, a Hallie and a Haley all sing, and if you can tell off the top of your head which one was which, then you’re way ahead of most viewers. We even had two women, Jen Hirsh and Elise Testone, sing the same song (Adele’s “One and Only”).
Fortunately, unlike the men the night before, the women separated themselves into contenders and pretenders. Skylar Laine, Shannon Magrane, Jessica Sanchez and Hollie Cavanagh are good bets to make the final 13. Hirsh, Testone, Hallie Day, Brielle Von Hugel and Erika Van Pelt are fighting for the remaining two or three slots.
As for Chelsea Sorrell, Baylie Brown and Haley Johnsen ... well ... it doesn’t look good.
Sorrell was plagued by nerves in opening the show, and probably won’t get a second chance to prove she can catch her breath and sing at the same time. Soon afterward, Brown got the dreaded “it wasn’t great, but you’re very pretty” feedback. (Somewhere in Malibu, Paula Abdul is checking with her lawyers on whether those comments constitute trademark infringement.)
The struggles of those two led to a comment from J.Lo about how hard it is to sing in tight dresses, which caused Randy Jackson to ask Ryan Seacrest how the host felt when he tried doing the same. Randy, Randy, Randy. Appreciate the effort, but it’s just not the same when it’s someone besides Simon Cowell making those kinds of jokes.
Johnsen did not have the painted-on dress excuse, as she simply tried and failed to channel Annie Lennox with "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." “It was a bit of a nightmare instead of a dream for me,” Randy said, later adding that it was “a little trainwrecky.”
Those who emerged as the favorites weren’t taking any chances. Laine not only offered the most entertaining performance of the night, but also broke out the my-family-could-lose-its-store-if-I-don’t-win card. Sanchez complained that her vocal chords were swollen and she hadn’t really been able to rehearse.
Even those without sad stories played heavily on the emotions. Von Hugel talked about her mom and how much the other contestants like Mama Von Hugel – well, at least the ones Mom didn’t slam for holding her daughter back in Hollywood. Testone noted that this was her last chance at stardom and that she needed the exposure. There was footage of Day waiting tables, and Van Pelt lugging around her mobile DJ gear. “American Idol” contestants: They’re just like you and me!
And Magrane again brought her father, who said all was forgiven for Steven Tyler’s inappropriate comments about his daughter during auditions. But keep in mind that even though Mr. Magrane has been retired from baseball for years, he can still probably throw a ball at least 80 miles per hour, so the longer Shannon stays in the competition the more likely it is that Steven will say something else that her father doesn’t like, and the "Idol" judge will feel what it’s like to be hit by a Major League beanball.
On Thursday night, we’ll find out which six or seven of these women will survive to sing again next week. At least the thinning of the herd will make it easier for those remaining to stand out from the crowd.
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