Tampa's Janell Wheeler sent home in a night of surprise ejections on American Idol
The Tampa Bay area lost half its reason for cheering the semi-finalists on American Idol Thursday, as Tampa resident Janell Wheeler found herself among the first four contestants cut from the show after the audience vote this week.
Wheeler joined Joe Munoz, Ashley Rodriguez and Tyler Grady in taking the long walk, surprising many Idol watchers who had other singers pegged as the worst performers. Local fans still have St. Petersburg-raised Michael Lynche to root for however; he survived the cut, despite taking a few harsh criticisms from the show's judges after his performance Wednesday.
From the start, this season's edition of Idol has felt a bit off-balance, and not just because of new judge Ellen DeGeneres or the ultimately unfounded early rumors of Lynche's ejection. And the odd vibe continued into Thursday, where some singers survived, despite delivering some of the week's worst performances.
Tim Urban, a last minute substitute for a disqualified contestant, who delivered a particularly awful rendition of One Republic's Apologize, looked more shocked than anyone when host host Ryan Seacrest pronounced him safe (Munoz, who got the hook instead, looked like he was dying to ask for a recount).
Likewise, Texas church music teacher Lacey Brown should have disappeared for her shaky take on Stevie Nicks' Landslide. But it's useless to second-guess the will of viewers, who seemed to pick off two generic female singers and two of the more irritating guys.
It's as if the show is still finding it's rhythm, weeks after its debut. Part of the problem; every stage of Idol is almost a a new show.
So just when DeGeneres learns how to deal with her fellow judges during the pre-taped Hollywood Round shows, she's thrown into Idol's live broadcasts, where producers never seem entirely sure when the camera will turn on or which judge is supposed to speak first.
At times, Cowell seems disconnected to the point of insult, winking at his girlfriend in the audience and talking with the other judges whenever he thinks the camera isn't on him. Small wonder DeGeneres got herself seated as far away from the bratty Brit as possible, once the live shows started.
Of course, these are complaints which surface every year -- including the lament that the current crop of singers seems so incompetent. But this is when Idol contestants are supposed to sound bad -- kicking off the live shows, facing millions of viewers for the first time, singers are nervous and green and ready to evolve over long weeks into perfect pop creations.
Good thing last year's winner Kris Allen was on hand to show what's possible, launching through an emotional rendition of Let it Be that reminded you exactly how he stole last year's crown from showy vocal powerhouse Adam Lambert. We also learned the show would be presenting its charity program, Idol Gives Back, on April 21 with a host of corporate money already attached.
In all, tonight's results provided an uneasy sign of confusion and unpredictable circumstances to come.