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Idol Beat, Part 1: More Hollywood Week

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You thought the funeral was over? You thought all those tears were dried up? You were wrong, my friends - so very, very wrong. Aye, verily, the bloodletting continued unabated as Hollywood Week wound down. Hey, Ryan Seacrest warned us at the outset: "The stakes are as high as they've ever been, and the pressure is even higher. This... is American Idol!"

DAY 4

Seacrest: "It's Day 4 of a long and grinding Hell week." Indeed, but with all due respect to the nervous, suffering contestants, what about us, man? We're the ones who've gotta wade through audition rewinds and slow-motion sepia-tone flashbacks and waterworks en route to the point where this competition actually gets kinda interesting.

This is akin to watching the Budweiser Shootout or something - it's like a warm-up for activities that really count, you know? But you're not here for awkward comparisons - you want to get the skinny on what went down.

Of the 72 suckers - I mean, aspiring artists - who went home? So let's go there, in predictably encapsulated form...

* Before we get into who did what proud or blew their deal, can we talk about Paula Abdul's necklace? The woman's fashion missteps are legion, but the necklace she had on Tuesday night kind of eclipsed everything else that was happening: it was like a miniturized version of a hanging mobile that escaped from the ceiling of some tony art gallery. Those square and rectangle plates of glass or buffed platinum baffled, as functionless as they were attention-grabbing. Wow.

* This year, contestants have access to background singers and backing bands at this stage of the competition. Which is a plus, if only because, well, the economy is tanking, and background singers and backing bands need to eat like everybody else.

* You know, this sub-Nazi Germany gimmick of divvying up hopefuls into room groups, only to liquidate a room or two? Never gets old. Seriously.

* Hey, Jamar: it's obvious that you'd like to be the next Pharrell Williams, what with the preppy-chic agenda you're trying to set. The green Mr. Rogers sweater. The pink tie against a white button-down shirt. The sideways cap. But bleating out a painful version of "Hey There Delilah," of all songs, ain't gonna get you where you wanna be. Ju'Not - whose fashion sense is decidedly more "street" - steers the same tune in an R&B direction, which is easier on the ears. All the same, guys? You're taking the Plain White Ts seriously on American Idol.

* Texan Kendall Beard sings "Before He Cheats" like, well, a Texan. Then Alexis Grace whips out the same song, further shoring up my longtime contention that Idol is in dire need of a "do-not-sing" list for "sassy" standards like this, Moulin Rouge dreck, and all things Whitney/Mariah.

* Word, Anoop, it is your perogrative! Damn! At this point I don't have any real favorites, but I hope the affable dweeb sticks around awhile.

* Steve Fowler and Scott MacIntyre: proof positive that taking refuge behind a keyboard doesn't necessarily bolster one's singing confidence and may actually cripple vocal performances.

OUT: India Morrison, Michael Castro, Leneshe Young, among others.

SAFE: Tatiana Del Toro, Ju'Not, Nathanial Marshall, Jazmine Murphy, Jeremy Michael Sarver, Alexis Grace, Steve Fowler, Scott MacIntyre, Nick Mitchell, Lil Rounds, Anoop, Danny Gokey, Jamar, etc.

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