Raise your hand if, five weeks ago, you thought that the American Idol top three would be two-thirds female. Hell, raise it if you thought there would be a woman contestant remaining at this point at all. And yet that's the case thanks to James Durbin's elimination tonight; Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery, and Haley Reinhart are the last singers standing while James, he of the constant proclamations of his metal 'tude and his not-quite-there vocals and his overall realy annoying attitude, is left to appear on the finale in some sort of runner-up position that he'll probably ham up anyway.

"I did so much damn stuff that's never been done on this show," proclaimed James after he'd been announced as the evening's loser. Which, well. Yes, he came far given the lot that life had given him, the Tourette's and the autism and the kid in need of diapers. But his entire run was a dollar-store ripoff of Adam Lambert's, only augmented with guest stars (Hulk Hogan! Zakk Wylde!) and much worse singing and the consistent declaration that he was "metal," which he trotted out again tonight and which, dude, seriously, go listen to the new record by Jesu or the new Liturgy or something that is actually considered metal in the year 2011 and see how wrong you are.

His sing-out--of the decidedly not-metal "Maybe I'm Amazed"--was teary and full of botched notes and cutaways to Jennifer Lopez crying and all three of the judges looking shocked, shocked that someone who they'd showered with praise for so long had been booted by America. Maybe the judges need to listen to the performances on headphones so they can hear all the botched runs and breaking high notes that the viewers at home were treated to? Or maybe they just need to, you know, actually critique all the singers, and not just the ones they don't like or want to "push" or whatever.

The cutaway to Lauren Alaina and Haley Reinhart when Scotty was announced as the final singer making his way to the Top Three was very instructive; Lauren tried to hold her pursed-lip look together, but right before the perspective shifted, she let loose a teeny smile that revealed her thoughts on America's decision. Lauren, take this to heart; Steve Perry, so maligned as he was on Wednesday night by his former bandmate Randy Jackson's declaration that James' bad cover version of "Don't Stop Believin'" was as good as the vocal he laid down lo those many years ago, was probably agreeing with you as he gave America a slow clap.

In the first few minutes after James' boot I saw lots of Twitter-chat about how James would be the "new Daughtry," i.e., eliminated too early yet more successful than whoever winds up winning this year because he was working in a rock—excuse me, metal—idiom. I don't really buy it. His persona is absolutely annoying, and—real talk—he's way too glam to succeed in the still-quite-hetero pop-rock realm. Maybe if he was as gruff as David Cook? America is not really looking for a less edgy Adam Lambert, that's for sure.

The rest of the episode was filled with filler, including an entire segment lifted from Lady Gaga's HBO special that the contestants were "watching" in order to get pumped for her mentorship. It was of her singing "You & I"! You know, that song that America didn't know and would therefore not connect with when Haley sang it last week? Yay, synergy!

Other highlights:

• Ryan Seacrest should go on balloon quests every week.

• Haley was so "fuck it, I'm outta here" until she was announced as being safe. Will she annoy me more or less next week now that my ire toward James needs a new target? Stay tuned!

• The Ford music video was set to Owl City's Autotunetastic "Fireflies," and James actually sounded pretty good, because, you know, vocal manipulation and all.

• OK, that's not entirely fair; he actually sounded pretty decent during his duet with Scotty McCreery, during which they sang Brad Paisley and Keith Urban's "Start A Band." This was mainly because he controlled his voice and proved doesn't have to go the extra octave all the time in order to sound good! That sort of restraint might have served him well in previous rounds of the competition.

• Meanwhile, Haley and Lauren were paired up to sing Miranda Lambert's "Gunpowder and Lead," which sounded OK but seemed really inappropriate for multiple reasons, starting with the two singers not really realizing the gravity of a song about revenge over domestic abuse. It was all very "SPRING BREAAAAAAK!" in an uneasy-making way. I guess in the Idol world of everybody being awesome, nobody has to think about the meaning of lyrics they're singing?

• Did anyone notice during the extended ad for MSN Messenger that Lauren and James hogged up more of the airtime than Scotty and (especially) Haley?

• Jordin Sparks' new single "I Am Woman" is good in a Beyoncé-lite way, although if you're gonna sing about wearing stilettos, you probably shouldn't wear wedges while doing so.

• Steven Tyler debuted his music video! It involved circus animals and an inappropriately young woman getting naked and Nicole "Get Ready, America, For Me To Be Shoved Down Your Throat" Scherzinger having her ass tapped (not tapped tapped, but drummed on) by Steven! And the song is still terrible and it sent me running back to my copy of Rocks, which Chuck Eddy once called the first dub-punk record and he's probably right about that. All its songs are still completely excellent, but this is probably my favorite.