Erika Van Pelt cut as 'American Idol' determines Top 9 finalists
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/23/2012
Erika Van Pelt was eliminated from American Idol during Thursday night's live results show broadcast on Fox, determining the eleventh season's Top 9 finalists.
Van Pelt, a 26-year-old from South Kingstown, RI, became the fourth finalist sent home from American Idol's eleventh season after she received the fewest home viewer votes following Wednesday night's performance show, which featured the Top 10 finalists performing Billy Joel songs.
"This is my dream. I actually have the opportunity to do music for the rest of my life. American Idol has made me a stronger person. I want to go out in a blaze of glory. It's the biggest adventure I've ever had in my life. Why wouldn't I chop my hair off? American Idol has already changed my life," Van Pelt said following her ouster.
Van Pelt's elimination became official after Idol judge Randy Jackson announced the show's judges were not going to prevent her elimination by using "The Judges' Save," which Jackson and fellow judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler can use once during the finals to prevent the elimination of a finalist who receives the fewest home viewer votes during a weekly performance round. Whether the decision not to "save" Van Pelt was unanimous was not revealed.
"This is such a difficult moment. The judges get one save. I'm going to go to them now for their decision. Will you use your one save of the season on Erika?" American Idol judge Ryan Seacrest asked.
"Unfortunately, Ryan, no. Sorry," Jackson said.
Van Pelt -- whom the judges had selected to be in the Top 13 as a "Wild Card" finalist -- had received mostly positive feedback with a hint of constructive criticism from the judges following her performance of Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" on Wednesday's performance show.
"Yeah give it up! First of all, I love the look. I love the short do. It's hot; It's so different. Jennifer didn't even recognize you. Dude I love that and I love the vocals. You're one of the best singers in this whole thing this season right?" Jackson told Van Pelt.
"And listen... I'll give you one piece of advice, they were right. [Jimmy Iovine] was right about the oversinging and whatever, whatever, but those that can do should and those that can't do shouldn't. So at the end of that song... you can get into some runs and take those liberties, because you can do that. So go ahead and treat that song like it should be in the front. By the time you get to the end, wear us out because you got that, you know what I mean? Very, very nice. I love it."
"It was such a beautiful, beautiful vocal. I mean, when you went really... you were great. I love the hair... but I'd love to see you let loose vocally more at the end but also let loose all over your body to bring in that performance -- to really take us home -- because like [Randy] said, you have the chops to do that," Lopez said.
"And then when you incorporate that, it's like I wanted to see you unplant your feet and really move around and really feel what you were singing about. That would be my only note too, because like I said, the vocal was beautiful."
"Yeah, I agree with both of them. You could put more character into it, but later for that. We already know you can sing great. You put a lot of personality into that as Billy Joel did writing these songs, and I think you were just beautiful, just nice. Outstanding," Tyler added.
Prior to Van Pelt's elimination, Heejun Han and Deandre Brackensick were revealed to be the other members of this week's bottom three vote-getters.