American Idol: Bye-bye . . . Asia’h?

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The moments of truth come fast and furious on American Idol, where each week we crush a young man or woman?s dream. But few of these moments have the gravity of the Final 12 pick, where the fat is trimmed and the real contestants are allowed to take center stage. For the eight men and eight women who have made it this far, ’80s week was a challenge. Nobody?s fate was assured (except, perhaps, David Archuleta?s). Who?s in, who?s out? There were surprises and lesser surprises, but ultimately, Luke Menard, Danny Noriega, Kady Molloy, and Asia?h Epperson were dispatched. Let?s consider the losers:

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Luke Menard
It?s been a long time coming for Indiana carpet-cleaner Luke Menard, who has coasted by on an Orland Bloom vibe and a healthy but uninspiring voice. Luke?s never been one for stage presence, standing stiffly and occasionally tapping his foot, though never dimming his movie-star smile. ?Everybody?s Talkin?? was dull during ’60s week?s; ’70s week?s ?Killer Queen? was better, but no Freddie Mercury; and ’80s week?s ?Wake Me Up Before You Go Go? was rollicking without the rollick — all vocal acrobatics delivered stodgily. Idol watchers won?t be surprised by this one: Luke?s had this date from the beginning. Don?t feel too bad for him. We predict a healthy message-board following of Internet adoration in the future for Luke, and maybe even a spike in ticket sales for Chapter 6, his a cappella group. In the words of Paula, he probably won?t clean too many more carpets.

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Danny Noriega
The race to the bottom fell between Danny Noriega and Chikezie, the one a lispy, IM-fabulous post-tween, the other a would-be soulster with pitch problems. Danny inspires love and hate in equal measure (he?s the star candidate on Idol spoof-blog Votefortheworst.com), so it?s not entirely surprising that it was his turn to step down. Danny brought a welcome note of irreverent bitchiness to the competition in the Sanjaya vein — finger-wagging, head-bobbing, acronym-spouting — but his performances reeked of the drag bar and the high-school cafeteria. His ?Jailhouse Rock? was stagy; his ?Superstar? torchy; and finally, his ?Tainted Love? irrepressibly catty, delivered in a bang-tossing hiss. Danny?s admirers will surely be blowing up his Myspace page, crowning him the official candidate of TMTH (?too much to handle?), but the rest of us may finally get rid of that tension headache he inspires.

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Kady Molloy
When Kady Molloy was informed that her Idol journey would end last night, no one looked less surprised than she herself. And why not? She?s been told repeatedly and from the beginning that, while her imitations are interesting, her own persona is not. Kady?s possessed of a lovely voice and an unimpeachable prettiness, but challenge yourself to remember just one of her performances and you may begin to realize why she?s heading home. A quick Google search reveals that Kady sang ?A Groovy Kind of Love? for ’60s week, ?Magic Man? for ’70s, and Queen?s ?Who Wants to Live Forever? this week. (For my part, I remember a lot of closed-eye belting to the heavens during climactic moments, but then, of which Idol contestant is this not true?) Kady took her defeat like a champ, gave one more round of ?Who Wants to Live Forever? (bitterly ironic under the circumstances), and was off.

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Asia?h Epperson
The only real surprise of the evening was the routing of Asia?h, who has shown great promise throughout the competition, in addition to a persevering spirit (aficionados will recall that Asia?h is the contestant who tearfully auditioned two days after her father was killed in a car accident). Asia?h?s version of ?Piece of My Heart? was well-reviewed during ’60s week, and her ?All By Myself? was pretty good, too. Her ’80s week take on classic Whitney, ?I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)? earned her the title of a second-rate Houston. Kristy Lee Cook was on thin ice this week, after another forgettable performance, but it was Asia?h who took the plunge.

The finals begin next week, kicking off with Beatles Week (the first time the Beatles? catalogue has been released for Idol use). Stay with us, as the competition grows fiercer, the tensions get higher, and Simon and Paula?s escalating rivalry nears a breaking point.

– Matthew Schneier

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