'American Idol' recap: Ben Briley is sent packing

Let's hear it for the "American Idol" voters. They were spot-on this week.

The voters didn't care if the judges told Majesty Rose that her shouty rendition of "Let It Go" was "strong." Nor were they willing to unquestioningly accept all that Sam Woolf-is-the-next-big-heartthrob propaganda the show has been handing them when his performances have been consistently awkward and underwhelming.

And they certainly won't sit idly by when a guy who'd portrayed himself as a down-home country boy suddenly sees fit to lose the backward baseball hat, slick back his hair, groom his scraggly beard, replace his flannel shirt with a velvet jacket and make like Elton John. No, they will not.

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Although Ryan Seacrest had warned at the outset of Thursday's results show that outcome might "surprise a few people," the only real surprise (and forgive me for being a little surprised by it) was that the voters had gotten it so right. As Seacrest built the bottom three, interweaving the results and the benign Randy Jackson commentary with performances by Harry Connick Jr. and up-and-comer Mali Music, it became clear that America had put on notice the singers who'd turned in the previous night's weakest performances: Rose, Woolf and Ben Briley.

Ultimately, they sent home Briley, arguably the one who seemed least likely to redeem himself in the coming weeks. Rose may have earned a reprieve thanks to her far-better previous performances (I really loved her take on "Tightrope"), and Woolf is young and working hard to loosen up (if that's not an oxymoron). But while Briley has the vibe of a veteran, something about his voice has always seemed a little … overcooked. On Wednesday, the judges had called him confusing, affected and inauthentic. Connick said he was still waiting for "the real Ben" to show up, and unflatteringly described Briley's sound as "throaty."

I actually found Briley's voice distractingly nasally, but whatever. The point is, even Briley himself wasn't surprised to have found himself in the bottom three.  

"No, I am not surprised," he told Seacrest, in what may have been his most authentic moment of all. "I was worried because I really wanted to be different and show people that I could do different things, and it was a gamble."

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Briley had hoped his gamble would pay off, but it did not. You knew -- and he probably knew -- that the judges were unlikely to use their sole save on him, especially after Jennifer Lopez said she believed "America was responding to what they saw" on the previous night.

But the Tennessee-based singer shed his vest and sang "Stars" in his throaty-nasally way anyway. Then, looking pale, he received the official verdict, reluctantly delivered by Keith Urban.

"Ben, we love your voice. We've loved it since day one," Urban said. "But what we've got to see is artistic growth and we don't collectively feel we've necessarily seen that.… Unfortunately, we can't use our save for you tonight."

So long, Ben.

Are you sorry to see him go?


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