J. Lo may have loved him (as she made sure to tell the voting public over and over… and over), but American Idol fans said goodbye to DeAndre Brackensick last night. (Read our recap here!) Not that Jennifer Lopez was happy about his ouster — inside the theater at CBS Television City, where reporters and fans like myself watched the action go down last night, it appeared that the 17-year-old Brackensick could be this season’s only save by the judges after his last-chance performance of Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster” had everyone in the room moving, especially the glowing judge herself.
Clearly, it wasn’t enough. A shocked crowd booed and screamed as Lopez told the young contestant he would be sent packing, regardless of the fact that she had tried to save him. Clearly, Jimmy Iovine’s pre-taped segment calling Brackensick the weakest male contestant left in the competition wasn’t a tip-off to the enthusiastic, sign-holding superfans at CBS Television City. But I’ll touch on that later in this piece (and let you know what Brackensick said backstage about Lopez’s failed attempt). First, let’s start at the beginning of the night — THIS. Is what it’s like inside the theater at American Idol.
Prior to the upsetting elimination, the taping felt like a dance party — and it was quite a rager, thanks to the sheer number of people attending the show. In fact, before the cameras rolled, everyone (including season 3’s Matt Rogers, who was in the crowd) was grooving to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.” Of course, they had the chance to dance to a different tune later in the show — that scandalous new video for Jennifer Lopez’s “Dance Again.” (Hey J. Lo — there are kids in this audience!)
As you all saw, while introducing Lopez’s new music video, Ryan Seacrest teased Jennifer about the appearance of a certain special someone in the video – her dancer boyfriend Casper Smart. While you all were watching the video, Seacrest proved there were no hard feelings teasing Lopez — he lightly grabbed her shoulders while they shared a quick laugh. And it seemed Lopez herself even recognized the ridiculousness of the image of her writhing in a pile of shirtless men — the judge covered her eyes at a particularly racy moment during the video.
During the commercial, the in-studio audience quickly learned Smart didn’t only appear in the video, he was also by Lopez’s side at the Idol taping as well. After he was introduced to the audience, Lopez rushed to give him a hug and gently rubbed his chest before he raced back to his seat. But this wasn’t the only time he visited the judges’ table — during several commercial breaks, Smart chatted up the judge.
But for all the highs, there were some lows during the night: One was when Seacrest announced that Joshua Ledet was feeling ill. From the audience, you could tell something was wrong even as Ledet hit the stage before the show. As the contestants took their places and the audience cheered, Ledet appeared to walk slower than the other contestants, while producers took the time to check on him. But no one seemed more concerned than Seacrest himself, who could be seen talking with Ledet several times off-camera. (And before you cry favoritism, Seacrest also took a moment to say hello to all the other contestants off-camera as well.)
Ledet’s health kept him from participating in all of Idol’s activities — in fact, he was MIA during Kellie Pickler’s performance, but seamlessly rejoined his fellow contestants whenever the cameras were rolling. (Oh, the skill of Idol stage manager Debbie Williams!) Speaking of Pickler, she is clearly part of the American Idol family. Producer Nigel Lythgoe excitedly greeted her along with Randy. The two even brought her over to Lopez to continue their conversation during a commercial break.
But let’s bring things back to those we really do care about: The contestants. Coming off a successful Wednesday night that included a duet, rumored couple Colton Dixon and Skylar Laine appeared happy to share the stage again, even if was on elimination night. In a sweet off-camera moment, Dixon bowed down to Laine after her unbelievable performance of “The Wind Beneath My Wings” was shown. But, when it came to the audience, the loudest cheers of the night were dedicated to Jessica Sanchez — the crowd screamed when her performance of “How Will I Know” was played back.
Before Brackensick’s last-ditch effort to remain in the competition, the audience seemed all but convinced that Hollie Cavanagh would be bidding farewell last night after being panned by the judges again this week for her performance of “What A Feeling.” But after Cavanagh was sent to safety and Brackensick sent packing, the well-coiffed eliminated contestant told reporters backstage that he was satisfied with his performance, regardless of Iovine’s less-than-flattering comments. “I think it was one of my best performances this week,” he said, “I’m glad that I did get cut on a great performance, not on something bad.”
And what about Lopez’s attempted save? Brackensick — who was composed backstage, regardless of being a self-professed “a cry baby” — said he remained grateful for Lopez’s support. “Jennifer is nurturing,” he explained, “That’s what I love about the judges. What you get on stage is what you get behind the scenes.”
Of course, we might not see him next week, but Brackensick has bigger plans on his plate post-Idol: Prom. “I’m just glad that I finally get to go to a prom that I’m going to actually enjoy,” he said. “Idol brought [me out] … Every dance I’ve ever had, I was either a ticket-taker or a coat-taker because I was just so uncomfortable with myself.” Clearly, he no longer has that problem — even Brackensick’s hair dances!
So goodbye, DeAndre, and goodbye readers — until next week, when I’ll take you behind the scenes of Idol’s must-see tapings once again. Wenger, out!