When the dust cleared from last night’s elimination, many were left in shock. Obviously, I wasn’t shocked that Stefano was in the bottom. In a way, I wasn’t that surprised that Thia was there, but Casey was a HUGE shock for me. Sorry folks, but Casey is way better than that. There’s just no accounting for taste, not when you’re talking music. As I’m wont to say: Music is subjective, depending on who’s listening. Second huge shock of the night: Thia being called safe first. Of course, Idol viewers know that the one left with the one going home isn’t necessarily the second lowest vote-getter, as the Idol producers do love the drama. Imagine, however, my complete and utter surprise when Stefano was sent back safe. Of all the surprises I had tonight, what happened next wasn’t one of them.

Those of you who are my Facebook friends saw me call this one, and I agree that the save should have been used on Casey. From here, it gets harder. No more saves. I’m just glad I don’t have to make the final decisions this season. Honestly, while I would have put Paul, Pia, and Stefano in the bottom, it would have been hard to release any of them. This is the first year that American Idol has had this range of talent, from pure musicians to pure singers. I appreciate both types. As the manager of a band full of pure musicians, my heart does belong to them; however, I love a good singer too. This is going to be a tough one, folks. If you seriously have a favorite, you had better take the time and vote for him or her. Casey should not have been the lowest vote-getter this week, but Casey is more musician than he is singer. I can relate to that, and personally, I love it. It’s time for Casey to break out the upright and show people what he really does. The “tween” vote might not get it, but music lovers will. The band I manage appeals to a more mature audience, an audience that can appreciate a very talented musician/singer, an audience that knows the value of the music itself and not all the “smoke and mirrors” that sometimes accompanies labeled artists. For you mature people who appreciate real music as much as I do and are watching this year, you’d better vote if you want those musicians to stay. Honestly, I’m just glad they’re getting the opportunity for this type of exposure, as they usually don’t.

I also have to say that American Idol is a much better show than it has been in recent years. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed that it has become a virtual “celeb-fest.” Note that Ryan said that Sugarland has never graced the Idol stage before. We’ll probably see other artists (and I mean artists) who would not have been caught dead on American Idol in the past. That’s a testament to the level of talent and, I believe, to the fact that we now have two artists on the judging panel. We’ve seen Stevie Wonder before, but we weren’t expecting him tonight. What a nice surprise, including the birthday celebration for Steven Tyler. I even like Ryan this year, when I could barely take him in past years. Maybe all the changes that came on Idol were a good thing, including Simon moving on. I’m likely one of the people who thought the show wouldn’t be the same without him; I was right—it’s better.

Pardon the cliché, but hang on to your seats; this is going to be a very bumpy ride. I think there will be disappointed fans each week as we wind our way to the eventual winner of American Idol this year. The good news is the concert will be worth attending. I remember the Ruben/Clay year, when the Idols sold out arenas across the country. Then, the next year (Fantasia was the winner), the arenas were half empty, and the tours moved to much smaller venues. Along comes season 5 (Elliott Yamin/Chris Daughtry), and the Idols had to double back and play the same cities again because the smaller venues sold out too fast. I won’t be surprised if they move back to the arenas this year. Thank God Nigel Lythgoe returned, Simon left, Ellen and Kara left, and Jennifer and Steven came on board. This Idol season may well go down in history as one of the absolute best.