Matt Giraud, the 23-year-old dueling-piano player from Kalamazoo, Mich., was eliminated tonight on the results show of "American Idol." But Matt’s finish was overshadowed by the surprising appearance of season eight’s apparent front-runner, Adam Lambert, in the bottom three contestants in the viewer voting.
Matt had been the beneficiary of the show’s first "judges’ save," which allowed the show’s judging panel to overrule the viewers’ votes and keep a losing contestant on the show. But America evidently didn’t warm to his idiosyncratic performance of "My Funny Valentine" on Tuesday night’s Rat Pack-themed show.
Adam was put on the spot early. Rather than following the usual procedure of telling the contestants one by one if they are safe from elimination, host Ryan Seacrest divided them into two groups, with Matt and Kris Allen on his right and Danny Gokey and Allison Iraheta on his left. He then asked Adam to say which group he thought he belonged in.
On at least one previous occasion when Ryan has pulled this stunt, the contestant in question has refused to choose. But after protesting, Adam said, "Based on last night, probably that group," indicating Danny and Allison. Of course, it was unclear if he was being humble because he assumed they were the bottom two or conceited because he assumed they weren’t. (Either way, he was insulting two peoples’ performances.)
Ryan told Adam to stand next to Allison and Danny, then said, "Allison, Adam, and Danny, not your bottom three." Taking Adam by the shoulder, Ryan walked him over to Kris and Matt and said, "This is your bottom three." (Allison and Danny were literally open-mouthed.) The Adam torture continued when Kris was the first of the bottom three to be told that he was safe.
Ryan then took the opportunity to tease judge Simon Cowell for failing to predict this outcome. After protesting that it is the viewers who decide, Simon smoothly deflected the negative attention by suggesting that Allison and Danny deserved to be congratulated.
Though Matt received his due with the usual "your journey on ‘Idol’ " video, the bottom-three drama did make the guest appearances seem like something of an afterthought. Natalie Cole delivered a pitchy version of "Something’s Got to Give." Taylor Hicks, looking fit, energetic and cheerful despite his status as the least commercially successful "Idol" winner, performed a song from his latest album, "The Distance." And Jamie Foxx, who had been a surprisingly committed "mentor" to the contestants on Tuesday night, performed his hit "Blame It," featuring Auto-Tune.
Asked to give some words of wisdom to Adam and Matt just before the ax dropped, Foxx praised all of the final five for wanting to be artists rather than just singers, asked America to support both Adam and Matt no matter who was eliminated and reminded the two that what happens from now on is much more important than what would happen tonight. And then he looked into the camera and said, "Also, too, I got a movie out called ‘The Soloist,’ so check it out."
If Matt takes to heart the lesson that you’ve got to keep hustling even if you’ve won an Academy Award, he’ll do just fine.