No matter what Randy Jackson, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and Mariah Carey try saying, the “American Idol” Top 10 Women weren’t spectacular on Tuesday night. Four of them were very good, a couple of them were pretty bad and the rest of them were OK. That’s a decent show and there’s no reason to engage in hyperbole.
The Top 10 Men will have to step up their games on Wednesday (March 6) night if they’re going to be worthy of their five slots in the overall Top 10, which will be unveiled on Thursday. Based on the Sudden Death performances, I don’t think most of these guys are especially worthy, but let’s find out.
Full recap after the break…
8:01 p.m. ET. I wish that I was in Las Vegas.
8:02 p.m. Ryan only calls it a “good” show with the Girls. I appreciate his candor. “It happens,” Randy says, explaining how the four judges seemed to hear different things last night. Keith suggests that the real artists won’t take any of last night’s comments to heart.
8:03 p.m. The men take the stage. Vincent Powel appears to have the pimp slot.
Singer: ELIJAH LIU
My Take: The Mexican-Chinese Justin Bieber loves the ladies, a fact that he repeats at least three or four times in his opening. He launches into his Rihanna cover completely lifelessly. Somewhere in the middle, I begin to get used to his limited nasally voice and it seems OK. I keep waiting, though, for the song to build to anything at all or for Elijah to do anything at all with the song. His voice isn’t awful, but that was a performance that never went anywhere at all. And he’s doing a Breanna Sneer through the whole performance, which I think he thinks is a sign he’s connected to the song. If Randy thought last week’s performance had no moments, that was almost a negative on the moment-o-meter.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: Keith begins by praising Elijah’s shoes. “I thought it really suited your voice,” Keith says, praising his “control.” By “control” he means “required nothing at all from him”? “I think I would be willing to stay,” Nicki says. “You look very marketable,” Nicki adds, predicting that Elijah’s face will be on blankets. “I like it more than I liked it last week,” Randy says. “For me, it never left first gear,” Randy says correctly. I’m glad somebody said it. “I actually liked this a lot,” says Mariah Carey, predicting that Elijah could be very relevant with the right production team. I have no clue what three of the four judges were talking about.
Singer: CORTEZ SHAW
Song: “Locked Out of Heaven”
My Take: Cortez the Killer! Because of Cortez’s fantastic upper register, he’s nearly got the voice to do Bruno Bars, but he doesn’t really have the vocal style and stage presence to do an upper-tempo song like this. He can’t dance and sing at the same time and when he tries doing a little footwork, it messes with his breathing. On the other hand, I really can’t say this enough: Thank you, Cortez, for doing an up-tempo song. Not my favorite Cortez performance, but a smart attempt to seem contemporary. Personally, I’d have done something more old-school Motown or R&B this week and done something newer in the future. This is not Cortez at his best and this was the wrong night for a performer like Cortez to not be at his best. He’s probably doomed.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: Keith doesn’t get the song choice, but he also says Cortez dances well. So… Yeah. Keith loved his spirit in the song, but he didn’t think the song matched what Cortez does well. I agree. Nicki’s glad Cortez enjoyed the song, but she wants to see him looking sexier and she was disappointed she couldn’t get into his pelvic thrusts. Randy thinks Cortez’s high notes are always just a bit under for him, but he calls the dance moves “dope.” Mariah knows the audience appreciated the up-tempo.
Singer: CHARLIE ASKEW
My Take: Between the really sad nascent mustache and the tank top and the ponytail and the feather-earring, this is a strange, strange version of Charlie Askew. This is a 1983 Genesis song and I assure you it’s never been contemplated before on “Idol.” I’m not sure it will ever be contemplated again. That was… strange and awkward and interesting and tense. But it probably wasn’t good. There’s a building shout-y quality to Charlie’s voice here that starts off innocuous, but is hard to listen to by the end. You can tell that this is a song that really meant something to him and that he wanted to do in this context, but he may have wanted it too much?
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “I wish I knew what people at home were saying right now,” Keith muses. “You could front a band doing your own thing and maybe at this point, that’s a little bit more how I see you,” Keith tells him, calling it “disingenuous” and “disconnected.” Nicki wants to know where her little baby is at. “I feel like someone stole my kid,” Nicki says. “I don’t want to see your arms. I don’t want to see you working out. I don’t want to see that ponytail. I don’t want to see that earring,” Nicki laments. She isn’t sure where this darker Charlie came from. “I don’t think I’m upset. I’m just a little bit worried. I’m worried for you,” Randy says. Mariah isn’t sure what Charlie’s doing, but she enjoys him a lot as a person. Poor Charlie. He looks crestfallen. He’s on the verge of tears, which is making me sad. “The only reason I smile so much is because I feel like I have to,” Charlie says, explaining the anger in him. Ryan does a good job of attempting to buck him up. But that was truly uncomfortable and a bit sad to watch. The crowd supports him enthusiastically and I think there’s at least an off chance that that moment could win Charlie some support.
Singer: NICK BODDINGTON
My Take: I’m very glad to have Nick on the piano. Without it he seemed a bit unmoored last week. This is the night’s first effectively stripped-down arrangement and it’s probably the night’s most connected performance as a direct result. I’d suggest that it may be just a bit too stripped-down. “Iris” is a song that shouldn’t be quite this sleepy. And when Nick gets to the high notes, it becomes much too strained and nasally. This hasn’t been a good night so far, so you can take it as you like when I say that this was the best performance we’ve been treated to on Wednesday. I assume that none of these first four singers are going to get the phone lines burning up.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: Keith loves seeing Nick playing the piano and singing. Keith suggests Nick was nervous in certain spots, but he praises his vulnerability. It’s one of Nicki’s favorite songs of all-time, so she wanted him to keep the original melody. “I don’t know if it’s going to get billions of votes, but it’s true to you,” Nicki says. Randy thought it was “a good, solid performance.” “I feel like you really kicked in at the end,” Mariah says.
Singer: BURNELL TAYLOR
Song: “I’m Here”
My Take: I guess the show starts here. Burnell did this song from “The Color Purple” in his audition, but it’s a song that obviously means something to him and a song that fits flawlessly into the post-Katrina image that the show has built around him. His performance is strong and effortless, with every note and phrase properly delivered and considered. He’s got presence and honesty and he knows when to embellish and when to keep it simple. Yeah. That’s a good performance. Without any real qualifications.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “Your voice is instantly recognizable,” Keith says. “I think it’s pretty obvious that you are one-of-a-kind,” Nicki says. Randy likes the urgency and loves the song. Mariah was happy to hear that song again.
Singer: PAUL JOLLEY
Song: “Just a Fool”
My Take: Maybe Paul can sing. I’m not sure he has any sense of how to present himself. He’s not bad with the voice. This should probably feel like an authentic country performance, but it feels more like a country-themed Broadway musical performance. But I didn’t much care for his singing last week and I kinda like some of what he does this week. There’s zero chance I’m going to remember him in 45 minutes.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “I see myself as pop-country,” Paul Jolley says, vowing to be the guy version of Taylor Swift. Keith wants Paul to “ease it in a bit more.” Nicki and Keith get into a debate about whether or not Paul is believable. “I thought it was a solid performance,” Nicki says, praising Keith in particular for his comments to country singers. Randy suggests that Paul’s “softer laid-back tone” is preferable to when Paul sings in his sweet spot. “He’s gotta un-cabaret it,” Keith adds. I have no idea what Mariah says. And I’ve already forgotten every second of Paul’s performance.
Singer: LAZARO ARBOS
Song: “Feeling Good”
My Take: All of the jazzy attitude has been drained from this arrangement of “Feeling Good.” All that’s left is the cheese. Unfortunately, that’s probably all that Lazaro was going to be able to handle. I just don’t think that he’s a very good choice for a song that requires so much careful phrasing and rhythm, as he has neither of those things. There are sustained notes on which he sounds just fine, but that’s a song we’ve heard performed much better on “Idol.” The crowd loves Lazaro.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “I love the way you connect with everybody,” Keith raves. “I loved it and I love you,” Nicki says, praising “attitude” that I missed entirely. “He thinks he’s in it to win it and he is!” Randy says. “It impresses me how you throw yourself into whatever song you’re doing,” Mariah says. She cautions him, though, that the song might be a bit too low. And the crowd boos. Wow. Four largely undeserved raves and the crowd boos the ONE piece of constructive criticism?
Singer: CURTIS FINCH JR.
Song: “I Believe I Can Fly”
My Take: Well, Curtis Finch Jr. is just determined to make the most predictable song choices available, isn’t he? This one was a Jacob Lusk special back in the day and Curtis is basically Jacob Jr, in addition to being Curtis Jr. The predictability of every second of this performance is taking away from what ought to be fun and impressive about it. By the time he totally takes the song to church in the end, I got jarred out of my complacency a bit. But honestly, only a bit. The guy knows what he’s doing. I just wish what he’s doing isn’t so darned familiar.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “We just had us a sermon in Vegas,” Keith raves. Nicki indicates that Curtis raised the bar. “This is what we need from you,” Nicki tells Curtis, urging him to make an album like that. Randy wants us to give mad props to R. Kelly. Randy says that the show started now. In the eighth performance of the night. That’s a bad sign, Randy. This is what Mariah needed.
Singer: DEVIN VELEZ
Song: “It’s Impossible”
My Take: Devin’s going truly Old School with this one. And with his v-neck sweater and bow-tie. And I like it. It’s drowsy, but warm. And, once again, he breaks into Spanish in the second half of the performance. This night has been so desperately dull that I’m enjoying Devin way more than I might have under better circumstances. The Spanish doesn’t even seem like pandering when he does it. It seems just as earnest and connected as the English. So far tonight, there haven’t been many guys I want to see advance, but I’d like Devin to stick around. He seems like a nice Mama’s Boy.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: Keith thought the very beginning was shaky, but when the camera moved away, the performance got stronger and stronger. “It thought it was muy bien,” says Nicki, who runs out of Spanish and has to resort to “gordo” at a certain point. She compares him to “a Spanish Ken doll.” I think he’s more “a Spanish ’50s bandleader.” But whatever! Randy loves the tone and he loves Devin. “That performance was incredible. I loved it,” Mariah says. So much love tonight. Mariah hopes Devin can reach an international audience.
Singer: VINCENT POWELL
Song: “End of the Road”
My Take: Whenever Ryan Seacrest teases somebody’s going to sing Boyz II Men, I always get excited. And then I always get disappointed when it isn’t “Motownphilly.” But someday, somebody’s gonna do “Motown Philly” and that will be my favorite performance ever. And Vincent could have done “Motownphilly.” Instead, he does a much more predictable and shrill and nasally version of this oft-sung ballad. The performance is all mostly a lengthy set-up for that falsetto squeak he lets out on the first chorus and a fun run he does at the end of that chorus. The actual verse was a bit of a disappointment for me, actually.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: “I feel tonight nerves got on top of your talent,” says Keith, who tells Keith that he can sing like a [something censored]. I’m astounded that the judges actually noticed that that performance was really not great. “It just wasn’t your best performance, but it was still good,” Randy says. “There were moments of brilliance in that performance, whether we want to nitpick certain things or not,” Mariah says.
9:55 p.m. Yeah. That was just weak. It wasn’t quite as weak as the men were in the Sudden Death round, but it wasn’t great either. I want Burnell and Devin to advance because of what they did tonight. I want Vincent to advance because of last week’s performance. I know Curtis deserves to advance even if he doesn’t move me the way he should. The fifth slot? I’d give it to Nick. Probably Lazaro gets it instead. But I think there’s some room for a couple real surprises here depending on whether or not Charlie gets a sentimental vote or Paul Jolley gets a country vote.
What’d you think?