OFFSTAGE: American Idol Judges Were the Last to Know

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

Surprise. Ten American Idol hopefuls are going home.

That was the theme of Thursday night’s (March 7) finals show, and the suspense was killing me. This year, instead of the judges revealing the Top 10, the Top 10 revealed themselves to the judges.

Ryan Seacrest said they had 39 million votes this time around, and here is who won the chance to stick around: Lazaro Arbos, Amber Holcomb, Paul Jolley, Curtis Finch Jr., Janelle Arthur, Devin Velez, Burnell Taylor, Angie Miller and Candice Glover. Kree Harrison, a Keith Urban favorite all along, also made it in.

Urban told Jolley, “It’s like you’re listening, because you channeled theatrics into passion, and that’s the thing.” I think that was a compliment. Arbos was the last of the guys to make it into the finals. And when he did, his victory song was my favorite song of the night. Actually, maybe of the season — Simon & Garfunkel ’s 1970 hit “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” He just nailed it.

Arthur’s victory song was Dierks Bentley ’s “Home.” She brought the judges to their feet, and Nicki Minaj told her, “You’ve been my ladybug, my marshmallow, my superstar country girl, and you came alive today.”

The best moment of the night was watching Urban cry. It was toward the end of Miller’s victory song. “I’m virtually crying down here because I’m watching her sing, and I’m watching all your eyes well up and everything. And for me, that personifies what I love about this show is it takes somebody who is absolutely completely ready for artistry, for everything, to find their audience,” he said, wiping his tears away. “And all you needed, baby, was a break.”