Nick Mitchell probably won’t be having the last laugh on “American Idol.” The outrageous 27-year-old sketch comedian, who performed as his over-the-top alter ego Norman Gentle, was one of nine semifinalists sent packing Thursday on the popular Fox singing competition.
“I’m looking for employment — always,” Mitchell of Brookfield, Conn., told host Ryan Seacrest before his dismissal.
But, apparently, most of the second group of 12 who performed on Wednesday night in still haven’t gotten the memo, because Simon, Paula, Randy and Kara called them out for picking songs that did nothing to help their chances of advancing.
With contestants again picking from the Billboard Hot 100, it was a night with just a few highlights, and several judges’ favorites crashed and burned.
But first the good news. Under-the-radar 16-year-old Allison Iraheta, in the words of Randy Jackson, “just blew it out the box.” The spunky, flame-haired wonder exploded on Heart’s “Alone,” tearing into the classic rock nugget with her husky, powerful Kelly Clarkson-esque voice.
“You don’t even know how good you are,” Kara DioGuardi told Iraheta. Paula Abdul said the teen could “sing the telephone book,” and though Simon Cowell told her to work on her personality, he added, “It’s like the competition just started right now.”
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Also killing it was show-closer Adam Lambert, 27, the musical-theater junkie who surprised everyone by bringing some Billy Idol/Axl Rose/ Elvis lip-curling swagger to the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” Shaking his hips and sporting an all black ensemble pimped out with a fingerless glove and a neck full of chains, Lambert worked the stage like a pro, gave the camera a longing stare and ended his performance with a lens-shattering falsetto scream that got Cowell’s attention.
Paula busted out a standing ovation and said she felt like she wasn’t watching “Idol,” but an “Adam Lambert concert.” Simon said parts were “excruciatingly bad,” but others were “brilliant.” And Randy just loved it, calling Lambert the most current artist ever on “Idol.” He compared Lambert to a mash-up of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Fall Out Boy, “Twilight” star Robert Pattinson and My Chemical Romance.
And then, there was jokester Nick “Norman Gentle” Mitchell. The most improbable “Idol” top 36-er ever delivered on his promise, once again busting out “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” dressed in his signature silvery shirt, cargo pants, running shoes, brown socks and red headband, accessorized with a white tuxedo jacket with tails and two red wristbands. “And I am telling you, I hope I’m not going. … I’m staying. … I’m not waking up tomorrow and finding out there’s no ‘Idol,” Mitchell warbled as he writhed on the stage, tossed his glasses, touched hands with screaming girls in the crowd, nuzzled the “Idol” logo and ended by holding a long, off-key “Youuuuuuuuuuu!” and staring into the camera in all his baggy-eyed glory.
Cowell couldn’t help but laugh. “I hope I’m speaking on behalf of America when I pray you don’t go through to the next round,” he said, calling Mitchell’s comedic throwdown “arguably one of the most atrocious performances we’ve ever had at this stage of the competition.”
Mitchell stared back and snapped, “Takes one to know one, sassy pants!” as he unleashed a high karate kick. Randy called it one of the most entertaining performances ever on the show. Kara said Mitchell will always be remembered, and Paula called it an Olivia-Newton-John-meets-Jerry-Lewis mash-up that was a lot of fun.
But perhaps the night’s biggest breakout was tattooed 23-year-old mom Megan Joy Corkrey. Wearing a sassy, white high-waisted dress, with her long hair done in waves, the runway-ready Corkrey showed off her 1,000-watt smile and wowed the panel with Corinne Bailey Ray’s “Put Your Records On,” while doing a cutesy hip-swiveling dance she called “the Corkrey.”
“You picked the right song. … The camera is in love with you,” Paula enthused, calling Corkrey “interesting, relevant, hip, cool, beautiful.” Simon agreed, and Randy compared her to Grammy-winning British singers Adele, Duffy and Amy Winehouse. Kara said Corkrey could easily be a “breakout hit artist on radio” with the right song.
For the most part, the rest of the contestants struggled. Jasmine Murray, 17, bombed with her Alicia Keys-ified soul version of Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song,” which the judges said was not the right choice. Dueling-piano player and Justin Timberlake wannabe Matt Giraud, 23, struggled through a feathery, Blake Lewis-esque run through Coldplay’s difficult “Viva la Vida” that Simon said was “horrible.” And bartender Jeanine Vailes, 28, got mad props for her mile-long legs, but that’s about all the judges had to say about her messy take on Maroon 5’s “This Love.”
Kris Allen, 23, forgot the cardinal “never cover Michael Jackson” rule, earning the judge’s ire for his gospel-meets-Jack Johnson cover of “Man in the Mirror,” which Simon praised for showing some personality, but which Kara said was “completely” the wrong song. Judge favorite and 28-year-old welding dad Matt Breitzke likely punched out his time card with an awkward soft-rock tumble through Tonic’s “If You Could Only See” that Cowell called “boring” and “quite uncomfortable.”
The judges were split on the remaining contenders, including single mom Jesse Langseth, who did a jazzy version of Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes,” which Randy called “OK,” Kara and Paula really liked and Simon said suffered from the singer’s “forgettable” personality. Nice-guy Kai Kalama sang a tame take on Jimmy Ruffin’s nugget, “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” which most agreed was too old-fashioned and safe, though they praised his likability. Former child actress and season-seven Hollywood washout Mishavonna Henson confused everyone with an Adele-style soul trip through Train’s “Drops of Jupiter.” Paula thought it was the wrong song. Simon liked it but said Henson was too serious and acted “like a 50-year-old,” and Kara urged her to loosen up.
Next Tuesday, 12 more semifinalists will vie for three spots in the competition’s top 12.
Mitchell — and other dismissed semifinalists — may get another shot. After the first nine finalists are selected by viewer votes, the judges will pick the last three finalists following a special wild card round.