American Idol got what it wanted – a great night of performances, some publicity and an easy road to the final for Dalton Rapattoni

Live look at most people when judges announced who was safe Thursday.

Live look at most people when judges announced who was safe Thursday.

This is exactly what American Idol wanted.

In putting together the potential for the worst final 10 since Season 12 – the undisputed champ of worst Idol seasons – Idol got what it wanted.

They got their publicity because anyone watching the show was talking about Idol, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter or message boards, and how it was possible that Shelbie Z, the season’s best female singer, and Adam Lasher, who would have won last year if not for a historic screw job that actually set the stage for Nick Fradiani, didn’t make the cut while soft-singing teens took up half the spots remaining on the show.

If a performer chokes on stage, it’s understandable why they wouldn’t make the cut. So why didn’t Lasher or Shelbie or even Kory Wheeler, the happy hipster who the judges seemed to love, or CJ Johnson, the well-traveled bar-singing rocker, also leave Thursday’s episode wondering WTF?

Because Idol was getting to the second part of what it wanted.

With the talented and versatile WGWGs out of the picture and the best female voice gone, Dalton Rapattoni has a clear path to the final. He might not have needed the help, but Idol needs Dalton to win. It’s no coincidence he was in a boy band founded by Simon Fuller, the founder of American Idol. Dalton was hand-picked to win the show.

To be fair, there’s a chance Dalton won even if the show had actual competition. He’s likely going to the final against MacKenzie Bourg, the 22-year old contestant who looks and plays like what TV producers think fans want to see. The next eight weeks aren’t going to be much of a contest as they will be a coronation of Dalton and MacKenzie and Idol’s praying it’ll build rating even though the show is going to be as exciting as a Harry Connick concert.

Producers were concerned about protecting their boy because of what the others brought to the table. With what he was auditioning with and how he was playing, CJ Johnson was this season’s Nick Fradiani. He had the cougar vote – the most important demo in terms of winning the show – and the playbook to go deep even if he wasn’t the best performer. Adam Lasher was the show’s best musician and a WGWG who performs like him usually ends up doing well. Shelbie would have picked up the country vote and with the popularity of the music among 20-somethings, who knows how far that would have taken her.

There was a potential Idol could have set up a Top 10 of Dalton, MacKenzie, Thomas Stringfellow, Olivia Rox, Adam Lasher, CJ Johnson, Shelbie Z, Jenn Blosil, Jeneve Mitchell and, I don’t know, one of the other teens and that’s a Top 10 people watch. That’s filled with competition. Every week people would have to perform well or they’d be gone.

But that’s what Idol used to be. A competition. The new Idol, not so much. They want everyone to be happy, every elimination to be a “tough decision” and they want to act outraged when someone goes home without saying who should have gone home.

It’s this generation. With a show plastered with teens – as opposed to plastered teens, which would be amazing TV – do you think we’ll hear anything resembling Simon Cowell criticism? Will there be any biting commentary at all, except for the inevitable cheap shots by Harry or Keith Urban toward whoever the producers decide doesn’t fit the storyline?

Now all this isn’t to say the kids don’t have talent. They do, but it’s not good enough to win right now and that’s what Idol is about. It’s about finding someone who can be a star right now. Producers think they know but if you check their track record since they started meddling with the program – sometime after Phillip Phillips finished his last note on “Home” – they’ve proven they’re clueless when it comes to what their audience wants to hear.

And now, thanks to that, they’ve managed to successfully destroy the American Idol brand in its farewell season.

So, with all that out of the way, let’s get on to the good, which was the performance. Last week’s duets were a mess – only proving the point that last week’s Top 12 were clearly inferior in overall talent but producers needed to get them through to commit the reality TV crimes this week – but this week was filled with strong performances. Strange that those people who performed the best were sent home, but the point remains that this week was pretty good.

Let’s get on to the recaps before I change the name of the site to Dudes Review The Voice.

Amelia Eisenhauer & Kellie Pickler
“Suds in the Bucket,” Sara Evans

Great pairing for Amelia. Song fit her style and adding the fiddle was a perfect touch. Amelia looked the part Thursday night and it actually made for a good duet. It was too bad her fate was sealed before she stepped on stage. With Jeneve Mitchell in, there was no need for another “quirky country girl” even if she was better than the wannabe pop princesses the judges put through. She would have been an interesting case if the semifinals were in America’s hands; I don’t know how she would have fared because usually there’s only room for so much quirk. The disappointment in her being eliminated is, among the young ‘uns, she’s neck-and-neck with Olivia Rox for most polished performer. I don’t think she would have fallen apart on stage. Only reason she’s going home was she didn’t play the part of bubblegum nonsense even though in her final performance she certainly looked like a marketable star.

Kory Wheeler & Haley Reinhardt
“Benny and the Jets,” Elton John

This pairing was downright cheating. Both Kory and Haley have the hipster vibe that makes them come together like Voltron regardless of how long they’ve performed together. Kory had experience with this song and Haley, well, Haley’s Haley and the last time we saw her do this song on stage it ended up being one of the best performances in Idol history. The hipster match made in heaven were great. Thought the duet was more Kory than we got Wednesday night; he seemed to have a little more personality on stage and seemed destined to move on. Only weird part was J-Lo, a habitual mis-rememberer of actual events (ask P-Diddy ’bout that) said the judges from Haley’s season thought she was going to win. Uh, no, they didn’t actually. In fact, they did everything possible to get Haley eliminated early and brutalized her so they could get their all-country final two seeing how bro/pop-country had just become ‘the thing.’ The only thing worse than J-Lo’s memory is her horrible cop drama on NBC.

Lee Jean & Chris Daughtery
“Home,” Chris Daughtery

Since IDGAF right now, it’s time to call Lee what he is – he’s Daniel Seavey but cool or fleek or whatever the kids are saying now. He’s got Seavey’s ability and stage presence and producers are going to push him through but it’ll end up the same. America is going to turn on him and he’ll end up Top 8 and then he’ll be posting videos on Twitter of his friends lighting their face on fire and begging fans to make it go viral (Seavey actually did this). I’m sure in five or 10 years when he’s seasoned he’ll be amazing and super famous, but right now he’s simply a decent musician who looks what a pop star is supposed to look like and that’s why he’s through. Right now he’s not better than Kory Wheeler, not better than CJ Johnson and certainly not better than Adam Lasher. He was overwhelmed and drowned out during his performance with Daugherty and sounded like what he is – a kid on stage with one of their heroes. He’s got a great attitude, but the show’s actual fans – not the teens Idol thinks are flocking to televisions to watch – aren’t going to put up with him for long. If he’s in the sing-off, he ain’t making the cut, but I don’t think producers take the chance and send him right to the Top 8.

CJ Johnson & David Cook
“The World I Know,” Collective Soul

I enjoyed this performance but that’s because of my irrational love for David Cook. CJ clearly has the experience but on stage with one of the best Idols ever, he looked like a minor leaguer playing in his first big league game. The song wasn’t a great choice and that sucks because that had nothing to do with CJ; he would have been better off performing “Always Be My Baby” or that Beatles song that I’m too lazy to look up. CJ doesn’t do slowed down rock like he does the up-tempo stuff people go nuts for. His voice was fine, but he was overshadowed by Cook and that didn’t help his chances. Of course, Idol producers knowing plain and well he was going to go with the Fradiani Plan and carry the older female vote all the way to the finals probably didn’t help his cause much either. If they ran the semifinals like they had in years past, he would have been a lock. He’s one of the reasons why Idol didn’t do that. They didn’t want another Fradiani even though Nick was one of the sneaky best performers the show’s had.

Manny Torres & Jordin Sparks
“No Air” Jordin Sparks feat. Chris Brown

We can’t get too deep into this conversation without mentioning Jordin Sparks’ absurd nose ring. Gross. Manny’s been a great contestant, but he falls into that category of guys who are good but it’s clear they’re not in the class of people who are on the show with him. We’ve mainly see him with a guitar in hand and not seeing it likely helped his cause; gets the GWG stink off him for a little bit, but if we’re going off vocals that wasn’t good. It didn’t match with Sparks one bit. I actually think if Manny had a chance to do this as a solo with his guitar it had a chance to be good. Manny’s safe now and it’s clear why – J-Lo wasn’t letting him go home. Her record speaks for itself. Let’s review the contestants she’s really pushed for since she started judging: Remember Stefano from season 10? Jeremy Rosado from Season 11? La-La-La-Lazaro Arbus and Devin Velez from Season 12? Emily Piriz from Season 13? But you’re right. It’s probably a coincidence. It seemed impossible he did enough to pass Kory and Adam – especially with how the solo and duets went – but he did. J-Lo gonna J-Lo.

PS Idol should feel real dirty about letting a song featuring a woman-beater be included in the show. I know it’s a Jordin Sparks’ song, but anything featuring a guy who hits women should be kept as far away from the airwaves as possible. Nice to see Idol taking the controversial pro-domestic violence stance though.

Jenn Blosil & Constantine
“My Funny Valentine,” Ella Fitzgerald

Nice to see Blosil come back. She was left for dead after Wednesday’s solo and deserved a spot as much as I did, but her performance with the over-dramatic Constantine was pretty damn strong (is curious as to why they brought Constantine back to sing that and not Melinda Doolittle, who owns that song as far as Idol is concerned). Was it good enough that she deserved to make the Top 7? That’s debatable, especially when Shelbie Z outperformed her both nights. I can see the argument for Blosil over Amelia and that’s easier to take. On one hand I think her inclusion screwed Shelbie out of a spot but it’s good to see that she made the cut because after her and Jeneve Mitchell, the rest of the female singers are about as original as an Amy Schumer joke. Hoping they have the sense to put her in the Top 8, but I think they’re stuffing poor Jenn into the sing-off and burying her behind people they know will get votes. Did I mention how I hate this process?

Tristan McIntosh & Kelly Pickler
“Best Days of Your Life,” Kellie Pickler

Had a feeling this was going to be a solid performance once I saw Tristan’s hair teased out. It started poorly – she whiffed on those opening notes like a drunk girl singing karaoke at a bar – but she rebounded and put together a solid performance. Tristan’s been a good competitor but there is no way in hell she was better at any point than Shelbie Z. You can’t find one performance in any round where you can say, with a straight face, that Tristan outperformed Shelbie. It’s a damn shame that she’s going to catch an internet beating because every single critic watching the show is saying the same thing. You want to put Tristan in over Gianna? OK. Over Amelia? I see that argument. Over Jeneve? Yup, I get it. She’s a great story and Idol knows it; the Mom angle definitely helped her cause (interesting point I found on a message board – did her mother finish her most recent tour or did Idol pull strings to keep her home? Hoping she’s home for good; can’t imagine what it’s like being away from your family for that long, nevermind while fighting for your country while your kid performs on national TV) but if everyone is being honest we all know she can’t win. There’s no way. Tyanna Jones was the same age, a better vocalist and she didn’t win. Even with the watered down field, I don’t know how she gets past Dalton and MacKenzie and Olivia. Hoping for some big performances, but she’s another the producers pushed through at the expense of the show.

Olivia Rox & David Cook
“Light On,” David Cook

Kid was a little nervous. She stumbled over a lyric early and it seemed to shake her a bit, but after the chorus hit the confidence was back. Still think at times she held back, but this is where my complete lack of technical music/singing knowledge fails me – perhaps she was worried about tone or key or notes or whatever and that’s why she didn’t get louder. Don’t know that it was her best, but it was damn, damn good. I thought Olivia was going to be a bubblegum pop princess but this week Olivia showed she can sang. Anyone else notice David Cook walk by Olivia’s parents and mouth “She’s so good?” She’s going to end up as one of the better competitors on the show as long as she picks the right songs, keeps singing like that and, at all costs, doesn’t let Keith Urban run her publicity campaign. His idea for her tour T-shirts (Oliva Rox? Yes she does) was along the lines of Leslie Knope coming up with newspaper headlines in Pawnee, especially with that smarmy, so pleased-with-himself look when he said it. How about the one-word Roxstar. Little easier to print on a shirt. That’s called branding Keith. Olivia’s gonna need it when she gets Jax’ed in the final three.

Adam Lasher & Haley Reinhart
“Can’t Help Falling In Love With You,” Elvis Presley

Even if Adam was bad this was going to be good because Haley Reinhart is fantastic. If the version of the song sounded familiar that’s because you’ve heard it in the sickly sweet gum commercial that makes all men look horrible compared to that guy who was drawing pictures on gum wrappers for this one girl his whole life. Loved this side of Adam because we hadn’t really heard him sing a song like this. He had that perfect tender frog sitting in his throat and while he looked a tad uncomfortable sitting on a stool – and the hand-holding moment was a little awk – the performance as a whole was the best of the night. With this, his past performances and a decent showing Wednesday, he was one of the easiest decisions Idol had to make and you’ll see him in the Top 8. Wait, what’s that? They cut him? Oh, that’s right. Idol producers have been terrified of Adam since last season. He probably wins – or at least comes Top 4 – last year and if Idol had him in he was going to be competing with Dalton and MacKenzie for the title. Gotta love how they judges mixed it up with J-Lo and Harry complimenting him and Keith Urban doing the producers’ dirty work by assassinating Adam Lasher live on stage. With the exception of Dalton and Olivia, there wasn’t a better performer this week and him going out should be written about when we talk about the demise of Idol.

Dalton Rapattoni & Chris Daugherty
“Higher Ground,” Stevie Wonder

This performance suffered because my expectations for it were so unreasonable high there wasn’t any way they were going to hit that mark. I expect Lambert/Cook greatness every time he steps on stage. Thursday’s duet was fine but I was expecting some life-changing shit here and it just didn’t happen, but that’s OK by me. Dalton is so versatile and doesn’t miss on stage or when he’s singing so I don’t know if they’re going to actually wait for the finale to give him the title or just hand it to him next week and tell everyone the rest is just for fun. I’m looking forward to watching Dalton because he’s not going to do anything as a straight cover. It’s going to be Daltonized performance after Daltonized performance and depending on what happens next week, it might end up being the only reason to watch the show the rest of the season.

As an aside, I could have done without Harry’s praise of the band. It was fine, but when the cameras cut to them playing it looked like they were just going through the motions. I don’t know if that’s a credit to Ricky Minor being able to do WTF he wants, but he looked bored. Dude’s probably played that a million times. Getting the band to perform on “Ignition” when Seacrest started rapping? Now that was the Ricky Minor move of the night. Probably a Top 10 moment on Idol because I bet there’s no way Seacrest didn’t think that was making the final edit. Seacrest is the man.

Trent Harmon & Jordin Sparks
“To Love Somebody,” Bee Gees

I’m all in on Trent. He’s got the Phillip Phillips on-stage thing going, has a little Lambert in his voice and the swagger and looks of Fradiani. Pretty sure he was singing to Jordin, trying to get her to notice him and completely ignoring the fact she’s got a man who would F his world up. I think I can make a case for Trent winning the damn show because with what’s left, he’s going to get the mom vote. Crush it actually. He’s got the Jesus thing going, he’s a good looking guy and he’s got the personality to make the wine-sippin’ women at home lose their ever-loving minds. He’s probably not gonna give me a lot of love because he’s such a nice guy – seems adverse to cursing, down side for me – but if there is a darkhorse candidate to win this season, it’s Trent, so that means Idol producers are gonna make sure he’s in the singoff.

Shelbie Z & Constantine
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen

Would have been more fitting if Shelbie and Constantine covered the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” because that’s all this performance was – the producers of American Idol trying to deep-six the best female singer on the show. Funny thing was, turned out despite singing a song built for a country girl’s voice, it mattered little to Shelbie. There wasn’t a better female performance this week, or last week, or maybe at all this season (except when Shelbie sang Heart). Did it get a little theatrical? Yes, but a lot of that had to do with the song itself and the guy singing with her being, you know, a theatre guy. So why didn’t she get through? That’s a question for the judges and producers because other than Olivia and maybe, maybe Avalon, I don’t know if there’s been a better girl this season. Had to love the judges comments, especially that liar J-Lo who kinda made it clear she didn’t understand why Shelbie would perform a theatrical song like that except for the fact the producers picked it. J-Lo, Harry and Keith should be ashamed of themselves for what they did. It was an on-stage television assault. Being the professionals they are, I’m sure they’ll answer questions about it (they won? What?). Shelbie not getting through while every teeny-bopper with a mic did is the biggest disgrace for Idol since producers squashed Josiah Leming despite Simon Cowell’s insistence he make the show. Cowell would have put Shelbie through. The cowards that call themselves judges didn’t.