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In the world's ultimate talent search - where the eyes of a nation are upon the best undiscovered singers in the country, where the audience has the power to make or break you, and where a million-dollar recording contract is on the line, there is only one rule: If you can sing it, bring it.

Recaps by Gordon Pepper and Chico Alexander, GSNN

Disclaimer: Idol Charts are based on the opinions of the GSNN editors and are compiled before the votes are tallied and the result made public.

Host: Ryan Seacrest
Judges: Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson
Creator: Simon Fuller (based upon "Pop Idol")
EP: Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Simon Fuller
Packager: 19 Entertainment, FremantleMedia North America
Airs: Tuesdays at 8:00pm ET and Wednesdays at 8:30p ET on FOX

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No infringement of copyright is intended by these fan pages; production companies of shows this site covers retain all rights to the sounds, images, and information contained herein. No challenge to copyright is implied. 

Web design by Jason Elliott. Logo by Chico Alexander. 

March 16/17 - Wild Card

FOnce again, here are your idols:
Fantasia Barrino; 19; High Point, NC
Diana Degarmo; 16; Snellville, GA
Camile Velasco; 18; Haiku, HI
Matt Rogers; 25; Covina, CA
La Toya London; 24; Oakland, CA
Amy Adams; 24; Bakersfield, CA
John Stevens; 16; East Amherst, NY
Jasmine Trias; 17; Mililani, HI
Jennifer Hudson; 22; Chicago
Leah LaBelle; 17; Seattle
George Huff; 23; New Orleans
Jon Peter Lewis; 24; Rexburg, ID

One by one, they'll sing. One by one they'll be judged. One by one, we'll vote. And one by one they'll leave, until there is only one... the next American Idol.

We bring out the upgraded live spaceship set from last year's show, as we bring out the first of our final 12, La Toya. Also, we find out how Fox has managed to elongate an hourlong show into two hours, as I leave to get a sandwich in the beginning of her hometown package, come back, and we're on the same package. What we do know is that La Toya's the baby girl of two brothers. Her wedding band, All-Star Jukebox, is watching as she sings Chaka's "Ain't Nobody". And let me tell you, I couldn't think of any better way to start the show. Well, I could, but that isn't allowed on TV. Of course, it was a little shaky here and there, but she does a great job of covering it up.

Randy: This is the night of singers. That was hot! I love you showing your personality. This is going to be a hot night!
Paula: You are a star! I have a feeling you're going to be around this competition for a while.
Simon: I don't know where you go from here. It's such an amazing first performance. It was awesome. Awesome!

Wow. Simon said "awesome". Hoping to follow up on that vibe is Amy of the ginormous Bakersfield sign. The makeup artist gets some final hints on her face before singing "You Make Me Feel Brand New". Here we have a good singer overreaching her bounds to start. This was written for a guy with a high falsetto (raises hand). And she struggles. Whether or not that will cost her in the end, I don't know, because the rest of the song wasn't that bad, really. It was just a good song sung by a good singer is all.

Randy: I thought the performance was good. It wasn't unbelievable. You're probably a little nervous. But I thought it was alright.
Paula: You're a goofball with a nice pretty voice. It was a safe performance.
Simon: I thought it was boring, if I'm being honest.

And Amy caps it with a veiled beg. Not good. Moving on to Matt Rogers, and surprisingly, this is not his first TV appearance. The FremantleMedia hierarchy at work, we managed to snag a clip of the former footballer on the Louie Anderson Feud, I'm guessing second, maybe third season. Matt was a team captain, and heading for "Before They Were Stars"-dom. But first, he has to survive "Hard to Handle" from Otis Redding/the Black Crowes. Ladies and gentlemen, this year's Joshua Gracin. He's there pitchwise to start, and he's a pro at engaging the audience, but he's getting winded. Matt, breathing is your friend! The sooner you learn that, the better off you'll be. But song choice, definitely up there.

Randy: That was the best performance I saw you give. The vocals were alright.
Paula: I love the fact that you're having fun up on stage. I think you're going to go forward, because you picked the right song!
Simon: With the exception of Ryan Seacrest, I don't think I've ever met anyone who's more happy to be on TV in my life. If I'm being honest, it was a second-rate Tom Jones performance.

From second-rate Tom Jones, we go to third-string Lauryn Hill, as the Filipino-Irish-Spaniard Camile who wakes up late and snores before serving your IHOP pancakes. She serves up "Son of a Preacher Man". Sounds like a struggle. Looks like a struggle. If it looks like a struggle, and it sounds like a struggle, then it's clearly a struggle. Little bit of logic there.

Randy: I still like the sound of your voice. I think there's "wow" in you, but I didn't hear it tonight, yo.
Paula: We loved your voice. That vibe is not coming out tonight. It's all about having fun now.
Simon: She's not nervous, she's petrified! It's all about self-belief. [La Toya] has it, you don't. Until you start believing that you deserve to be there, you'll fail in this competition.

And speaking of self-belief, the guy that can get away with dancing is next, as Jon Peter takes the stage. The military brat falls in with the Dobie Gray-Uncle Kracker yarn, "Drift Away". He's got the tone down, really. Until he starts gyrating again. And this guy's a good singer, really. But he has the same problem that Matt had, and that's forgetting that he has to breathe if he wants to sing. Could be a danger if he learns that faster than Matt does.

Randy: This was a lot better. This was more really who you are, because you can sing. You just need to cut down on the dancing, dude.
Paula: Hold back on the dancing, you're spoiling us. America loves you.
Simon: Yes, you dance like your father. Jon, you are the dark horse to win this competition.

So the judges are in agreement that this is a singing competition and not a dancing one. Good. And did I hear the words "dark horse?" You remember the last dark horse, right (See Nilsen, Kurt, the reigning World Idol)? Next up, High Point's Fantasia. She's got a large family, and all of them are watching her sing Stevie's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." Definitely one of the edgier performances of the night. She injects herself into this one and it just shows. Really good stuff there.

Randy: You brought it down tonight, man. That was HOT! You're like a young Aretha.
Paula: You own the stage. You brought it.
Simon: Fantasia, you're the real thing.

Don't know if that was a Coke plug or an honest assessment, but she'll take it. And we'll take omelet chef George from N'walin with the newly shaven moustache. The vertical hold boy and Idol fan of the season takes on "Dock of the Bay", another Otis favorite. Playing to the camera and justifying it with a stellar tone, he gets my vote for best performance of the night.

Randy: You're like a seasoned veteran already. The best we've seen you yet. Paula: You're infectious! The best tonight!
Simon: I don't think you are aware of how good you really are. Very very good.

Agreed. Next on the list, Jennifer from the south side of Chi-town. Her sister agrees with Simon and me that the pink dress from the wild card show wasn't happening. She sings Aretha's "Baby I Love You". She has the attitude and the inflection, but one thing she doesn't have at times is the pitch. Could be a problem later, especially if there's a split on the judges' table, because, as you know, America listens to the judges. Well, two of them, anyway.

Randy: I love that performance. This is the best top 12, I don't care what anyone says.
Paula: You are unbelievable. Another amazing performance, and I like this one better because it's a little more subdued.
Simon: Bad choice of song. I think we're beginning to hear a lot of oversinging. It's going to become boring. You're very good, but I thought I heard a lot of oversinging.

Again, I have to agree. Okay, no more oversinging. Instead, we have undersinging, courtesy of John Stevens. The incredibly tall baby of the family, he goes for another Stevie tune, "Lately". He injects the Rat Pack into it. Definitely going from strength to strength, but I'm starting to think that he's a one-trick pony. This is going to get boring fast. Sorry, Conan.

Randy: So the first test, soul week... For me, it didn't pass. I was bored to tears.
Paula: You gave a classy performance.
Simon: John, I'm going to agree... with... Paula. No question or doubt, you are the real, unique artist. This guy is middle America, and I'm glad you're here because you're different.

Another judge fight ensues and this one's split. And if you're taking count at home, this is water glass spill #2. Next up, Leah from Seattle, whose parents defected from Bulgaria. Hopefully she won't defect from a good performance of "Keep Me Hanging On." Unfortunately, she does. Nice voice, but weak and breathy with no control. She doesn't own the performance like she should, and if she's around next week, I'll be surprised.

Randy: Wasn't your best performance and you know it.
Paula: This is a time where you can't give up hope. You're a little bit under on your pitch.
Simon: Leah, I'd pack your suitcase. I think she's going to go tonight.

I think she's going to go tonight as well. Hula girl and surfer chick Jasmine's next. She's good at ripping tides, but can that flower in her hair bring her luck on "Inseparable"? I'd like to say so. She's strong despite her age. A little flat here and there, but she picked a good song and rode it out as such. I liked it.

Randy: At 17, you started out a little rocky. You can really sing. This is what this competition is about.
Paula: My favorite performance tonight. Such a mature voice and a beautiful spirit.
Simon: Jasmine, it was just superb. You are in the minority of people who could really really be good in the future as well.

One more idol to go, and that's Diana from Snellville, "where everybody's somebody". Words to live by, but will be somebody on the Idol stage with "Think"? You have to admire her attitude and song choice. Even if it started out rocky, she grew into it and made it her own. I honestly can't wait to see where she goes from here, because she's definitely got potential.

Randy: That was incredible. That was dope, dude. I don't care who says what, this was the best top 12 ever, Mr. Cowell.
Paula: It's effortless. Such a pure tone to your voice.
Simon: Diana, you are like a big doll, aren't you? I didn't feel touched. You have a good voice.

And with that, it looks like the season that almost wasn't is again. But it's early, room for growth all around, and every vote matters. We'll count'em up... well, we won't. Fox has professional beancounters for that. But we'll tell you what they add up to tomorrow. And because apparently Fox has all the time in the world to burn, we'll throw in a free Clay Aiken performance.

--- Chico's Idol Chart after one round (or: Dammit, this was hard!)

1 - George
2 - La Toya (narrowly)
3 - Fantasia
4 - Jasmine
5 - Jon Peter (once he gets the dancing out of his system... or at least not try so hard)
6 - Diana
7 - Matt
8 - Jennifer
9 - John
10 - Amy
11 - Camile
12 - Leah

Well, since Chico did a chart, I will have to do a chart of my own -

Gordon's Idol Chart after one round (or: This wasn't as hard as Chico's)

1 - LaToya
2 - George
3 - Matt
4 - Diana
5 - Fantasia
6 - Jon Peter
7 - Jennifer
8 - Amy
9 - Jasmine
10 - John
11 - Camile
12 - Leah

That's my opinion - and I can't wait to see the hate e-mail that I get. In terms of chaos theory, the first person who will go will be a female who doesn't have a strong fan base who got blasted by the judges. All fingers are pointing to Leah, but could her fan base rescue her?

We'll find out as we start the 60 minute (and space-filler o'licious) show of American Idol - and we'll start if with Ryan thanking everyone for making American Idol Tuesday the highest rated night ever for FOX - and we have over 18 million votes. But with the voting, there is a dark side, according to Mr. Seacrest. "Someone's going to take the Gary Coleman ride to Nowheresville - and it's all your fault." Ouch.

After Ryan introduces us to the judges, contestants and live recap of the voiceovers, we talk to the potential contestants. John Stevens has no clue how to get Randy to like him - and Randy says to raise his game, which gets the audience to boo him. Jennifer says that her fashion consultant is coming for Simon, and George, who looks considerably younger, says that he shaved off his moustache because he wants to win.

Jon Peter Lewis talks about being dressed up like a banana - which we see him in as we waste some time with their first music video - Fame. Now this was one of the ideas that they brought from American Juniors - and that idea should have stayed there. That was terrible and I dread the fact that we have to see 10 more of these rotten videos.

We do get their first group montage - which is equally awful. From John Stevens mangling the first line and screwing up the choreography to no one being even and on pitch, the singers were just not on point tonight. The women were just as bad and this is not a good start in terms of the singing. Blech. In terms of ratings, this was better than the Fame medley (which isn't that hard) but worse than the Star Search finale (which wasn't that wonderful). Hopefully they will get better when they have more experience - and less singers involved.

We get more space filler as we see a montage of them enjoying the house - and it was cute as they act all silly. It's these moments that are fun because you can actually car about the contestants. These are the things that will have us liking the people - not shots of singers arguing with each other, which will only turn people off and stop them from voting.

Mr. Seacrest goes over to talk to Jason Bateman, who plugs his own show on FOX - Arrested Development' - right up next. Who else is in the house? Clay Aiken, who sings "Solitaire" live to the throng of the screaming audience. He sings it very Broadway-esque, which is his style, as we get an abridged version of the song. The song itself is nice and you can see how Clay came that close to winning the whole. Is it just me, or is he positioning himself to be a young Barry Manilow? He admits that he was a little nervous, but the thought of selling 2.4 million albums makes him feel better.

The contestants have questions to ask Clay. Matt asks how to deal with Stress and Simon - and Clay tells him to keep focused on being in on the Grand Finale - and not allow outside factors - ie. Simon - to take over. Fantasia asks how things have changed - he says that they have, since not many things go on in North Carolina - and he's grateful to have the opportunity to make these things happen.

But there will be one less person to make things happen as we get to the bottom three calling. safe. La safe. Jon safe. not safe and she goes down to the bottom three. John Stevens (yik). Adding to the Yik factor is Simon playing with Paula's hair in the background - and Paula doesn't realize it. YIK! Fantasia is...also safe. YIIIK! Not Yik is George Huff...and he is also safe. safe. Jasmine Amy is...not safe (well, she had to be, there were only three people left - and she is in the bottom three. Joining her is...Jennifer Hudson as Camille is safe.

Ryan asks the three people on what it's like. Jennifer says she's just happy to be here, Amy says that she's acting like she's calm and Leah says that she has no words. What do the judges think? Randy says that he's shocked that Jennifer is there, Paula says that Jen and Amy need to do a better song selection, while Simon says that he isn't surprised - and he says that is does sound different on TV than it does live and that everyone has to realize that.

Going back to the singers, the lady who is safe is...Amy Adams, as she goes back to her seat. Leah and Jennifer sing one last round of songs, and based on the performances, I don't see how Leah got more votes then Jennifer. It turns out that she didn't - Leah is the first person eliminated from American Idol. She thanks her mom and her friends, and then she leaves.

I think that Paula may have done Leah a bit of injustice by selecting her as a wild card performer. I think with one or two more years, Leah could have been a powerful contender - but I think she came out too early and she paid the price for it, as she was just blown away by the more mature voices.

Thus ends the first week of the finals. Chico will be back on Tuesday as we get to the second week.

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