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Idol’s Comeback Kid ran out of chances

Nikko Smith voted off for the second time. By Craig Berman
/ Source: contributor

American Idol’s Comeback Kid ran out of chances.

Ever since Nikko Smith got a second opportunity to sing his case to the American people, courtesy of Mario Vazquez’s defection, Smith was the poster child for taking advantage of every opportunity. He sailed through the finals' first three weeks, staying out of the bottom three and impressing the judges more and more every time he sang.

At times, it seemed like Paula Abdul was ready to run away with him (although to be fair, at times it seems like the always-enthusiastic Abdul has been ready to run off with Constantine Maroulis, Bo Bice and Anwar Robinson as well). He settled into a rhythm and consistency that pleased both judges and voters, and consistently chose songs that lent themselves to his contemporary R&B style.

But despite the increase in support, Smith never forgot that he’d already been voted off the show once, and must have had a bad feeling when this week’s theme was first announced. Musicals do not tend to overflow with songs that fit Smith’s strengths, and his choice of tunes — “One Hand, One Heart” from "West Side Story" — certainly wasn’t among them. While the judges saw him as a good singer and better storyline, referring to him as the comeback kid, Smith didn’t look surprised to be in the bottom three this week, nor did he appear shocked to be voted off.

He was just about the only one, though. With Scott Savol standing next to him in the bottom two, it seemed like a no-brainer that Smith would survive and the struggling Savol would be booted. Savol himself seemed prepared to go, answering the usual pointless Ryan Seacrest question about his chances with “Whatever God has in store for me, that’s what’s gonna happen,”

Whether it was divine intervention, or simply an extra few thousand of the 32.8 million votes cast this week, Savol got the last-minute reprieve. His own comeback to grace will start next week.

Matt Rogers has a record contract?Wednesday’s show began with a performance from Fantasia Barrino, last season’s winner, who was on hand to plug her single “Truth Is.” She gave the final nine a ray of hope, announcing that all of last season’s finalists had landed record deals.  It’s hard to believe that the likes of Leah LaBelle, Amy Adams and Matthew Rogers will be recording albums anytime soon, but Barrino’s point was that losing the competition wasn’t the end of the world. Paula Abdul would later say the same thing, that everyone left in the competition had done enough to deserve record deals.

Given the time constraints imposed by the live performance, Ryan Seacrest had less time than usual to torture the remaining contestants. Sitting in the upper-left corner of the stage, Vonzell Solomon was the first to get mentioned … and the first member of the bottom three. Smith, sitting next to Solomon, soon followed.

Savol had to be feeling pretty good about his chances at that point, since he’d presumably seen the show before and knew that it would be rare indeed for the first three people mentioned to be among the unlucky. That had to be a relief — judging by his mannerisms every Wednesday night, he seems to be aware that his future in the record industry is the most precarious of the remaining finalists.

Some contestants clearly need this competition more than others, and Savol needs it worse than anyone. Not particularly charismatic and not looking like anything resembling a pop star, Savol more than any other finalist must rely completely on his voice to sell himself to the public. A performance Tuesday night that didn’t impress two of the three judges — only pleasing Paula Abdul, who likes everything — combined with the revelation of his 2001 arrest on domestic violence charges, seemed to add up to a nightmare scenario for the pride of Shaker Heights, Ohio.

It seemed like he might avoid the bottom three altogether for a moment, given Solomon and Smith’s quick spots in the troubled trio.

But that tricky Ryan Seacrest had other plans, so down Savol went.

Bo Bice, Constantine Maroulis, Anwar Robinson, Carrie Underwood … heck, even Anthony Fedorov and Nadia Turner got to move on without even breaking a sweat. For Fedorov and Turner, no strangers to the bottom three, it was a welcome relief on a night that they presumably thought might be their last on the show.

Not all the judges were happy to see the results. After seeing Solomon and Smith among the unpopular three, Randy Jackson ventured “I gotta think America might be a little confused right now.”

But really, America wasn’t confused at all. It just doesn’t like Nikko Smith as much as the judges do. That was made clear when he got voted off for the first time in March, and on Wednesday he simply ran out of chances.