American Idol Las Vegas results: Charlie Askew, Curtis Finch Jr., Elijah Liu, Paul Jolley, Devin Velez advance

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 21, 2013 

Maybe a woman really will win "American Idol" this season.

The Las Vegas round continued on "Idol" Thursday, with the first set of male performances. On these episodes, 10 singers will perform each night and five will be eliminated based on judges' votes. By the end of the month, we'll hopefully have our Top 20.

For the most part, the first 10 male performances in Vegas were shaky and forgettable. Some singers had personality. Some singers had talent. But few had both.

Charlie Askew, Curtis Finch Jr., Elijah Liu, Paul Jolley and Devin Velez advanced on Thursday's show.

Johnny Keyser, Josh "JDA" Davila, Kevin Harris, Chris Watson and Jimmy Smith were eliminated.

The contestant most likely to dominate post-show conversations? Charlie Askew. While performing "Rocket Man," the socially awkward teen had fun on stage and played off the crowd's energy. The bad news? His vocals were rough. Sorry, folks...I'm still not sold on this guy.

For me, 18-year-old Devin Velez was the highlight of the night. He performed a solid rendition of "Listen" by Beyonce -- half of which he sang in Spanish. It was one of the few times Thursday when the judges seemed united in praising a contestant.

Many of the other performances led to a divided panel. In fact, Paul Jolley only advanced to the Top 20 after "Idol" mentor Jimmy Iovine broke a judges' tie.

Discussion time: Did the right singers advance?

Now, the Top 20 is half complete. In addition to the five aforementioned men, five women have also advanced: Angela Miller, Teena Torres, Kree Harrison, Adriana Latonio and Amber Holcomb.

Here's a full recap of Thursday's show.

***

Paul Jolley, 22, kicks things off with a risky move. He sings a Keith Urban song, "Tonight I Wanna Cry." I'd best summarize it as "fine." It's your typical male ballad performance on "Idol" -- a few power notes in the middle and a big note at the end. He's a decent vocalist. This song isn't entirely forgettable, but it doesn't scream "star quality," either. Obviously, Paul faced a little more pressure since he had the dreaded first-singer spot. This wasn't memorable enough to make a statement. ADVANCES after judges' tie. Mentor Jimmy Iovine was the tiebreaker.

Keith: "The crowd loved it...Don't underestimate the quality and power that's in your voice."

Nicki: "I think that other performances that you've done wowed me over a little bit more."

Randy: "I think you've got great potential."

Mariah: Liked it overall, enjoyed the "flexibility" of his voice

Johnny Keyser, 23, is a returning hopeful from last season. He sings "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz. Yawn. I'm already worried about this season's obsession with ballads. This performance falls into the "fine" quality, too. I want star quality, people! Like Paul, Johnny is good but not good enough. Once again, I get no sense of star quality. Johnny doesn't offer anything that separates him from every other aspiring musician. He can't survive on looks alone, right? ELIMINATED

Keith: "It was good."

Nicki: "Kudos to you for being really freshly nicely groomed...To me you don't have the greatest vocal in the world."

Randy: "I didn't see enough moments from you."

Mariah: "I love your commitment to music."

Josh "JDA" Davila, 27, flaunts heels, body glitter and a black corset getup on stage. He sings Adele's "Rumour Has It." This is a tough one. On the plus side, he's the first real entertainer of the night. He uses the stage and performs like he's actually doing a real concert. That said, his vocals aren't exactly remarkable. In fact, he sounds a little flat and nasally at many points during the performance. But he has potential. Plus, personality is definitely a factor in this competition. ELIMINATED

Keith: "I want to commend you on putting on a show tonight."

Nicki: "Work it, girl. Work it...You are a superstar performer...Your vocal wasn't good today."

Randy: "You should be thinking more about the vocal...I felt no originality really."

Mariah: "I felt like your confidence level was major."

Kevin Harris, 28, has pretty much flown under the radar until now. We really don't know much about him, aside from the fact that he has two sons. He sings "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" by Bryan Adams. I like his voice, but it doesn't take long for me to wonder if this performance has entered lounge singer territory. The whole thing is a little sleepy and it seems like somewhat of a safe choice. Kevin didn't convince me of his potential as a modern recording artist. ELIMINATED

Keith: "I thought it was a really good song for you...Your range is crazy."

Nicki: "It was a great song for you...I loved everything about it."

Randy: "I was bored. I thought it was karaoke."

Mariah: Wanted him to choose a more challenging song

Chris Watson, 25, sings "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding. My biggest criticism? It seems like he's trying to make this song something it's not. He's acting like it's a contemporary Usher song or something. Did anyone else pick up on his strange hip gyrations? The performance doesn't match the song (which seems like one of the most overdone songs on "Idol," by the way). His vocals are just OK. I feel like vocally, he's a better fit for a dance song. ELIMINATED

Keith: "The voice wasn't the best that it could've been."

Nicki: "I want to marry your vibrato...I don't know that this was the best song choice...I am obsessed with you."

Randy: "It didn't give me enough."

Mariah: "I was surprised by the choice of song...For me, it wasn't your best performance vocally."

Devin Velez, 18, had a rough childhood and grew up without a father. He makes an ambitious song choice: "Listen" by Beyonce. But the risks don't stop at song choice. He sings part of the tune in Spanish. Overall, it's a very solid performance. Devin's tone reminds me of Clay Aiken's voice. That's a compliment. He hits some really nice notes and delivers arguably the strongest vocal so far. With the level of talent we've seen, he should easily advance to the Top 20. ADVANCES

Keith: "You made a connection with me from your voice."

Nicki: "You made a smart choice as an artist to sing in Spanish...I'm proud of you."

Randy: "I thought it was amazing."

Mariah: "I can't wait to see what a producer does when you get into the studio and make an album."

Elijah Liu, 18, is one of six kids in his family. He makes a wise choice in singing a contemporary song: "Talking to the Moon" by Bruno Mars. I believe Elijah has potential, but I don't really see it in this song. When the performance ends, I'm left craving more "oomph." Maybe it needed a few more big notes? The performance relied a lot on falsetto, and I'm not sure that's Elijah's biggest strength. He just needs more star quality. He might advance based on potential, though. ADVANCES

Keith: "I think it was a fairly shaky performance tonight...You have a way about you that is so relevant and now."

Nicki: "You are a super duper star...I want to have your babies...I am obsessed with you."

Randy: "This was not a great vocal. You had no moments in that song."

Mariah: "You're extremely marketable...I also love that you're Mexican and Chinese."

Charlie Askew, 17, is the socially awkward teenager who received a fair amount of airtime during earlier episodes. He takes the stage dressed in black and sings "Rocket Man" by Elton John. He's obviously nervous -- his hand shakes while holding the microphone. Still, he plays off the crowd's energy and has fun on stage. Lots of fun. That said...sorry, folks, but I am just not feeling this guy's vocals. I'm all for the triumph of the nerds but I'm not sure he should advance. The vocals are just off. ADVANCES

Keith: "I love your originality, your fearlessness, your unpredictability."

Nicki: "Your weirdness, your awkwardness excites me...I want to cradle you in my arms."

Randy: "I love you...Who cares about singing? Let's just perform." (joking)

Mariah: Says other performances better showcased his voice

Jimmy Smith, 25, sings "Raining on Sunday," a song originally performed by Radney Foster, but also covered by Keith Urban. Two Keith Urban songs in one night? Really, guys? This performance is a giant yawn. The vocals are shaky and Jimmy seriously lacks stage presence. It seems like something you would see at a county fair or something. I give him a very, very slim chance of advancing. OK, perhaps absolutely zero chance of advancing. Peace out, Jimmy. ELIMINATED

Keith: Says he did a really good job

Nicki: "I was a little bit bored."

Randy: "It was definitely a little bit boring for me."

Mariah: "Maybe it wasn't your best vocal. I don't think it was."

Curtis Finch Jr., 24, performs "Superstar/Until You Come Back To Me." Disclaimer: I've never been one of Curtis' biggest fans. I think he over-sings and appears somewhat conceited on stage. Plus, I can't get past reports of his possible criminal past. That said, I'll put my biases aside and admit Curtis is one of this episode's stronger singers. He hits some very big notes and appears much more polished than a lot of the other guys. Based on tonight, he deserves to advance. ADVANCES

Keith: "I thought that was really beautiful."

Nicki: "You raise the bar every time."

Randy: "You can really go there...Make sure you keep it young."

Mariah: "It moved me to tears."

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