It was the guys' turn to be subjected to the sudden death round on Thursday's American Idol. Following the same format as the ladies a night earlier, the first group of guy semifinalists — 10 in total — performed for the judges, and five were sent home at the end of the night.
Next week, the Vegas rounds continue, with the remaining 10 guys and 10 girls performing on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. After five eliminations each night, just 20 finalists will remain as this season's competition heads into the live rounds.
By all accounts, Season 12 seems to be the year for a girl to win, so how did the guys measure up? Here's a breakdown of who stayed in the competition and who was eliminated.
Curtis Finch Jr.: Despite being just 25 years old, Finch is one of the old souls of the competition, and that came through with his take on Luther Vandross' "Don't You Remember." Though he earned praise from all the judges for his vocals, Mariah Carey encouraged him to "just relax it a little bit," and Randy Jackson also warned him: "Make sure you keep it young. That was very old-fashioned." Still, Finch will prove to be a tough competitor in the live rounds. "You raise the bar every time, and the other contestants are always waiting to see what you're gonna do," Nicki Minaj told him. "It's your time."
Elijah Liu: Liu, who definitely has a Justin Bieber vibe about him, didn't exactly wow the judges with his vocals on Bruno Mars' "Talking to the Moon," but the entire panel agreed he's probably the most marketable out of all the male contestants. "You look like a freakin' pop star," Keith Urban told him. "It's really refreshing to see someone current and relevant." Minaj was a little more blunt. "I want to have your babies," she said emphatically. "You're my new favorite boy. I'm obsessed with you. ... I would sign you today."
Paul Jolley: Jolley was one of two contestants who made the bold decision to perform one of Urban's songs, "Tonight I Wanna Cry" — a choice Jackson called "risky" but which seemed to flatter Urban. Minaj cautioned Jolley to keep his "theatrical" eyes in check going forward, and Urban offered this advice: "Don't underestimate the quality and power that's in your voice. You don't need to compensate for it [by] sometimes overperforming." The judges split the vote on Paul, so the deciding vote went to the tiebreaking judge, producer Jimmy Iovine, who called Paul "a good singer with the wrong song." Like Urban, Iovine criticized him for oversinging on the particular song, but said his voice was strong enough to keep him in the competition for at least one more round.
Charlie Askew: The quirky Askew opted for Elton John's "Rocket Man" and, though he overdid it at times, the performance came together more often than it didn't. Urban, who admitted he wondered "What the hell are you doing?" at the start of the number, eventually told Askew he "made it work" and compared him to "if Freddie Mercury had a love child out of Woodstock." Minaj again gushed about Askew's "weirdness" and the singer ate it up — repeatedly encouraging the audience to applaud and giving a shoutout to his fellow "awkward turtles."
Devin Velez: Devin sang Beyonce's "Listen" half in English and half in Spanish, a decision all the judges commended highly. Jackson called the performance "amazing," while Urban told him it was refreshing to see someone come out who only had to rely on his vocal talents rather than an over-the-top performance.
Jimmy Smith: Smith also made the daring choice to tackle a Keith Urban song Thursday (albeit a cover), with "Raining on Sunday." Ultimately, however, the move was less successful for him than it was for Paul Jolley. Urban politely told him he did a good job with the track, though Minaj and Jackson both told him they felt "bored."
Kevin Harris: After several performances that earned tepid feedback, Kevin received praise from all the judges except for Jackson after singing Bryan Adams' "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)." "Every single choice you made tonight was perfection," Minaj told him. "You are the first boy tonight that made me go, yes, this vocal is 100 percent — everything I do I do it for you." Jackson, on the other hand, said the performance left him "bored" and feeling like he was watching karaoke. Carey, who delivered the bad news, told Kevin she was especially disappointed because he was one of her favorites.
J'DA (Josh) Davila: Hands down the most flamboyant contender among the guys, Jada's performance of Adele's "Rumor Has It" had the judges openly laughing. "Work it, girl!" Minaj told him afterwards. At the end, however, the overall consensus among the panel was that he was focused too much on the choreography and dance steps and less on the actual vocals. "If we gave an award for who's got the best performance, it would definitely be you," Jackson told him, while offering the reminder, "this is a singing competition."
Chris Watson: None of the judges were thrilled with Chris' vocals on "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay," but he managed to win them over in other ways. "You are the prettiest man I've seen in my life," Minaj told him, while Urban said he definitely came out on top in the "connection competition." Carey praised Watson's charisma and connection with the live audience, but Jackson was once again the dissenter. "Show me something that says you're better than these other singers," he told him. Unfortunately, he won't get the chance to!
Johnny Keyser: The heartthrob has relied mainly on his looks to get him through the tournament so far, and that held true Thursday night — but they won't take him any further. Urban said he could spot "moments of nervousness" in Keyser's take on Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up," and Minaj told him straight up: "You don't have the greatest vocal, but girls are gonna love you." Jackson agreed that it was "just an OK performance."
What did you think? Did the judges make the right calls? Sound off below!
American Idol returns Wednesday at 8/7c on Fox.
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