'American Idol' advances Lil Rounds, Scott MacIntyre and Jorge Nunez
By John Bracchitta, 03/05/2009
American Idol determined its third group of three eighth-season finalists last night, with Wednesday night's live results show revealing that Lil Rounds, Scott MacIntyre, and Jorge Nunez had advanced to the Top 12 finals after receiving the most home viewer votes for their performances during Tuesday night's broadcast of the season's third and final semifinals group.
Unlike American Idol's seventh-season semifinals rounds which began with 24 semifinalists and determined the season's Top 12 finalists by cutting the two male and two female semifinalists that had received the fewest home viewer votes after each of the semifinals' three performance rounds, Idol's eighth season divided the season's 36 semifinalists into three performance groups and advanced each group's top male vote-getter, top female vote-getter, and the next-highest vote-getter to the season's Top 12 finals.
The three remaining Top 12 finalists will now be determined by Thursday night's special live "Wild Card Round" broadcast in which eight Top 36 semifinalists who didn't make the finals via the show's three group performance rounds will receive a second chance to perform for American Idol's judges. After they perform, the judges will then immediately select three of them to become the final members of the season's Top 12.
American Idol host Ryan Seacrest revealed each Group 3 semifinalist's fate during an hour-long results show that also included the 12 semifinalists doing a group performance of Katy Perry's "Hot and Cold."
"Oh my God. This spot is different because you said 'Congratulations' and now I'm in the Top 12!" Rounds exclaimed to Seacrest after he revealed that she had advanced to the Top 12 finals. "Oh God this is great! Thank you!"
Rounds, a 24-year-old from Memphis, TN, had sung Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" during Tuesday's performance show and been universally praised by American Idol's judges.
"I'm gonna keep this very brief, brilliant. My favorite performance by a mile," said judge Simon Cowell, who's only complaint about her performance was that she had mimicked Blige's style a bit too much.
"You've got unbelievable vocals and you definitely know who you are. I loved it baby, loved it," added a similarly impressed Randy Jackson, who also complimented her swagger onstage and said that she was "current."
Judge Kara DioGuardi said that Rounds had been "a powerhouse" since she entered the competition.
"I can't wait to see what you're gonna do next week, and the week after that," she exclaimed.
"You are first class, you are first class my dear," added judge Paula Abdul. "And you know what? I have a sneaking suspicion we're gonna see you for many more 'Lil Rounds.'"
MacIntyre, a 23-year-old from Scottsdale, AZ, was very appreciative of his Idol opportunity and promised that he would make the most of it after learning that he had advanced into the Top 12.
"It feels like a dream come true. I'm gonna start thinking about next week now," MacIntyre told Seacrest. "I'm gonna take it seriously and never take it for granted, and thank you guys out there so much. This means more to me than anything. Thank you so much.
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MacIntyre had sung Bruce Hornsby's "Mandolin Rain" on Tuesday's performance show and been complimented for having enough passion to overcome a few vocal miscues in his performance.
"Every time I see you sing and hear you sing, I can feel the passion just pouring out of you, how much you love this and want this. So props to you man, job well done," Jackson said after noting that there had been some problems with his vocals.
"You know what Scott, you move mountains when you step on that stage. You do what you love, you're passionate about it, and you don't make excuses," added DioGuardi. "And when you have issues with the vocals it doesn't matter because it's coming from your heart."
"You're a genius at the piano and I can't wait for people to hear you play," said Abdul, who added that she was proud of him for the challenges he had overcome to succeed in the competition. "You've blessed us all with your gift and you're one of our finest."
Even Cowell, who was the least impressed of the judges with Scott's performance, couldn't help but compliment his character.
"I'll be honest with you, I wasn't crazy about the song, particularly some of the lyrics," he said. "But I have to say Scott you're growing on me, you really are because I think you're starting to believe in yourself. I didn't see that when you first came in."
Nunez, a 21-year-old from Cidra, PR, had sung Elton John's "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" on Tuesday's show. While he drew positive marks from each of the judges, he also touched off a debate as to whether or not he should attempt to hide his Puerto Rican accent during his performances.
"I am so proud of you, I am so proud of you. People have no idea how hard you've worked. When you took our advice you worked with it, [and a] dialect coach," said Abdul following Nunez's performance. "There's no telling, you can't even tell, you worked so hard and you sound so good and this is what it's all about."
"I think we were wrong to say to you that you shouldn't sing with an accent, because why should we?" added Cowell. "You're from Puerto Rico, you've got a good voice, it makes you different, I think you should be who you are. You're actually a very, very good singer."
"Listen, accent or not, dialect coach or whatever, it's the vocals that matter. This wasn't the perfect vocal, but it was really, really good dude," said Jackson, who added that Nunez had "vindicated" himself after a disappointing Hollywood Week.
"You were born to sing, that's your thing, that's your gig. You're a singer. It comes from [the heart] to us and we feel it, and you have that gift of touching people when you sing because you really believe it. It comes from your heart," added an impressed DioGuardi.
"Historically this process enabled people like Jennifer Hudson and Clay Aiken to make it into the Top 12. If we didn't have a Wild Card pick they wouldn't have made it," Cowell said. "Certain people we think made stupid song choices, or they were just in a tough group, so we totally, totally support this system and I think it's fair and it gives a few people a second shot."
"And you know what, one of these Wild Card picks could actually win this show, " he added.