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'American Idol' recap: Beatles in Las Vegas

By
The team of American Idol 2011

© Fox

This week's first American Idol instalment saw the remaining 61 contestants travelling to Las Vegas, where they had to learn and perform a Beatles song in just 24 hours before the judges whittled the group down to a Top 24. The contestants - in twos or threes - had to perform their chosen song on the Beatles LOVE stage at Cirque du Soleil.

The episode opens with the contestants rehearsing their songs amid pressure and anxiety. We meet "the vocal coach from hell" aka Peggy, who is demanding perfection. She says if the hopefuls don't know the lyrics by now then they never will. Other contestants don't know any Beatles songs, prompting mentor Jimmy Iovine (who worked with John Lennon) to visit and observe their song preparation so far, although he doesn't seem that impressed with what he sees and offers his critiques on the various performances. However, the day at least ends well for the contestants - they've been invited to watch the Cirque du Soleil's LOVE show.

The next morning, Stefano Langone and James Durbin are first up with 'Get Back'. Steven says he's never heard two higher voices together: "James, you went into the way-out-of-here-land!" Randy thinks Stefano started a bit timidly but he pulled it together.

Karen Rodriguez and Pia Toscano reveal that they actually knew each other before the competition, and have now paired up for a performance of 'Can't Buy Me Love'. "I feel like you guys get it and know what it is to be a professional," says J.Lo. "That you have to give a show." Steven thinks the performance "built well".

Jimmy advises the next group - Jacob Lusk, Haley Reinhart and Naima Adedapo - not to over-sing all the time. They join forces for 'The Long And Winding Road' which is praised by the judges. "Very, very nice!" says J.Lo. "That was really good! You made it your own." Steven calls it "stupendous" and "over the top", while Randy encourages Jacob to "never hold back".

Next up is a montage of impressive performances including Rachel Zevita, Lauren Turner, Tim Halperin and Julie Zorilla, before Jerome Bell, Lakeisha Lewis and Tatynisa Wilson team for 'I Saw Her Standing There'. Randy thinks it was a "strong" performance but Jerome wasn't as good as he could be. J.Lo thinks Lakeisha is holding back a little bit and needs to let loose, while it wasn't Tatynisa's best performance. Steven, however, disagrees and tells Tatynisa that she "nailed it".

Nashville duo Kendra Chantelle and Paul McDonald are next with 'Blackbird'. "You guys sounded beautiful together," says Jennifer. "Kendra was nice and strong, and Paul has the power of a soft, beautiful tone." Steven agrees that Paul's voice is "different and beautiful", while Randy praises their harmony choice because it showed off the unique qualities in their vocals.

A montage of various performers putting their own spin on songs - including Clint Jun Gamboa and John Wayne Schulz - is next before we discover that Ashley Sullivan is getting married! After deciding on what to wear (pleather) she heads to the same chapel that Britney Spears got hitched in, saying: "She's my hero so that couldn't be any cooler!"

The following morning, Melinda Ademi and Thia Megia are first with 'Here Comes The Sun'. The judges think it's cute but not their strongest performance. Ashley Sullivan and Sophia Shorai also fail to make as strong an impression as they could with 'We Can Work It Out'. "It just was not hot today," says Randy. "None of it quite worked for me."

Lauren Jackson, Scotty McCreery and Denise Jackson team for an energetic rendition of 'Hello, Goodbye', emerging from a red phonebox. The judges don't think the song choice was quite right but appreciate the fun element. Next up is a montage of other hopefuls who put their own spin on songs including Caleb Hawley, Carson Higgins, Chris Medina and Casey Abrams. The final performance in Las Vegas is from Jordan Dorsey, Robbie Rosen and Aaron Sanders, and they deliver a strong rendition of 'Got To Get You Into My Life'. "Wow, I was really impressed," says Randy. "Very nice."

Choosing the Top 24...

The judges gather everyone together to reveal which contestants will be leaving the show at this stage. Among them are White House intern Mollie DeWolf, Carson Higgins, Caleb Hawley, Denise Jackson, Melinda Ademi and Ashley Sullivan. The remaining singers return to Los Angeles where they learn who has made the Top 24...

Naima Adedapo is first to make the long walk to the judges' seats and learn her fate. J.Lo says that she hasn't been the most consistent performer in the competition but the judges root for her, and she's through! Unfortunately for Hollie Cavanagh, she is going home, although Jennifer tells the teenager that she wanted to put her through but was "outvoted". She adds that Hollie is just 17, so she could come back in a couple of years and win the whole show. Lakeisha Lewis and Alex Ryan are also sent home.

It's better news for Clint Jun Gamboa - although the judges don't let him forget about booting Jacee Badeaux out of his group in Hollywood - and returning contestant Haley Reinhart, who are through. Unfortunately for Deandre Brackensick, he's less fortunate, although Randy stresses that he "came close" and J.Lo says he has a great chance of being a recording artist. Next, the judges tell Nashville pair Paul McDonald and Ashthon Jones that they are both through.

The final contestant of the episode to learn their fate is Chris Medina. He tells the judges that his fiancée is now more popular than he is, and she would probably say the best time of her life was meeting the judges. J.Lo tells him that she will always remember their meeting because of his conviction and the "love in his heart", although she has some bad news to break - he hasn't made it. "You know you had some good moments and bad moments," she says. "It honestly breaks my heart to say that you didn't make it into the Top 24." He admits that he hadn't been sure he would continue with music before Idol, but Jennifer says he should never stop. J.Lo breaks down as Chris leaves the room because she doesn't feel she delivered the news the right way. Steven and Randy reassure her that she did, but she seems inconsolable: "I don't want to do this anymore..."

American Idol continues Thursday on Fox, when the remaining contestants making the Top 24 are revealed

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