The top 24 are named and for the first time ever, it's an uneven number in terms of gender. There are 13 women, 11 guys. Six of the women are teens. Seven of the guys are 23 or older. Thirteen of the 24 are from the South.
Is there a future Kelly Clarkson in the bunch? I doubt it but we keep watching and hoping.
Atlanta has only one representative and he is identified as coming from Raleigh: Jordan Sasser.
The big twist next week is the use of "Idol" alum to duet with the contestants. Unfortunately, America won't be able to vote.
The next "Idol" is scheduled for Wednesday, February 10 for just one hour. To squeeze the first 12 performances in one hour, they can't possibly do it live. The Thursday episode will be two hours long and be a results show. That's when we'll hear the duets as the 12 get trimmed to seven.
The 12 who are performing next week are MacKenzie Bourg, Emily Brooke, Gianna Isabella, James VIII, Jeneve Rose Mitchell, Stephany Negrete, Jenna Renae, La'Porsha Renae, Jordan Sasser, Thomas Stringfellow, Sonika Vaid and Avalon Young. Six former "Idols" will perform duets with them: Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, Caleb Johnson and Nick Fradiani.
A week later, the next 12 semifinalist will go through the same routine: Jenn Blosil, Amelia Eisenhauer, Trent Harmon, Lee Jean, CJ Johnson, Adam Lasher, Tristan McIntosh, Dalton Rapattoni, Olivia Rox, Manny Torres, Kory Wheeler and Shelbie Z. The six "Idol" duet partners: Constantine Maroulis, Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, Jordin Sparks, David Cook and Haley Reinhart.
The following week, on Wednesday, February 24, the judges will name the first eight semi-finalists to make it into the Top 10, leaving six to sing for America’s vote and the final two spots in this farewell season’s Top 10.
Those final two slots will be named on Thursday, February 25. The top 10 will then perform with Kelly Clarkson as guest judge.
That means likely double eliminations March 3, 10 and 17 to get to four. March 24 will get us to three. March 31 will get us down to the final two. And the winner will be named April 7. In other words, "Idol" has snipped about six weeks of live shows from the docket.
In early December, I happened to be in Los Angeles and found out the showcase round was happening at the time. So I went to the Dolby Theatre (formerly called the Kodak Theatre) and Fox allowed me to see half the show.
There were just four of us media folks there, including my long-time friend Fred Bronson of Billboard magazine who has appeared on the show many times and is a huge fan. (Plus, he's close personal friends with Diana DeGarmo, Snellville's own from season three.) We sat about four rows back on the left side. I never made it on camera.
I was surprised how little time Ryan Seacrest spent on stage for the portion I saw. Two minutes, maybe? The hype guy named Chris had to work his darndest to keep us entertained during the lull moments. (It appears Ryan was in the waiting room shepherding the performers one by one.)
Each contestant in tonight's episode sang maybe 90 seconds of a song with Rickey Minor and his six-piece band supporting, along with three back-up singers. Some went out of their way to create a concert atmosphere when introducing themselves and running around the stage before a few hundred extras, family members and friends. As usual, a couple of hundred young 'uns were placed at the front standing. I was about 10 rows back to the left. I am fairly certain I will not be seen.
The judges were placed on the second level. I'd occasionally turn back to see what their reactions were.
The names in bold face are in the top 24.
Michelle Marie ("Little Toy Guns")) - The rather annoying teen is a super fan who really needs to move forward for her family. Unfortunately, she isn't quite ready. She is no Carrie Underwood. I love her energy but her pitch is all over the place. She is the first no we see. She leaves with grace. "I've had the time of my life," she said before she left.
Colette Lush ("I'm Gonna Love You" Meghan Trainor ) - She sounds a little weak and off pitch at moments. She didn't bring it. And the judges agree. HCJ said he loved her initial audition but "something happened along the way. It's slightly removed from connecting with us."
Surprise! Jessica Cabral was cut. We never hear why. (I don't recall if I saw her.) Other cuts: Jessica Clark, Ameet Kanon, Terrian.
Others through: Jenna Renae, James VIII, Kory Wheeler, Adam Lasher.
More eliminations of folks "Idol" didn't bother to focus on: Chynna Sherrod, Mary Williams, Zach Person
More gone: Laurel Wright, Anatalia Villeranda (from the group round drama), Isaac Cole (JLo cries), Jon Klaasen (who?), Kassy Levels, Andrew Nazarbekian (from group round drama)
Malie Delgado ("Little White Church" Little Big Town) - The radio DJ got her voice back and she sounds powerful. But competition is rough and tumble. She misses the cut.
Out: Sara Strum (Lee Jean hugs her), Jordyn Simone (did we ever see her?), Tiffane LeMay, Kayla Mickelson, Mionne Destiny
The weirdest person in the top 51 Jenn Blosil ("The Hanging Tree" Jennifer Lawrence). I don't get her at all. But she's in. Whatevs.
Others gone: Christian Eason (I heard his version of "Try a Little Tendersness" and Fred Bronson and I agreed it was the best we saw of the 24 we watched. Both JLo and Keith gave him a standing ovation. What happened????), Ariel Sprague, Kelsie Watts, Shevonne Philidor.
The final two guys compete for a male slot: Jordan Sasser ("Love Runs Out" OneRepublic) - Good vocalist but I don't see any real star quality. Kayce Haynes (""Hold On We're Going Home" Drake) - He isn't quite as good a singer as Jordan but has more stage power. I would have picked Kayce. But the judges choose Jordan.
The final two women for the female slot: La'Porsha Renae vs. Lindita Halimi. I find Lindita ("Bang Bang" a showboat and a shouter. I'm glad they pick La'Porsha. I remember her bracing "House of the Rising Sun" live and she has a genuine presence on stage.
NEXT WEEK: Twelve of the contestants sing solos and duets with a former "American Idol."
The 12 former "Idols" include seven of the winners: Scotty McCreery, Constantine Maroulis, Jordin Sparks, Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, David Cook, Fantasia, Ruben Studdard, Lauren Alaina, Haley Reinhart, Nick Fradiani, Caleb Johnson.
But we the public will not get to vote. They have already eliminated five of the 12! What the...?
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.