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'American Idol' Recap: Season 11's Top 24 is Revealed

The show throws out an unexpected twist as the finalists tread ever closer to the Top 12.

Jennifer Lopez Steven Tyler judges table top 24 L
Michael Becker / FOX

American Idol has been all about the cliffhangers this season, but last night, the show tore a page straight out of the M. Night Shyamalan playbook and ended with a shocking twist.

No, Idol doesn’t see dead people, but they are bringing back four male singers to compete for one final spot added to the top 24.

Next Tuesday, the show will add a wildcard guy, “Cowboy Kid” Richie Law, Jermaine Jones, Johnny Keyser (you remember him: he kept singing even even though his fellow group member was passed out on the stage), or David Leathers Jr.,  to the Top 12 mix.

It’s a curious decision. A girl has not won American Idol since Jordin Sparks, and the talent pool of men this year is unbelievable. So why stack the already loaded deck with another dude? Reed Grimm, Deandre Brackensick (his version of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” was to die for -- beautiful and pitch-perfect), Creighton Fraker, Heejun Han, Joshua Ledet, and Phillip Phillips already have shown incredible diversity and uniqueness in the audition phase, and can we talk about the potential of teen singers Jeremy Rosado and cutie pie Eben Franckewitz? Rosado killed it on Wednesday night with Carrie Underwood’s “I Know You Won’t” -- prompting a standing ovation, and Jennifer Lopez’s admiration (it is important to note that Rosado is a nice kid, and that will go a long way with Idol voters).

America already has its hands full with this bunch and now we have to wait for yet another guy next week? I’m pulling for the young Michael Jackson-like crooning of  Leathers, Jr. or the rich baritone of Jones (oh how I just loved when he and Richie Law did their duet of “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” -- that was gorgeous, no matter what you all think of Richie, you have to give that moment props). Anyone who says they didn’t cry when Jones was told he didn’t make it is lying. Even Season 6 top three vocalist Melinda Doolittle and Season 10’s Naima Adedapo were tweeting their tears for the lovable hopeful as he held his mother after hearing the sad news.

Also going through: country guy Chase Likens and Aaron Marcellus Sanders, who Lopez pushed for last season and finally got her wish this year. Still, both guys weren’t featured last night. I wonder if that will hurt their standing with the voters next week -- there are plenty at home who haven’t gotten a chance to know them yet.

However, it must be said that the girls are the strongest batch of singers we have seen in years. A staggering number of country crooners have made the top 24, including Skylar Laine, who performed the un-Idol like Bobby Gentry song, “Fancy,” about a mother who turns her daughter into a call girl. Laine, otherwise known as little Reba McIntyre, joins other country songbirds Chelsea Sorrell and Baylie Brown. I’m not sure if Hollie Cavanaugh is a country singer, but a Carrie Underwood song, “Change,” was her ticket to the top 24.

So are we looking at another country season? Not so fast. Sixteen-year-old Shannon “hot and humid” Magrane gets stronger with each passing week, and showed real poise on a difficult Kelly Clarkson song, “The Trouble with Love Is” (from the movie, Love, Actually). The performance gave Lopez her oft-cited “goosies.” Although we were once again robbed of watching Hallie Day sing, we know she’s a bluesy rocker and will undoubtedly rock it next Wednesday.

Adam Brock was asked this question the previous night: “If time and money and resources weren’t an issue, what would you want to do with your life?" He gave perhaps the most heartfelt and honest answer to that question: he would sing.

On that note, American Idol left Brock in the proverbial hot seat and, in tears, Brock bared his soul to the judges as his fate hung in the balance of last night’s cliffhanger. “I have to sing," he said. “It's where my joy comes from; it's how I know that God blessed you."

Although Steven Tyler made the poor bloke sweat by saying how much he loves to watch a man cry, Brock’s bawl of uncertainty became tears of joy as he was awarded a spot in the top 24 (although Randy Jackson emphasized the vote to put Mr. White Chocolate through was not unanimous- -- I'm guessing the Dawg was the naysayer).

It was absolutely nerve-wracking to watch these kids take that long Green Mile walk to the judges' chairs. This year, those seats, surrounded by water, was Idol’s version of crossing the Nile to the promised land where their hearts literally laid in someone else's hands. It is also where Tyler bared his, um, assets for a swim -- and reminded us yet again of those January beach pictures still burning in our memory. You gotta love him.

"I thought I became a singer in this business to break people's hearts in a good way," said Tyler after a dejected Jones left.

As we said goodbye to those that didn’t make it-- Scott Dangerfield, who dropped out of competition last season and was cut this year, for example -- next week, we get to see who (maybe Jones?) will get that coveted final spot. 

Until then, here is your season 11 top 24:

Girls

1. Elise Testone
2. Haley Johnson
3. Shannon Magrane
4. Baylie Brown
5. Hallie Day
6. Jessica Sanchez
7. Jen Hirsh
8. Chelsea Sorrell
9. Skylar Laine
10. Erika Van Pelt
11. Brielle Von Hugel
12. Hollie Cavanagh

Guys

1. Eben Franckewitz
2. Reed Grimm
3. Heejun Han
4. Deandre Brackensick
5. Aaron Marcellus Sanders
6. Adam Brock
7. Creighton Fraker
8. Phillip Phillips
9. Joshua Ledet
10. Jeremy Rosado
11. Colton Dixon
12. Chase Likens

Twitter: @micheleamabile