updated 04/28/2011 AT 9:05 PM ET
•originally published 04/28/2011 AT 10:20 PM ET
“A lot of fans are going to be disappointed with tonight’s result,” said Ryan Seacrest at the start of the hour on American Idol Thursday. That sounded ominous, but then again it wasn’t the same as saying America would be shocked or faint dead away. Not a Pia Toscano moment, in other words.
At the halfway point, Seacrest said: “Who is in and who is out? You may be surprised.” Again, surprise – but not shock. I sensed Jacob Lusk.
Wrong. It WAS a surprise: Casey Abrams, who’d gone farther than any other Idol contestant whose chief enthusiasms were jazz and blues and other musical idioms that don’t mean much in the Age of Justin Bieber.
“This is what talent looks like,” said Seacrest, as the judges gave Casey an ovation. He then sang “I Cast a Spell on You,” not breaking off even as he hugged the judges and kissed girls and women in the front row. In fact, it was probably the best performance he’d ever given – a triumphant exit, and something of a relief after his near-collapse earlier in the season when the judges saved him from elimination.
The only sign of anxiety came early in the hour, when the camera caught him biting his nails.
In the end, despite Jennifer Lopez’s excitement at the prospect of a jazz-singer Idol, he probably fell too far outside the range of talent that voters are willing to see crowned with the title.
On Wednesday’s Carole King program, Casey sang “Hi De Ho,” a song the average viewer might not even recognize as being from her catalog, and performed it with a showy bluesiness that made it sound positively old. Commenting in retrospect, producer Jimmy Iovine said he was disappointed by Casey’s performance, especially by all the growling. “The family dog does not vote on this show.”
During a segment that posed questions sent in on online, Casey was asked to name his dream duet partner. His answer: jazz great Oscar Peterson. If he hadn’t gone this week, that little fact alone might have doomed him next time.
Iovine, by the way, continues to be much more incisive and interesting than the judges. I mean, they’re adorable but In particular, he suggested that they need to stop urging the singers to chart their personal artistic progress from week to week and start comparing the vocal talents – start making sense of the whole competition.
After all, he said, what’s the point of urging a pure country talent like Scotty McCreery to spread his wings? Would they have urged Johnny Cash to do the same? “He comes with character, strength and confidence,” said Iovine.
Thanks to the viewer Q&A, we also know now that Scotty once worked in a tanning salon. I believe Johnny Cash did too.
At the start of the night, the gang went to the British consulate to toast the royal wedding. One of the guests there was American actor Fred Willard, who said he wished a starlet were around so he could push her into the pool.
Crystal Bowersox, slimmer since placing second in season 9, sang “Ridin’ with the Radio” backed up by men with facial hair.
To sum up, the top five singers left on Idol are: Jacob Lusk, Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery, Haley Reinhart and James Durbin.