Pop Culture

It's the end of the road for another 'Idol' hopeful

The bell finally tolled for the last of the “American Idol” wild-card picks on Thursday as Stefano Langone’s survival story came to an end.

Langone was one of the feel-good tales of the audition season. He survived a near-fatal auto accident less than two years ago that forced him to re-learn how to walk. It would have been hard to guess that he still bears scars from that crash as he performed on the “Idol” stage, as he embraced the chance to be what passed for the sultry male crooner of season 10.

But Langone was never really in a position to contend, and he needed every bit of those skills at coming back from challenging circumstances to stick around this long. He wasn’t one of the five men with the highest number of votes in the semifinals, and had to survive a sing-off to earn the wild-card spot. He had been in the bottom three in three of the previous four weeks entering Thursday’s show, and did not look at all surprised when he learned he was the seventh contestant eliminated.

James Durbin, however, was crushed. The resident metalhead showed a softer side by crying during Langone’s farewell montage, and then hurried onstage to pick Langone up and envelop him in a bear hug. But Durbin doesn’t need to worry too much, since he’ll be seeing his buddy again up close and personal in a few weeks when the "Idol" tour kicks off.

Dodging a bullet
The folks who run “Idol” were probably happy that it was Langone who went home rather than Jacob Lusk, who was also among the lowest vote-getters. The elimination avoided what might have been a controversial result.

Lusk had to fight through a technical glitch at the start of his Wednesday performance, and as a result earned a bit of criticism from the judges for the stumble. Granted, it was nothing too harsh — if you expected otherwise, you haven’t watched the show much this season — but it sure didn’t help his cause.

Though Lusk mentioned it briefly Wednesday after he finished his solo, nobody else made a big deal of it, so it sounded a little like he was whining. Host Ryan Seacrest asked about it again Thursday and gave it the credibility it needed ... 20-some hours after it might have made a difference in the voting. Thanks for nothing, Ryan!

Not that Lusk sang well enough to feel secure, but everyone probably feels a little better now that he’ll get another week. However, he did have to stay in the seats of shame longer than Haley Reinhart, who got the news that she was in the bottom three one second and was sent right back to safety the next. Jennifer “Save the Girls!” Lopez had to be thrilled with that one.

Queen Amidala herself?
The big names appearing on the “Idol” concert stage on Thursday (with all apologies to season seven winner David Cook) were Katy Perry and Kanye West. They performed “E.T” as Perry warbled on about an alien lover, dressed in an outfit and makeup that looked like something out of “Star Wars’ ” Queen Amidala’s wardrobe. Unlike the last time Perry was on the show and brought an Adam Lambert cape, she did not wear anything depicting her favorite contestant. At least, nowhere visible.

West may have been a surprise to see on the stage, but given that Steven Tyler forces the “Idol” censors to always be on their toes, it’s not like the rapper would do anything they hadn’t seen before. Sadly, he did not push the microphone away from Langone and say that while he’d let Langone finish, someone else should have gone home instead. An opportunity lost.

The “American Idol” group sings are rarely ever things of beauty, but the producers keep trotting them out every week anyway. The performances are apparently more appealing than the thought of having to write more witty banter for the Ryan and the judges.

This season’s group sings have been mostly worse than usual, however, because the male voices don’t play well with others. That was most noticeable on Wednesday night, when Paul McDonald seemed to be singing an entirely different song than the five women he was sharing the stage with.

But as if trying not to make McDonald feel too bad, Scotty McCreery, Casey Abrams and Durbin did a painful rendition of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” Thursday. Three totally different voices and styles + one challenging song = painful television.

Craig Berman is a frequent contributor to TODAY.com. Follow him on Twitter   as he live tweets each episode.

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