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Freelance entertainment writer, martial arts instructor, and mother of two.

American Idol, Feb. 22 – “Bozos On the Bus”

Tonight we start finding out who the final 24 are, and which favorites were cut, on American Idol. We’re finally done with all these extra performances. Oops, not yet. They’ll still perform one more time for the judges tonight, but I don’t know if it will really make that much of a difference, as they probably already have their minds made up, and with the ones they haven’t decided on, this probably won’t make too much of a difference. I’m not really understanding the point. It’s like they’re just being used as trained seals this season.

The final forty-two contestants gathered in Las Vegas and got to see a performance of Le Reve The Dream. The singers then performed one more time for Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson. This stage of the program was difficult for Jennifer last year as she found out how hard it was to say goodbye to people she’d bonded with. Will watching them perform again really help her with that at all? With those performances done, they’ll face the judges to hear their fate.

Up to see the judges first is Jen Hirsch. I think she’s a lock. It’s been a long road for her after her first audition in Galveston. Randy called her a pro even back then. Hollywood week was amazing, and her favorite time was her solo of Georgia On My Mind. It was her first Standing O. Each round has gotten more specific, with the cuts being about little details. It’s not about being a good singer anymore. For her final performance, she sang Baby I Love You, and Randy thought it was okay and that they’d seen her better. He wants her to loosen up. Right now she doesn’t know where she stands.

Facing the judges tonight, Randy tells Jen she’s had an amazing journey, but now it’s about being the best of the best of the best. They’re looking for the cream of the crop talent. Jennifer adds after this it’s not up to them, but America. Steven is asked what he thinks about Jen and says, “It’s not easy,” and that completely freaks her out. Randy shakes his head, then tells her she made it and is one of the best singers this year. Steven asks Randy if he had to string that out so long.

Next up is Creighton Fraker, who was with Jen in two group auditions. He’s currently a starving artist, and sang a stunning version of What a Wonderful World in Hollywood, garnering a judges’ Standing O. He contributes his sound to being adopted and growing up singing church music, though he always had that rock-n-roll thing going on, which he now attributes to his birth father, the lead singer of a heavy metal band, Flotsam and Jetsam. When he sang New York State of Mind for his final performance, his dad was right there with him. He doesn’t want to be another artist, just Creighton.

Creighton is more nervous than ever meeting with the judges. Jennifer talks to him about everybody being a little different, and everybody having something special. It comes down to who they think has been the most consistent and has that special something to touch America. They think he has a chance of doing that, so he’s in the top 24. His family, especially his dad, is stoked. He always hoped he’d have a part in Creighton’s life and can’t wait for the rest of his career to start.

Lauren Gray has been wondering if she was good enough to move on. Getting through would mean everything to her and her dad. He’d been trying his whole life to make it and never did. The judges loved her when she auditioned in St. Louis. She then had troubles in Vegas, but made it through, despite a hoarse voice. That showed her she was strong enough to be here. For this last performance, she sang I’d Rather Go Blind, still sounding slightly hoarse. She wants this really badly.

Randy talks to Lauren about it being a tough time for them and their least favorite day, as they’ve all become part of their family. As the competition went from Hollywood week on, it just got a little more difficult for her. She thinks it was because she just didn’t want to disappoint them. She’s starting to cry, thinking she didn’t make it, but I think they’re faking her out. Randy thinks she’s disappointing herself more, but she feels blessed to have met them. He wants her to believe … she does not make it. Wow, no fake out. But he wants her to believe in herself and come back. She will consider it.

Steven says they fell in love with Lauren, and that’s the thing about all the kids. They fell in love with them. Worse yet for Lauren, there are no family and friends to greet her. She knows what Randy said is true, and that she needs to believe in herself more. In her heart, she’s not sure if she’ll ever come back, but maybe it will happen for her some other way.

Preacher’s son Joshua Ledet is definitely worried about his chances. He proved himself in his audition, and again in the Hollywood group round. For his final performance, he sang Up to the Mountain. American Idol could change his life, and he doesn’t know if people know what that feels like. Steven asks if his face is that of one who gave it up completely. He thinks he did. Randy tells him sometimes in these things the better singers don’t make it. This season’s tough, but he made it. He holds a mini revival meeting there on the stage.

Blaire Sieber and Naomi Gillies find out they don’t make it, and Naomi is a little shocked to have it all end here.

Hailey Johnson recalls the whole journey being intimidating for her. She didn’t feel she had the confidence to say she was a star, but she got stronger through each round, until her strongest in Vegas where she began to shine. A few months ago she was a college student, but could now be top 24 of American Idol. Jennifer tells her about the crazy arguments they get in over who to keep. Hailey says her biggest goal was to break out of her shyness, and it’s made her have more faith in herself as a performer. Randy says she has to believe, and Steven mentions she needs that one piece that’s missing. She might find it, as she’s going through.

Neco Starr was called a star by J-Lo in Hollywood. For his final performance he sang Lady In My Life. Now the world will get a chance to see who Neco Starr is, and for now, all he can say is he’s ready. Jennifer tells him that so many good singers this year spoils them, but means they have to look at not just the great voices, but also if they’re ready. Randy mentions his age of 20 and tells him he didn’t make it, as Jennifer explains they think he needs a little more time. I guess we won’t be getting a chance to see who Neco Starr is.

Also not making it is Clayton Farhat. He says it sucks, but he has a lot to be proud of to make it this far. Jennifer felt tremendous growth from River St. James, and loves that he was so focused on what type of artist he was, but unfortunately, he didn’t make it either. Caleb Johnson fell apart in his final performance, forgetting the lyrics, then asked to start over, saying he thinks he messed up. He did, as he didn’t make it either. Maybe these final performances do matter some.

Elise Testone is 28, meaning this is her last shot at this. She’s worked really hard, “gigging out constantly,” sometimes doing ten shows a week. This is the best opportunity for her and everything she’s worked for. She sang It’s a Man’s Man’s World for her final performance. She’s praying to move on and feels it in her heart that it’s her time. It’s more than the notes and she’s trying to convey every emotion. She feels like she’s letting go. Randy tells her they’ve had some amazing singers, and it’s tough. Jennifer tells her she made it. They thinks she’s one of the best they’ve seen.

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