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'American Idol' Has Found Its Heart, And Its Salvation, in Jennifer Lopez
February 24, 2011  | By David Bianculli
american-idol-11-comforting.jpgBeatles night on Fox's American Idol didn't please please me -- the judges were much more impressed than I. But at the end, as the trio of judges began whittling the ranks down to the final 24 (a process that continues Thursday night at 8 ET), Jennifer Lopez became the new heart of Idol by being a very stern judge -- of herself...american-idol-11-chris-medi.jpg

The three of them had decided to eliminate Chris Medina, the heartfelt singer with one of the saddest stories in this year's competition. A 26-year-old Starbucks employee, Medina had proposed to a co-worker, Juliana Ramos -- but two months before their original wedding date, she was in a car accident that left her severely disabled with a traumatic brain injury.

In the original round of auditions, judges Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler and Lopez had Juliana wheeled into the room to see and hear her fiance get his ticket to Hollywood. Tyler kissed her, and whispered to her that when he was singing, he was singing to her. That was Tyler as a human being, not as a rock star -- and was the first sign that the way this year's American Idol was going to survive without Simon Cowell was to be more compassionate, not less.


But at this point in the competition, Medina was edged out by a higher-than-usual roster of singular talents. It fell upon Lopez to give him the bad news, which she did, but not before begging him not to give up singing, and to praise him for sticking by his loved ones. In Wednesday's hour of contestant-culling, Lopez received all hugs while remaining in her seat -- except for Medina. Him, she stood for, and embraced him tightly.

Then, as he left, Lopez began crying, and second-guessing the way in which she'd broken the bad news. It then fell upon Jackson and Tyler to reassure and comfort her, and, when she said she didn't think she wanted to be part of the elimination process any more, Jackson called for a temporary break.


Thursday's show was teased with a cliffhanger: Will Jennifer come back, or will the two male judges have to go it alone?

Dumb question. Of course she'll come back. That's the job she's there to do -- and the fact that she's taking it to heart proves that she has one, and that her empathy for these young singers makes her a better judge, and American Idol a better program than, in season 10, it would be without her.

She needn't worry about her own performance. She did just fine -- as a judge, as a bearer of bad news, and as a human being.


1 Comment


Dennis said:

I think the show is getting overly smaltzy, sentimental, and melodramatic. Simon provided a critical edge, albeit, abrasive at times. Well, if all you had to do was cry and plead to get past the first round, then the chickens have come home to roost, with a judge pleading and crying not to let them go. Heart and compassion is one thing, but to play to sentimental kitsch is a bit much.

Comment posted on February 24, 2011 2:42 PM
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