Another reason to like American Idol this season: It's realizing when to get to the point. (Well, except for that horrible Los Angeles audition episode, but let's not talk about that.) The second and third hours of the show's "Green Mile" episodes—when the 24 semifinalists are given the green light by the judges—aired tonight, and of the 28 people who were featured, only nine were shown the door. And we got to hear everybody sing, which was a pretty welcome development given that in seasons past the semifinals have had a couple of people who seemed to be surprise guests / people who were picked for the sole purpose of streamlining certain favorites' path to the Top 12. (There will still be some "who"-ing, but at least tonight's episode was an attempt to temper that.)

The episode was not without its awkward moments—particularly at the end, after Brett Loewenstern was the only one to get in out of a group of three that included Jacee Badeaux and Colton Dixon and he tried to soften the blow by telling the other two that "It doesn't matter who made it, because we're all shining stars." Uh, yeah, Brett. I really don't think that the person who actually got through should be lecturing the people who didn't on what does and doesn't matter.

It also inspired a few questions from me! Luckily I'm enough of an Idol expert to also have some answers.

Was Jacob Lusk's "God Bless The Child" the best performance on Idol ever, as Randy—who kept asserting his seniority tonight—said? No. I mean, just, no. It was good! I am a Jacob Lusk fan! I would love to see him win even though he's probably going to lose to one of this year's White Guys With Instruments! But

Is James Durbin the new Adam Lambert? As an old colleague of mine once asked when posed a similar question, "Is a horse the new frisbee? And of course the answer is no. I kind of couldn't believe that he made it through after his screechy, not-very-good rendition of "A Change Is Gonna Come" (remember???) and that his "let's try and impress Steven Tyler by singing one of his band's worst songs" trick worked. I realize that the producers think that he's going to reel in all the Glamberts who were turned off by last year's offerings, but simply thinking that you can hit high notes does not mean that said attempts at vocal gymnastics are successful.

Is Rachel Zevita this season's Lady Gaga? Maybe! She topped her "Eleanor Rigby" widow getup with a very structured outfit and an even more impressive cover of Gaga's "Speechless." A lot of the female contestants this season seem, well, kind of bland! But Rachel could be a bit of a wild card.

Do the contestants who sing their own songs have a sort of advantage? It was kind of hard to not think that, especially in the case of Brett, who closed out the show by triumphing over both Jacee and Colton. (Colton, by the way, looked absolutely miserable the whole time and I wanted to give him a huge hug and tell him that there were at least two female contestants who he should have beaten out. Because it's true! I thought we were getting rid of the whole "gender parity" thing this year anyway?)

Was it really necessary to eliminate Jacee while his pal Brett got in? Ugh, this poor kid! He has a lovely voice (better than a bunch of the girls who got through, cough cough Thia Megia) but he's just a throwback to another generation of pop, and I remain firm in my belief that he's going to do fine on another show. Maybe even The X Factor?

The complete list of Idol semifinalists:


Naimia Adedapo

Lauren Alaina

Kendra Chantelle Campbell

Ashthon Jones

Thia Megia

Haley Reinhart

Karen Rodriguez

Pia Toscano

Lauren Turner

Ta-Tynisa Wilson

Rachel Zevita

Julie Zorrilla


Casey Abrams

Jovany Barreto

Jordan Dorsey

James Durbin

Clint Jun Gamboa

Tim Halperin

Stefano Langone

Brett Loewenstern

Jacob Lusk

Scott McCreery

Paul McDonald

Robbie Rosen

And ... now it's time to dance like idiots!

Come back next Tuesday for the dudes singing their heads off. Here's hoping that Casey Abrams is all healed up from the taping, although that would be a great chance to bring back Colton Dixon...

[Thanks to MJ and Rickey for the clips.]