The 'American Idol' top 13 were selected on Thursday night.

Story highlights

Jimmy Iovine gave more frank and succinct criticism of the kiddies

The six wild card contestants had to "sing for their lives"

Against all odds, the blessed Steven Tyler was honest with Brielle Von Hugel  — 

Last night’s results show spanned an exhausting two hours, but luckily Ryan Seacrest was able to keep the telecast as fresh as the yellow rose on Randy Jackson’s sweater by trying out various intonations of his favorite term (“the nationwide vote”) and one of life’s eternal questions, “WHO WILL FILL THESE STOOLS?” It’s Ryan’s time to shine, so don’t even think about trying to plow him over, Brielldozer Von Huge Mistake!

Speaking of freshness, Jimmy Iovine showed up. They’d found him living in the boiler room under Joe Pesci’s School of Speech (the Harvard of the West; sorry, Stansbury) and he was more than happy to come sit in a little room off to the side and drop little truth pellets all over the Top 24. I’ve missed him and the way my stupid Text Edit program auto-corrects his name to “iodine.”

Jimmy gave more frank and succinct criticism of the kiddies over a few minutes of edited commentary than the judges have doled out all season. On DeAndre: “What he needs is a coach.” On Reed Grimm: “Way too kitschy for me, way too cabaret. Not gonna make it on this show like that.” Eben Franckewitz: “Not ready for primetime.” Baylie Brown: “Beautiful tune, nice tone, but she lost the plot.” And my favorite, Jimmy on Adam Brock: “Supposedly he has a large black woman trapped in his body. As of right now, he’s not pulling them both off.” Someone had to say it.

Jimmy only lost me a little when he compared Aaron Marcellus to a cheesy Don Cheadle and called Heejun Han’s intentions into question. Just because the kid has a sense of humor doesn’t mean he thinks the show is named “American Comedian.” Everyone knows it’s named “American Adele.” Heejun wouldn’t be in the Top 13 if he couldn’t actually get through to people while the music’s on.

So here they are – your Top 13!

America’s Top 10: Phillip Phillips, Jessica Sanchez, Hollie Cavanagh, Joshua Ledet, Heejun Han, Shannon Magrane, Skylar Laine, Elise Testone, Colton Dixon, Jermaine Jones

Wild cards: Erika Van Pelt (Randy’s choice), Jeremy Rosado (J. Lo’s hugmonster), and DeAndre Brackensick (Steven Tyler’s 17-year-old spirit animal)

The six wild card contestants had to “sing for their lives” while their nine devastated compadres had to sit around, playing dead.

Up first: Jen Hirsh on the Beatles’ “Oh Darling.” Maybe they showed too much of her too soon. I’d been really excited about Jen heading into this week, but the magic was gone. I agreed with Jimmy that Jen should have stayed miles away from Adele on Wednesday and this last performance of hers seemed just as desperate in terms of what he called “vocal pyrotechnics.” She changed much more of both melodies than she needed to. It’s always a fine line on Idol – wanting to make something your own vs. going too far.

I realize that Jeremy Rosado was a mostly personal/emotional choice for J. Lo, but I ain’t mad at her because I love watching people cry, and because his high notes on Carrie Underwood’s “I Know You Won’t” sounded perfect to me even through the tears. If Jeremy is as popular with the other singers as he seems, I think he’s a good one to have around during these first few weeks. It’s always better when the cast can be at ease with each other – and have you heard Jer-Bear gives the BEST hugs? “Something’s going through your body right now,” suggested Ryan as Jeremy shook with emotion after his performance. If this was Ryan’s way of begging for a hug, he should consider being more direct. Just get in there. Nestle, quick!

Not so tender was Brielle Von Hugel, who nearly knocked Ryan over in her excitement to be called back into the spotlight, which is where Brielle belongs. “That’s just Brielle,” she said OF HERSELF. “Putting a twist on old classics.” Right, Brielle? Right. Brielle. Anyway, moments after Jimmy Iovine had bitched about there being “too many Adele wannabes,” Brielle launched right into Adele’s “Someone Like You.”

[Aside:] I tend to have no shame regarding the way I live, and have generally adopted a “sucks to be you” attitude toward my neighbors when it comes to my TV habits. I’m sorry the apartment walls are thin, but we’re all paying rent here and I’m just trying to do my job, you know? In all my years of recapping embarrassing reality television, Brielle’s performance marks one of the few times I’ve ever actually turned my television way, way, way down – not, like, as a courtesy to the Thai delivery guy (that’s normal) but as a way to save face from strangers passing in the night. I could hear that someone was about to walk by outside, and I suddenly couldn’t bear the thought of him or her thinking I might have CHOSEN to listen to “Someone Like You”…like this. [/End of aside.]

Against all odds, the blessed Steven Tyler was honest with Brielle. “I heard you nail it. A little pitchy in some spots in the turnaround. I just didn’t hear it this time, I’m sorry baby.” It took him three sentences to twist his gist from lie to truth, but he did it. I’m proud of him.

You could tell DeAndre Brackensick was a shoo-in for the wild card before he’d even begun “Georgia On My Mind” – pretty much because of his hair. You just cannot NOT put that hair in the Top 13 when the hair-owner in question also has this super-high, very pure voice which, as of yet, he has no idea how to handle. The vocal coaches will help him, and he’ll either figure it out in the near future or he’ll crash and burn like the fire Eben Franckewitz never quite set to the rain. DeAndre is an adorable, sweaty, unpredictable sweetheart and I love not knowing what crazy hairography or misguided vocal gymnastics he’ll try to pull off next. I’m into it.

Yes! After getting sacked with having to sing second of 12 girls Wednesday night, Erika Van Pelt got her second chance and went all out in her purple bridesmaid shift on Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory.” She kicked ass. In fact, I’d comment on this performance the same way as Jimmy Iovine commented on her showing from Wednesday: “She has music in her blood, and great restraint – something the show needs more of, not less.” Erika didn’t need to twist this song into a wretched balloon animal of Lady Gaga in order to prove she was the one to bring in as a finalist. Singing it solidly was enough. I’m not sure it’ll be enough to keep her in much longer; I’m just glad we’ll get to hear her voice another time. She does need a big performance next week – and better placement.

Finally, the judges called for Reed Grimm. Do it, Reed! Sing Adele’s “Hometown Glory” the way it was meant to be self-indulgently cackled and scatted! No, Mr. Grimm gave Adele (and Randy, whose favorite word is “Adele”) a break by self-indulgently cackling and scatting his way through Bill Withers’ “Use Me.”

Eliminated: Reed Grimm, Brielle Von Hugel, Jen Hirsh, Chase Likens, Hallie Day, Adam Brock, Baylie Brown, Chelsea Sorrell, Creighton Fraker, Aaron Marcellus, Eben Franckewitz, Haley Johnsen

I’m fairly happy about this Top 13. I’m extremely happy about a Fox press release I just received that informs me that Deandre Brackensick “makes Polynesian costumes for a living” and that Hollie Cavanagh “loves old couples.” Who doesn’t?! I’m making a Polynesian costume right now! (In Photoshop; you can’t see it until it’s perfect.)

Also, Jessica Sanchez “can rap,” y’all. Watch out.

Next week the girls will don all-new pageant gowns to sing Whitney Houston, while the guys will try out Stevie Wonder. I wonder….if DeAndre can just make his hair look even prettier than usual and get permission to sing “How Will I Know (If Heejun Really Loves Me).” Fingers crossed!

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