Perhaps after five years of male winners, American Idol producers and judges are used to hyping that “the girls really have the advantage this year” early in the season just to give them a fighting chance.
But so far in season 12, the women have actually been more interesting on the whole than the guys, where only a couple of whom are truly exciting. But exciting guys never win, so everybody’s got a good chance.
The 10 remaining guys sang live in Las Vegas on Wednesday’s show, competing for viewer votes for the first time. Half of them will be cut on Thursday’s episode, as will half of the Top 10 women, who performed Tuesday. It will be the biggest, and thus most satisfying, cut made by viewers all season. Still to be determined are how the various ways to stuff the ballot box will work out, including an Idol app that dispenses your allotted 50 votes (50?).
Idol voters usually take their cues from the judges’ comments, who were generally supportive of the performances, so much so that some advice had to be examined more closely, as when Keith Urban said one singer wasn’t exactly great but had the potential for greatness.
The only time all four judges stood to applaud a performance was when Curtis Finch Jr., who resembles and fills the role of a Ruben Studdard Jr., did his stirring version of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” an annual Idol staple, by taking his own flights in register. Judges afterward compared him to some sort of healing minister the world needed now.
Burnell Taylor got Keith Urban to stand and applaud the revival of his original audition song, “I’m Here,” from the musical The Color Purple, (previously sung by Fantasia Barrino) that got praise from the panel.
Also getting universal enthusiasm from the judges was Devin Velez doing the bolero turned English language ballad “It’s Impossible/Somos Novios,” after also dipping into Spanish for his performance last week. Will this become his standard move?
And judges weren’t particularly articulate about what they found wrong with Paul Jolley’s version of the Christina Aguilera/Blake Shelton duet “I’m Just a Fool.” The fact is, he’s exactly the kind of guy who wins Idol: good looking yet all shy and scruffy looking. That he has a country leaning is another plus for voters. But what he said was that he wanted to perform pop country and be a male version of Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood (and also, as I heard it, a male version of Keith Urban).
Others in the Top 10 seemed to falter a little. Nicki Minaj, who seemed to be critiquing mostly the fashion sense of contestants Wednesday, praised the opener Elijah Liu, but Randy Jackson said his restrained version of Rihanna’s “Stay” “never left first gear.”
Nicki wanted to know why the behatted Nick Boddington strayed from the original melody of Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris,” but everybody said his performance at the piano showed that he was returning to his strengths.
Stuttering Lazlo Arbos, who continued his fascination for the colour pink, did that other Idol standard, “Feeling Good,” and was complimented except from Mariah Carey, who pointed out that its lower portions were a problem.
The judges could agree that some performances just didn’t work out very well.
Young, long-haired and awkward, Charlie Askew only got worse as he put his hair back in a bun, wore a long dangly earring with a feather and an odd tank top to screech a forgotten Genesis song called “Mama.” The kid was practically in tears by the end of their comments. Ryan Seacrest had to give him some encouragement so he wouldn’t reduce to a puddle on live television. Aside from being a terrible performance (Jackson used that word), you’d worry what he could handle if he were allowed to continue in the competition.
Cortez Shaw’s rendition of Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” wasn’t as consistently off-key as his performance last week, but there were plenty of bum notes. And Nicki didn’t like his outfit.
Finally, Vincent Powell, the dude with the big black plastic framed glasses, sang a Boyz II Men anthem that seemed a harbinger for his own Idol fate: “End of the Road.”
The best shot of the show was a final view of the judges, apparently a repeat of something that had happened Tuesday. At the end, when Seacrest asked for a round of applause for their work, Nicki was already ignoring everybody and checking her phone messages while sucking on a lollipop.
How will she make it through the final 90 minutes of the five and a half hours of Idol this week?
American Idol airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CTV/Fox, and Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on CTV Two/Fox.