American Idol's women gave a series of amazing performances last night but a few of the men proved that this season will be a fierce competition. Burnell Taylor remade an earlier performance to great success, Devin Velez came into his own, and Curtis Finch Jr. brought the judges to their feet.
Take It Easy
Elijah Liu was the first singer to perform in the men's semi-final and brought his a-game with a deeply heartfelt take on Rihanna's "Stay." Keith Urban said that the song was a good choice and lauded his control. Nicki Minaj complimented his polished look and commitment. Randy Jackson told Elijah he liked him but wanted to see him move out of second gear. Mariah Carey agreed with Randy but thought he could be a star with the right producers.
Cortez Shaw, who made the bold choice of covering David Guetta's "Titanium" last week, played it safe with Bruno Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven" which resulted in a forgettable performance. Keith said he had good voice but picked the wrong song. Nicki attacked his boring style and strained performance. Randy echoed Nicki's comments and Mariah thought he needed to take his singing down a half step and hoped that America would factor in his earlier appearances so he wouldn't get cut before he was able to develop. During his post-performance interview, Ryan Seacrest revealed that Cortez picks his own clothes since only finalists get professional styling just to twist the knife further.
Charlie Askew, who rocked a pathetic attempted mustache and an ill-advised camouflage tank top, had a bombastic and uneven take on Genesis' "Mama." Keith said the he seemed disingenuous and recommended that he front a band. Nicki said he seemed unrecognizable. Randy said he didn't get his performance and Mariah tried to salvage Charlie's ego by saying that he was talented but maybe Idol wasn't the right venue for him. Things took a turn for the worse when Charlie told Ryan that he only smiled so much because he had to and broke down crying. Hopefully, the poor guy can get some help after he's voted off tomorrow.
One of These Nights
Nick Boddington took to the piano for The Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris." Somehow Mr. Boddington sang a version of the song that was so passionless, it made The Goo Goo Dolls seem like Nirvana by comparison. Keith admired his vulnerable tone. Nicki revealed that "Iris" was one of her favorite songs but thought Nick's style wouldn't make him a big vote getter. Randy danced around saying his performance was boring but liked that he kept doing his own thing. Mariah lauded Nick for singing through his apparent nerves.
Burnell Taylor performed the song that landed him a spot on the show, Fantasia Barrio's "I'm Here." It was an unconventional choice but it paid off. Keith, who stood up to applaud after he finished, raved about his performance. Nicki said he was born to sing and that he had an undeniable presence. Randy loved the urgency in his voice and that he played to his strengths. Mariah told Burnell that he matched the power of his original audition, which brought her to tears.
Paul Jolley, the only contestant in the semi-finals due to a split decision, put everything he had into his soaring cover of Christina Aguilera's "Just a Fool." Keith got Paul to admit that he wants to be the male Taylor Swift and told him that he lacks authenticity. Nicki thought Paul did a fine job and Randy said that Paul's performance was inconsistent. Mariah told him that he had a strong voice.
Take It to the Limit
Lazaro Arbos took the judges' earlier criticism about picking a song that fits his voice to heart and knocked it out of the park with his energetic cover of Michael Bubl'e's "Feeling Good." Keith praised his ability to connect, Nicki loved that Lazaro made the song his own and Randy commended him for being in the competition to win. Mariah also had positive things to say but also thought that he occasionally fell into the wrong register, earning her the first boos of her Idol career.
Worship leader Curtis Finch Jr. brought the house down with his stunning gospel tinged take on R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly." Keith told Curtis he oozed positivity and hope. Nicki said he raised the bar and that he had a calling. Randy said he was the first man to give the women a run for their money. Mariah gave him her heartfelt thanks for his performance.
Devin Velez had a dazzling bilingual take on Armando Manzanero's "It's Impossible." Keith astutely recognized that Devin started out shaky but was great once he got going. Nicki exhausted her Spanish vocabulary to shower him with superlatives. Randy said that he loved his tone and Mariah told him that he was effortless powerful and had massive international appeal.
Vincent Powell gave a dispiriting performance of Boyz II Men's "End of Road" which was shocking given that he was a front-runner just a week ago. Keith said his nervousness was disappointing. Nicki told Vincent that he overcompensated and chose a song that didn't suit him. Randy agreed with Nicki but also called him one of the best singers in the competition. Mariah started to give qualified negative feedback before being cut off due to time constraints.
With the results show tomorrow, my pick for the five male finalists are:
- Elijah Liu
- Burnell Taylor
- Devin Velez
- Lazaro Arbos
- Curtis Finch Jr.
And for the top five female contestants:
- Aubrey Cleland
- Janelle Arthur
- Angela Miller
- Amber Holcomb
- Candice Glover
What are your picks?