Tonight, 17 of the top 31 were named. Why 31? "Idol" will give us two guys to vote for to make the top 30 tomorrow.
We also have a cliffhanger. Will C.J. Harris and/or Casey Thrasher make it through? Both prove Alabama is one great state for talent following Bo Bice, Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard.
There are some potential stars such as Sam Woolf and Malcolm Allen, with a few dark horses in the mix such as Emily Piritz and Jillian Jensen. Then there are a few that yell early elimination fodder such as Maurice Townsend. And what's a top 30 without a divisive presence as in Emmanuel Zidor?
Here's how it goes down the first two hours. (Tomorrow, we get the rest in one hour.)
Emily Piriz, who has been low key up to this point. She feels her solo will put her through. She's rather bracing doing "Stars." And "Idol" runs her entire performance. She makes the top 15 and is IN.
Spencer Lloyd is the pretty boy with decent pipes. He has impressed J. Lo. During his final solo, he did an original song that HCJ said sounds like a "public service announcement." J. Lo said it was a "tough decision" but he is... IN.
Jillian Jensen, a singer songwriter type with a nose ring who decided to pick a new song. It's not a great song but she sells it. She's IN and cries and hugs the judges.
Madelyn Patterson feels very old fashioned in her final solo. Keith didn't look too happy. She's OUT. She takes it graciously. Three more get cut whose names I am going to misspell: Michael Simian, Lebryant Crew, Sabrina Latini.
George Lovett gives a strong R&B performance and makes it to the top 15. Urban claps and he's IN.
Shelby Ann Miller ("Wide Open Spaces") has Urban singing along. Connor Zwetsch (original song) was predictable enough that HCJ said it sounded like "Sweet Home Alabama." I presume they are both OUT.
Sam Woolf, one of the early favorites out of Boston with the sweet grandpa, goes for an original, too. He has an impressively mature voice for his 17 years of age. It's an obvious IN. "That makes me real happy," J. Lo said.
OUT? A couple of girls who aren't even IDed. They do ID Keri Lynn Roche, who really overacts her performance. Her voice isn't half bad. Close call, J. Lo said. She's OUT.
Malaya Watson, the tuba player with the braces and dorky glasses, started weak in her solo performance. HCJ stops her thinking she was not matching the key of the band. Then she sounds amazing channeling that Fantasia victory song while making it her own. Keith and J. Lo give her a standing o. There's no doubt she's IN. She's so likable.
Maurice Townsend has good vocals but he doesn't quite have that emotional connection. But he's IN.
Bria Anai Johnson of Lithonia is nervous but looks happy. Her solo emotes confidence and style. She is IN for sure.
Jessica Meuse, the Alabama bluesy singer, brings some pain and edge to her original song. I still like her. They paired her in the room with Jesse Roach, another bluesy female singer with tattoos. Clearly, they chose to keep one, drop the other. Jesse seems to screw up a bit, giving Jessica a leg up. They both sing a capella in front of the judges during the final picks, the first time "Idol" has ever done that. I thought Jesse did better but Jessica makes it through. Close call but HJC senses Jessica is more of a fighter. Jessica: IN. Jesse: OUT.
Dexter Roberts, the farm boy who looks like a farm boy and not a singer, pulls it out and gets IN. "He's the real deal, that guy," Urban said.
Emmanuel Zidor from Atlanta has a bit of Joshua Ledet in him. He is truly a diva and showman. And he's divisive. He gets tearful in the room. He's IN anyway.
MK Nobilette, the girl with the "guy" vibe, has a pretty voice, not much stage presence. "You're not our typical 'American Idol," J. Lo said. "Is that a good thing or bad thing?" Urban. "I'm very obviously gay," she said, but she notes that it's now become more a positive thing Keith: "The world is changing." She's IN.
Kristen O'Connor, a Floridian who auditioned in Atlanta, sings "Unconditionally" quite competently. I'm not a big fan but she isn't bad. Despite the fact she feel less than authentic, she's IN.
Jordan Brisbane from Savannah goes for "Halo." I can't tell if he's going to make it or not. He's good. Is he good enough? Is he ready? The judges say he's IN.
Casey McQuillen fell just short. So did Atlanta's Nica Nishae. Both are OUT.
Leah Guerrero is sweet and has a sensitivity I like. Andrina Brogden has more stage gravity. They are paired for the results and Leah is cut. I hope she comes back next year. Leah OUT. Andrina IN.
Malcolm Allen gets an extended intro and his entire solo performance. No doubt the judges and producers like him and expect the audience to also. He is packed with potential. No way anyone with that type of edit who doesn't get IN despite HCJ questioning his marketability. (Really?)
Alex Preston personifies the word "quirky." He's an odd-looking man. So was Casey Abrams. There is no way he could win "Idol," but he is interesting enough for the top 30. (Watch that statement come back and bite me in the rear.). Anyway, he's IN.
C.J. Harris and Casey Thrasher, both from Alabama and are dads who live 45 minutes from each other, are paired. They have to fight for it, like Jesse and Jessica. Both are great in very different ways. Both have the voices and the stage presence. So guess what? They are both ... um, let's wait til tomorrow, eh?
Here are some sample advance videos from Thursday's episode: