American Idol 12 Top 40 Rounds! An Overview

Now, things get exciting! The American Idol 12 Hollywood Rounds are over, and the next phase of the competition brings some pretty big changes to the game.

In the past, the contestants who survived Hollywood, would either be whittled down from 40-50ish down to 36 or 24ish), sight unseen (seasons 1-9)  Or, 60-70ish would head to Las Vegas for Group Rounds Part 2 with cuts to 40ish,  and then another round of solos (seasons 10 and 11). At the end of the day, there were contestants who we barely saw (or not at all)  The cuts to 24 were seen, or maybe done so quickly–the viewer could barely register them.

But this year, the semi-finals are being expanded. For the first time ever, viewers will get a real good look at each and every Top 40 contestant as they perform in front of the judges one at a time!  Although we won’t be able to vote until semi-finals part 2, it will still be a great opportunity for viewers to really familiarize themselves with the contestants.  Connections will be made and favorites will be found! But sadly, by the end of the first phase of the semi-finals, half the contestants will be eliminated.  Alas, hearts will also be broken. *small tear*.

Here is how the Semifinals Phase 1 will work.  I still see some confusion out there on the internets, so allow me to explain.

The Top 40 will be split up into 4 groups of 10, still separated by gender. Over the course of two weeks, the groups will perform.  These shows will be TAPED LIVE the night before the show airs.  At the end of the show, Five contestants will be cut and five will remain.

Tonight, the first group of girls will take the stage at around 9 pm PT at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas to tape an episode, set to air tomorrow night (Feb 2o)  on FOX at 8/7c pm.  The first group of guys tape their performance Wednesday night to air on Thursday (Feb 21).  Next week should follow the same schedule. Twenty contestants will emerge from this round.

Glee will be pre-empted for the next two weeks, so that Thursday Idol can be expanded to two hours.

Click to see a schedule of who performs when.  Don’t kill me if the list isn’t 100% correct–there are often changes that are made at the last minute.

Each contestant was allowed to submit ANY 5 songs (including originals) to the producers, who made the final decision. Just like the Hollywood solo round, contestants will sing with the band and can play instruments, if that’s their thing.

Top 40 “live” shows will not only serve to acquaint us with the remaining contestants, but it also cuts down on spoilers flying around the net for several weeks.  Not that there won’t be spoilers–there will be a studio audience full of fans ready to tweet  any results (I hear the audience will be present for the results.) But we’ll have less than 24 hours to mull over any leaks.

By the time fans are able to vote during the semi-final part two phase, The “sudden death” round, we should be pretty well acquainted with the Top 20. NO unseen contestants!

The Idol “sudden death” will be similar to last year’s version   But only 20 singers will compete instead of 24 like last year.  Sudden death will take one week to complete, with 10 of one gender competing live on Tuesday March 5, the other (also live) on Wednesday March 6.  It looks like the performance shows will take place in Las Vegas also. The very first one hour live results show will air on March 7, revealing the 5 girls and five guys who will make up the American Idol Top 10.

Will there be wildcards this year?  In Season 10 and 11, the judges picked 3.  Nigel has stated to the press that there won’t be wild cards, but if you look at the calendar, a Top 10 would end the season earlier than usual. So I’m guessing that Nigel has got something up his sleeve.

As far as I’m concerned, the competition really begins this week. I can’t WAIT to watch the Top 40 do their thing. There should be drama ahead, as Nigel and Ken the judges make their choices.  I have no doubt some of the cuts will be controversial.

So get your torches and pitchforks ready people, and LET THE GAMES BEGIN.

American Idol will air Wednesday (Feb 20)  and Thursday (Feb 21)  this week on FOX beginning at 8/7c pm.

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mj santilli

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Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted.I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!
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  • ht23

    I’m so excited!

  • Landon Cox

    And may the odds be ever in your favor!

  • Bug Menot

    So ten perform and five get cut? It doesn’t matter if some of the five cut are better than the five who remain in the other group of the same gender?

  • Larc

    I like that everybody will have seen each Top 20 contestant perform at least two solos once voting starts.  Unlike often skimpy showing of some contestants in past years, that should be enough to go on in making informed voting decisions.

  • Adam Alamillo

    I hate myself for being so excited to see Zoanette..

  • Larc

    That happens.  Idol producers would probably argue that they balance the groups so each is similar in makeup to the other.  The truth is they have likely already decided how they want to cast the season and will engineer groups so their chosen ones make it through.  I doubt there is much element of chance involved before public voting starts.  Even then, Idol will have the decks stacked the way they want them.

  • Larc

    Don’t hate yourself.  I’m anxious myself to see Zoanette’s inevitable failure with the possible catastrophic meltdown that could go with it.  ;)

  • ladymctech

    I hope that showing all of the individual performances satifies viewers who think that the show doesn’t focus enough on showing the contestants.

  • Emmuzka

    I’m willing to bet that in the first semi-final round, the cuts are pretty much decided beforehand. So like previosuly in wild card nights, there will be plenty of “she was robbed” and “wtf, they let her through” moments..

  • LeahKittyS

    I don’t mind that the judges/producers cut good people early on. It gives them a chance to come back another year. If a good contestant goes on to the Top 24 and is voted off, he or she can never try again. Some good ones have to be let go for their own sake. Also, having some clunkers in the Top 24 makes the path to victory easier for the true contenders. A deck stacked with nothing but good singers may be nice for the audience, but it isn’t fair for anyone competing.

  • fantoo1

    Will there be spoilers?

  • Rand

    Yay Yay Yay! So excited!

  • MV007

    MJ, I’m not sure if you would be able to do this or if its too much work but is there any way we could get separate spoilers for the show tonight.  I would love to get song spoilers but I don’t want to be spoiled by who actually gets eliminated.  I would even be ok with descriptions of the performances so long as I don’t know who got cut before I watch.

  • zweiosterei

    I’m betting on a Zoanette shock wild card pick. You heard it here first.