‘American Idol' Gets Down to Final Four

Matt Giraud had more chances than anyone in recent memory on “American Idol,” but the coolest cat on the show finally had the clock run out on him this week.

The dueling piano player from Kalamazoo, Mich. earned a wild-card berth into the final 13, and a judges’ save kept him around two weeks ago. After a Tuesday night where everybody performed well and more than 47 million votes were cast, he couldn’t muster up quite enough support to stay the game.

“I’ll remember being the cat with nine lives here,” Matt said. As far as the judges are concerned, however, he may receive a 10th life in the coming years as another successful alum returning to the stage to plug a hit single.

“One of the best things we did this season was save you,” Kara DioGuardi said. “You’re going to have a brilliant career.”

The twilight of his ‘Idol’ run?: Many viewers were shocked when Adam Lambert was named the week's second-lowest vote-getter, since he’s been the judges’ favorite all season. Perhaps his fans took his success for granted and watched the basketball or hockey playoffs instead of voting, and all will be well again next week. But for the first time in about two months, he’ll have reason to feel pressure when he takes the stage next week.

Downloads don’t equal votes: Kris Allen was also in the bottom three this week, and like Adam, it was the first time all year he’s been in that situation. Interestingly, the results show aired on the same day that a story broke saying that nine of Kris and Adam's songs are among the top 10 “Idol” downloads on iTunes. Isn’t “Idol” supposed to predict which of its performers can sell records, rather than nearly having its top revenue-generators booted off the show?

Unbelievable: Before he announced the results, Ryan Seacrest sent Danny Gokey and Allison Iraheta to the right of the stage, and Matt and Kris to the left. “What group do you think you belong in?” he asked Adam, who protested at having to make the choice before joining Danny and Allison. When Ryan told him he was wrong, nobody was more shocked than Danny, who stood slack-jawed onstage.

Where everyone is above-average: As the judges have done all season, they emphasized just how darned special everyone remaining in the competition is, with all four talking about how it was a shame that someone had to go. “I wish you could all stay together like the Rat Pack and it should be a five-way tie, but that can’t happen,” Paula said.

“Whatever happens, all five of you are unbelievably talented,” Randy added.

Things get messy: Both Danny and Allison celebrated birthdays last week, and the five finalists celebrated by making cakes. As the cameras rolled, however, the kitchen turned into a battleground where cake went flying and icing wound up everywhere. Since the “Idol” mansion apparently does not come with maid service, Ryan presented Danny with a $6,000 bill for the cleaning. “You mean ‘American Idol’ doesn’t pay for this?” Danny said, and then looked poised to start into an argument about the money the finalists are making for the show before Ryan quickly cut him off. Perhaps Danny wasn’t aware that the country is in a recession and even hugely successful TV shows may need to start cutting costs. Then again, who charges $6,000 to clean up a food fight?

Mentor, singer, movie star: Jamie Foxx was rewarded for his guest-mentoring by appearing onstage to sing “Blame It,” and he continued to talk up the finalists once the song ended. “I saw five of the most talented people I’ve seen in the last 10 years, Foxx said, and begged the “Idol” audience to support the finalists even after the show ends. And of course, he ended with the obligatory shameless plug. “And also too, I got a movie out called ‘The Soloist.’ Check it out.”

Remember me?: Season-five winner Taylor Hicks returned to the scene of his greatest success, hoping that performing before the judges again would give him back his mojo and make “Seven Mile Breakdown” a hit. He offered advice for the final five, saying “Right now it’s about song choices, and also making the right moves on stage,” he said. He didn’t mention the importance of giving the fan base a snappy nickname, which might not be a bad move for any of the four remaining finalists. Judging from his record sales, a lot of the “Soul Patrol” that drove him to victory are now looking for someone else to carry the torch.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.

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