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American Idol, Feb. 20 & 27 – The Top 20 Girls Become the Top 10

Rachel Hale, 22, from Prescott, AR, admits her town is so small they just got their second stoplight. Now she’s living in Nashville and going to college as a songwriting major. She’s wanted to do music since she was about three, then got serious about it around 10 years old. She’s just going to go out and be herself. She does just that singing Nothing But the Water and does a great job. She has great energy for such a little thing. Nicki and Keith seem like they’re really enjoying it.

Keith gives a shoutout to the band, as it was fantastic. It’s a great song and one that he doesn’t know, but he loves that Rachel chose it, allowing them to see another side of her. He does think the song may have gotten on top of her in parts, but he loves her spirit. Nicki reminds Rachel she’s always been her little lady, but she wants to know where this sudden burst of confidence came from. Rachel admits to praying a lot. Nicki watched her little ladybug comin’ alive, and just wanted to say, “Work it Little Lady.”

Randy was glad Rachel chose an uptempo song with everyone else doing ballads and uptempo songs changed into ballads. He was happy she was bringing out some energy and liked seeing that side of her. From note one she seemed fearless. He thinks we should all pray more, because prayer works. Mariah says Rachel is always that girl with the smile that you can’t help smiling back at. She’s consistently like that. She may have heard her more on other songs, but that’s not to say she didn’t enjoy her. She just wants everyone to be able to feel that.

Breanna Steer, 18, LaPlace, LA, went through a hurricane recently that left the Pontchartrain flooded. The hardest part about it all was cleaning out their house. To go through all that has made her into a strong person. Tonight she sings Bust Your Windows. It’s good, there’s no doubt about it, as they all are. But I’m not seeing something special in it to set her apart from everyone else.

Keith jokes he dated a girl like that many years ago. He doesn’t know the song but loves it, despite the violent nature. He liked the kind of dialect and vibe Breanna had going on, and she made him believe she could really bust the windows out of his car. Nicki says, “Miss Little Ladybug – Work! Work, work, work!” Her and Aubrey right now could go out and shoot music videos that would be at the top of the charts. She thinks they should find two more girls who look similar to them and start a group. She loves that she picked that particular artist, as her voice sounds like hers. She could see that Breanna wasn’t looking for their acceptance, but was just performing like an artist at her own show.

Randy says Breanna came in representing Louisiana hard from day one. She was the other one he said he’d sign right away, as she has the whole package. She looks amazing, knows what to wear, and the song choice was perfect. She knows who she is, and she brought the drama. Mariah is so glad they get to choose their own song, as she loved that song and Breanna’s presentation. She also feels Breanna is very marketable. She has no idea what they’re going to do, and the presumption is she means when it comes to choosing the five to move on tonight.

Janelle Arthur, 23, is a fitness instructor from Oliver Springs, TN. She’s a country girl and says country people love to play music, love to be together, and love to eat good food. When she was little, she played a young Dolly Parton in a theater production that showed her as a girl from the mountains, and Janelle is too. Tonight she sings Just a Kiss and seems a little shaky. We know this is another of the favored country girls, but this one is a miss.

Keith tells Janelle that he loves the Lady Antebellum song, and it works for them, but it’s a limiting melody in the chorus and doesn’t give her room to soar. She tried to do things, but it kept pulling her down. Nicki was excited to see her, one of her two babies, but a lot of it fell flat. Usually she has a silent confidence and easiness, so she’s not sure what happened today. She seemed disconnected. Janelle doens’t need to overdo it. If it’s up to Nicki, she’ll go through, but it’s up to four of them.

Randy agrees with the other two, but also says Janelle is his favorite country singer in the competition because she’s so pure and real. Looking at the comment about Dolly, she’s not being who she really is by singing Lady Antebellum. It didn’t give her what she naturally brings to song. Mariah is definitely a fan and was looking forward to seeng her. They had the advantage of seeing her in an intimate setting that was so raw and real. It may not have been the best choice, but she’s rooting for her.

Zoanette Johnson, 20, Tulsa, works as a medial assistant for the elderly and is originally from Liberia. They had to flee their country because of the Civil War. She wants to do this for her country, because she believes it’s time for a Liberian to win. She sings a very dramatic theme to The Lion King, The Circle of Life. She’s so wild and different. How can you not keep her?

After a three-way standing ovation, Zoanette cries and waves to her fans. Keith tells her to “Work it, Baby.” He loves that he has no clue what she’s going to do and wonders sometimes if she does. He gives kudos to the Queen of the Jungle.

Nicki tells her she just served it . She makes Nicki so emotional, because when she thinks of her coming from Liberia, with all those siblings who will not get a chance to see her on the show, she’s so proud of her. She doesn’t care what people say about her, yet is the one people will remember. She works in that she lost weight, as Nicki continues, saying this song was perfect, as it makes people remember who she is, where she’s about to be and where she’s from. This place gives people like the two of them, who are from a place they didn’t think they’ve ever make it out of alive, and it gives them a shot.

Randy knows a lot of people in America are wondering what the judges were thinking to put Zoanette on there. He explains it’s because of this, her spirit. It’s really the spirit of a lion and a champion. It’s infectious. They’re all up there feeling something, and it doesn’t matter whether the notes are right on. She is bringing everything to them, and that’s what it’s all about.

Mariah is so happy and proud of Zoanette. It’s almost like her spirit is too big to be contained, and that was what she wanted to give. She feels like she’s a giving person. Whether she fits into what people think as a cookie cutter person, she could be gracing someone’s Broadway stage tomorrow doing something totally different artistically they haven’t even thought of. She cries and says this is for her family. She’s not doing it for herself. God, I love her, and I have no idea why.

The judges decide that the people who are going through are: Tenna, Kree, Angela, Amber, Adriana, Zoanette, Aubrey, Candice, Breanna, and Janelle.

This leaves Jenny Beth, Brandy, Isabelle, Kamaria, Shubha Melinda, Juliana, Christabel, Jett, and Rachel going home.

There were a few choices I didn’t agree with, but my biggest puzzlement is the choice of country singers, choosing to put Janelle in over Rachel. Rachel had the better performance and seems to me to have it all going on a little more. But, both of my favorites made it through. Candice and Zoanette. I wasn’t one of those people who Randy said were wondering why she was there. I know why. She just has something special in her that makes her so endearing. And she is talented. Maybe not the most talented, but she is talented, and she has a future. She reminds me a little of Kellie Pickler as far as that is concerned.

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