'American Idol' Recap: 17 of the Top 30 Revealed
'American Idol' Recap: 17 of the Top 30 Revealed
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
It's the end of Hollywood Week on American Idol, and tonight we meet more than half of season 13's Top 30. Of course, as we learned this week, not everyone who makes the Top 30 will actually get to sing on next week's live shows. But that's just another brutal twist in the cruelest season ever.

We've already had the bus that sent 32 singers to the airport after the Hollywood or Home round, and now two singers are forced to sing for their lives while standing next to each other. Not just once, but they do it twice! It's Thunderdome!

Harry Connick, Jr. opens the show by warning all of the finalists before their last song not to make excuses. He doesn't care if they're sick or whatever else is going on, just perform. "No More Mr. Nice Guy," the show tells us in giant bold betters. American Idol is trying to make Harry the mean judge, but he's so darn charming that it doesn't really work. How can anyone not love a guy who shakes his butt during a fake final audition when Randy Jackson shows up?

The format is simple as the remaining contestants get one last chance to sing for the judges before the final judgment, where they ride an elevator up to a giant, empty ballroom to hear the verdict.

We also learn that for this final round, contestants could pick from a list of approved songs with the band, or they could sing an original. That limited selection might explain why there seem to be a whole lot of original songs, which I refuse to like on principle.

To make this simple, I'll divide this into singers who are in the Top 30 and those who aren't.

Who's in the Top 30?

Emily Piriz: The first contestant to face the final judgment, Ryan Seacreat calls her a "confident yet quiet contender." That's probably why we haven't seen much of her, but her final performance is beautiful and ethereal. She's good, but pretty unassuming until she hits her big notes.

Spencer Lloyd: The super hottie did an awkward original song for his final performance, which the judges didn't like at all. But he's hot and had some solid performance earlier, so he's in. This should be a great warning for all future Idol hopefuls: Don't sing originals. This isn't Bravo's failed Platinum Hit.

Jillian Jensen
: She also did an original song for her last performance, going on and on about how this show is supposed to find artists and she wants to prove she's a real songwriter. In a weird way, that makes me like her less. This is American Idol, brought to you by Coca-Cola and Ford, where finalists are forced to act in idiotic commercials. It's no place to make a statement about artistic integrity.

George Lovett: He has that traditional gospel voice, which basically makes him this year's Joshua Ledet. He's in and will probably take the judges to church at least once.

Sam Woolf: This kid, who reminds me of those serial killer twins on The Following, does an original about when his mom moved away. Harry didn't want any excuses, but apparently he and the other judges are open to blatant emotional manipulation before the final songs.

Malaya Watson: This plucky tuba player's final performance starts in the wrong key, so the judges stop her and have her confer with the bandleader to start over. She's not the best singer this season, but I really like her as a person. Maybe it's because she reminds me of a mix between Wallace and Mac from Veronica Mars.

Maurice Townsend: His super cute kids distracted me during his original audition. His final song is Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball," an interesting choice, but he does a good job making it fit his voice.

Bria Anai: She speedwalks to the chair in the giant ballroom, talking to herself the whole time. She's definitely a social butterfly. Her last song was full of about 13,000 runs.

Jessica Meuse vs. Jesse Roach: This is where things get weird. Both girls are called into the final judgment together and the judges explain that they had concerns about both, so they need to sing again. RIGHT NOW!

Jessica is the girl with the pink streak in her hair who got into a huge fight with the world's worst stage mom during the Group Round. She also does an original song, which I hate, but it's called "Done" and her only intro is that "It's about an idiot." That's pretty funny. Jesse is basically the same thing, but without the pink streak.

The two are literally forced to sing a cappella right next to each other, knowing one will be eliminated and one will make the Top 30. Jessica has a bit of a froggy voice while Jesse has a bit of a natural reverb. When they're done, the girls are sent to the other end of the ballroom as the judges whisper about them.

Jessica Meuse is in the Top 30 and Jesse Roach is eliminated. That really is the worst and most painful way to go home yet. After they leave, we learn the deciding factor was that Jessica stepped up to sing first in sudden death.

Dexter Roberts: He's a farm hand and good, ol' country boy. Honestly, "country" is the only word that applies to him.

Emmanuel Zidor: The male equivalent of Zoanette Johnson, as I've come to know him, this guy just annoys me. He's so campy and over-the-top, and I don't see him as a viable winner in this competition. He cries a whole lot and is barely intelligible, but I think it's about inspiring people to follow their dreams. When Jennifer Lopez tells him that he's in the Top 30, I feel a wave of hatred for the judges, but am comforted in knowing that there's zero chance of him surviving next week.

M.K. Nobilette: Her look and voice are so wonderfully androgynous and make her really stand out. It's a little too laid back, but it's also unlike anyone else. In a surprising twist on this show, when the judges question whether she fits the mold of the show, she actually announces that she's gay and that the world has changed and is more accepting of that. Good for her, and more importantly, good for American Idol, a show that always seemed to take a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" approach with past contestants like Adam Lambert.

Kristen O'Connor: She's really good, but in a rather bland way that makes her instantly forgettable. But she's too good not to have in the Top 30.

Jordan Brisbane: He's the Atlanta 15-year-old (who turned 16 on the day of final judgment) who likes baked beans with ground beef. He also should never have been given a ticket to Hollywood. And his final performance only solidified my opinion that he's too young and immature for this competition and that he needs a few more years to grow. The judges, however, are foolhardy and put him into the Top 30.

Andrina Brogden vs. Leah Guerrero
: It's Thunderdome #2, only this time they don't have to sing, but they're both brought into the ballroom at the same time. Why? I have no idea. Andrina has the spunk and fire while Leah is just lacking something, so Andrina Brodgen is in the Top 30 and Leah Guerrero is eliminated. But it has to hurt Andrina's self-esteem to hear J. Lo call them interchangeable. Seriously, why did the judges have to do it this way other than to make both girls feel like crap?

Malcolm Allen: As he heads up in the elevator, we see how the judges loved his audition and first and last performances in Hollywood. He's exceptionally talented, but may have problems with vote-splitting since guys like George Lovett are in the same box. He also seems a bit too low-key, and at some point, you need a personality in addition to a strong voice.

Alex Preston: He's always been a divisive contestant. Either you're into his weird vibe or you're not. Personally, I'm not. It's a little too pained and forced. He did an original and literally walks into the ballroom still carrying his guitar. Keith makes a joke about him being like Linus with his security blanket. Except I don't think it's a joke.

C.J. Harris vs. Casey Thrasher: These two Alabama country singers live 40 miles from each other. They also have rich emotional backstories about being dads. And C.J. is black while Casey is white, so I feel like the show is trying to send a positive message about how everyone is the same. But that racial harmony ends quickly because it's a third edition of Thunderdome, with the two being forced to sing for their lives.

C.J. offers to go first (good move) and absolutely kills it, reaching deep down into his soul and touching me in mine. Casey has a hard time following that, but his tone is much more mainstream country and once he gets into it, it's pretty great. To their credit, both guys seem to genuinely like and respect each other.

The verdict is...TO BE CONTINUED! That's just annoying, but now you need to tune in tomorrow night to see what happens with these two. Or you can read our spoilers to find out which of them (and who else) makes the Top 30 right now.

Who Got Cut?

Madelyn Patterson: She's an emotional young woman who I don't really remember that well. As soon as the judges start with something positive (Keith Urban saying "You've had some great performances"), you know it's going to be bad news.

Michael Simeon, Lebryant Crew and Sabrina Lentini: These three all auditioned in Salt Lake City (LeBryant the flirtatious minister is the only one who got any real screentime) and they're all lumped together in a rejection montage.

Shelby Ann Marie Miller and Connor Zwetsch: These two are briefly shown and not heard from again. Connor's original reminded Harry of "Sweet Home Alabama," which is just another reason not to do an original.

Keri Lynn Roche: After two unnamed girls are sent home, we see this interesting woman's performance. Her voice is raspy yet cool and she wore a pretty white dress in her final song, which only emphasized all of her tattoos. But the judges send her home.

Casey McQuillen and Nica Nashae: They were both good, but not good enough.

Tomorrow night on American Idol: The rest of the Top 30 are revealed, including a big twist as two guys face America's vote for the last spot.

(Image courtesy of FOX)