American Idol: It’s Over, Chikezie

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With over 30 million votes cast, last night we saw one of our top 10 American Idol finalists go home. But in true Idol fashion, before the loser was revealed, every contestant was subject to some mild humiliation. In between promotions for their corporate sponsors, we saw a surprising bottom three get ?sent to the stools? (ew?), as well as some neat ads from their corporate sponsors and tax-deductible contributions. Light-hearted phone-in questions and a guest visit from former Idol contestant Kimberly Locke did little to quell the bubbling paranoia and anxiety amongst our final 10 as they counted down to the moment of elimination. Let?s take a look:

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The evening started with a group rendition of Maxine Nightingale?s ?Right Back Where We Started From,? an apt choice by our clever producers. Out of context, the song?s lyrics eloquently express the burning fear of all of our contestants; a return to the banal life that they left at the start of their ?journey? here on Idol. Despite the likelihood of our top runners-up landing record deals before the end of the season, only a fantastic arrest or sex scandal can save an early eliminated contestant from watching their visibility fade. (For poignant words on the subject, see Amanda Overmeyer?s interview with Entertainment Weekly last week). The number?s Partridge Family-esque choreography was absolutely degrading. Jason Castro and David Cook looked pained.

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Next up: an advertisement for Apple products, disguised as a look behind the scenes at our top 10 recording full-length versions of their songs for iTunes. When our contestants have free time, they like to log onto the Internet using their MacBooks and download music from iTunes! Then they go listen to the music on their iPods! Cool, me too. Everyone seemed so wired, except for Carly Smithson, who saw the opportunity as a chance to fake dumb about her knowledge of the recording world. Eyes bright and wide, she told the camera how overwhelming all the buttons in the studio seemed. Yeah, right.

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Finally, things got rollin?. We saw Chikezie, Syesha and Jason take seets on the ?unsafe? silver stools of doom, and our other contestants waltz over to the couch. What can we conclude about our final three? While Chikezie?s fate was obvious, Syesha?s and Jason?s bottom rankings were far less predictable. Syesha?s killer performance last night certainly merited more attention from our voters. While our judges seem to think the song choice might not have resonated, I suspect America is as annoyed at her voice as I am. Jason Castro better start working a bit harder at his wooing game — and he seems to know it. His neurotic rambling, admitting that he foresaw his spot in the bottom three when he woke up that morning, only added to the clich?d stoner persona he?s been honing.

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Meanwhile, a performance by Kimberly Locke assured our contestants that there was life after elimination if they can stick it out to the top three. After losing 40 lbs. and opening a restaurant outside of Manhattan (why such a vague address? Is it off the expressway?), Kimberly has just produced a second albumn. The message: fame equals power, and besides a chance at a music career, a spot on Idol can allow contestants to follow other dreams they might not have had a chance to pursue otherwise. Brook White could open a shelter for abandoned puppies! Michael Johns could buy some sweet electronics! Just look at Danny Noriega: He got a cruise offer from Rosie O?Donnell.

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Before revealing our loser of the night, our contestants were subject to some humiliating Q&A from both Ryan Seacrest and the viewers. We learned that Carly is actually not pregnant, but sounded tense because she was wearing Spanks to look thinner. Aw, man. My favorite question of the night was directed to David Archuleta, a call from a viewer curious to know why he chose such a sucky stupid song the night beforehand. The answer? ?Because actually it?s my favorite.?

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As many of us predicted, at the end of the night we saw Chikezie go home. Watching his ?Remebering Chikezie? exit reel, I must admit my eyes got a little wet. Thank God they make them sing at the end. Without footage of them in the flesh you?d think from tone of the clip that they?d died. While I?m sad to see Chikezie go, his off-pitch, awkward final song served as a hopeful reminder: Eliminations mean higher competitive stakes, and, despite that one performance on Beatles week, Chikezie sort of blew.

Tune in next week to watch our nine take another stab at stardom.

– Amy Beecher

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