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Don't know why... 'American Idol' frontrunner Ashley Hess went home

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We’re only one live episode into this American Idol season, and already there has been a shocking elimination.

On Monday’s top 14 results show, four contestants went home, and one of those castoffs was Ashley Hess. The judges had once boldly predicted that the 27-year-old chanteuse would be this season’s champion, but she didn’t even make the top 10 — even though the judges had an opportunity to save her this week.

When Ashley auditioned on the Season 17 premiere back in March, classily crooning Norah Jones’s “Don’t Know Why” at the piano with the smitten judges crowding around her, Katy Perry told her, “I think you could win this whole thing.” Let revisit that magical, if hardly prophetic, moment below:

Ashley didn’t maintain her frontrunner status for long — though she had beautiful moments like “Dreaming With a Broken Heart” and her “I’m Yours” duet with Jason Mraz, she struggled during top 40 week in Hawaii, and this week’s “Fix You” wasn’t the dramatic moment I’d hoped it would be. So, yes, I had predicted that she’d be up for elimination this week. However, after the top seven got through via America’s vote Monday, each judge got a Wild Card pick out of the remaining seven, who sang for their lives. And I was astounded — as were many irate Idol fans on Twitter — that Katy picked not-ready-for-prime-time teenager and Season 16 reject Alyssa Raghu, instead of going with more mature and sophisticated Ashley.

Was this because Alyssa’s save-me song was Katy’s own “The One That Got Away”? Was that some sort of butt-kissing strategy on Alyssa’s part? Granted, it was a better save-me song choice than the one Ashley went with, Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” (Ashley has never excelled on uptempo numbers). But Alyssa did not connect to Katy’s sorrowful breakup ballad, just like she hasn’t connected to pretty much anything she’s performed this season. I still think Ashley is truly the one that got away.

Among the other contestants in the bottom seven were the exasperating, welcome-overstaying Eddie Island. (It was telling that Elton John took to Instagram to lavishly praise Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon’s exquisite Elton cover on Sunday, but had nothing to say about Eddie’s silly and dreadful “Bennie and the Jets” novelty act.) Also in the bottom were Evelyn Cormier, whose peppy, off-brand Jimmy Eat World cover had been a misfire; half-baked country teen Riley Thompson; and my two non-Jeremiah favorites, “male Beyoncé”/opera powerhouse Dimitrius Graham and “Mr. Entertainment” himself, Uché.

Uché seemed genuinely crestfallen to have to sing for his life. (He admitted to Ryan Seacrest that he was “kind of sad,” and I was sad too.) But when push came to shove, he still … Sang. For. His. Life. His vocals on Rihanna’s “Diamonds” may have been a little off, probably due to nerves and a rush of emotions, but he left it all on the stage and still shined bright. Lionel Richie was so thoroughly entertained by Uché’s showmanship that he saved Uché on the spot, without even waiting until the end of the episode. Kudos to Lionel for stepping up and admitting that he was wrong about this guy — you may recall that Lionel initially said no to Uché, but then changed his mind. I hope Idol voters change their minds about Uché next week. This season would be so boring without him!

Kudos as well to Luke Bryan, who didn’t make the predictable pick and save fellow country singer Riley, but instead based his decision on “sheer emotion” and went with Dimitrius. Dimitrius is one of the few contestants this season that actually seems current and cool, as evidenced by his Weeknd-like radical remake of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” on Sunday and his spectacular save-me performance Monday of Billie Eilish’s “When the Party’s Over.” Thankfully, the party isn’t over for Dimitrius just yet.

So, if you’re keeping track, Evelyn, Riley, Eddie (yay!), and Ashley (boo!) went home. Ashley was a major loss, but this still leaves us with a very strong top 10: Alejandro Aranda, Laci Kaye Booth, Walker Burroughs, Wade Cota, Dimitrius Graham, Laine Hardy, Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon, Alyssa Raghu, Uché, and Madison Vandenburg.

I am worried about what will happen to Dimitrius and Uché starting next week, once the judges have no veto power. And regardless, with a talented pack like this, we’re bound to have a “shocking” elimination every single week.

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