A girl's going to win "American Idol" this season, right?
When the top 10 guys sang Wednesday night, the live performances were underwhelming at best. As usual, the night was heavy on ballads. My favorites were Burnell Taylor and Devin Velez, but even their performances could've used a little "oomph."
Going into the show, I was most curious about Charlie Askew, the socially awkward teen who divided audiences with his performance of "Rocket Man" during an earlier round. This week, Charlie sang an especially angry version of "Mama" by Genesis. The judges weren't impressed, but I actually liked it better than "Rocket Man."
After the performance, host Ryan Seacrest asked Charlie why he chose the song. "I needed to vent," he said.
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Then, while fighting back tears, he added, "The only reason I smile so much is because I feel like I have to." Wow. Perhaps he's not ready for the reality TV world?
The top 10 women performed Tuesday. Read a recap of that show here. Viewers' votes will decide this season's top 10 finalists, which will be announced Thursday. Consider yourself warned: There's a good chance we'll have a "wildcard" 11th singer this year. Randy Jackson hinted at it Tuesday night.
Here's a full recap of Wednesday's show.
Elijah Liu says he wants to "connect with all my ladies out there." Hmm. We'll see about that. He immediately gets points for a good song choice. He covers Rihanna's "Stay." I can't connect with Elijah 100 percent, but I'll admit this: He understands it's important to choose contemporary songs. That counts for a lot. And his vocals are actually pretty good tonight. My biggest criticism? It gets a little boring toward the end. I'm psyched at first. Then it drags on...and on...and on.
Keith: "I thought it really suited your voice."
Nicki: "I think I would be willing to stay...I liked it."
Randy: "For me, it never left first gear...It was kind of so-so for me."
Mariah: "I actually liked this a lot."
Cortez Shaw says he wants to tap into vulnerability and emotion this week. He sings "Locked Out of Heaven" by Bruno Mars. The good news? He chose a current song. And it's uptempo, too! The bad news? Well, pretty much everything else. From the song's onset, his vocals just sound off. Another big problem? He seems especially fond of over-singing, which really doesn't work with this song. He shouts through a lot of the performance. Overall, it's a song choice issue. I think he'll have some trouble advancing.
Keith: "I'm not sure that was the best song for you."
Nicki: "You definitely enjoyed it...Whoever is styling Elijah should style you."
Randy: Sort of liked the song choice, sort of didn't
Mariah: "I don't know if it's you."
Charlie Askew, the socially awkward teen, is one of this season's most polarizing contestants. He's also growing a mustache. He gives a shout-out to his "awkward turtles." He covers "Mama" by Genesis. Random song choice, but not entirely surprising from Charlie. He's wearing a tank top and flaunting an earring and ponytail tonight. The opening verses are really rough. Then, he enters full-on scream mode. Yes, it's weird and Charlie is hardly the best singer in this contest. That said, can you believe I liked this better than "Rocket Man"?
Keith: "You have a huge range...You could front a band...Something feels not fully genuine."
Nicki: "I feel like someone stole my kid...I want my cute, cuddly Charlie back...I'm upset."
Randy: "I'm worried for you...I didn't even get it."
Mariah: "It's up to America."
With that, Seacrest asks Charlie why he chose that song. "I needed to vent," he says. Then, while fighting back tears, he adds, "The only reason I smile so much is because I feel like I have to." WOW. Perhaps this isn't the best time for him to enter the reality TV world?
Nick Boddington admits he had trouble with song choice last week. He swears he'll turn things around. He sits at the piano and sings "Iris" by Goo Goo Dolls. Thanks, Nick...I really needed a trip back to my high school dating days. I'm serious. He delivers a nice, tender version of the tune. I really like the personal touches he adds. Will this performance go down in "Idol" history? Um, no. It's a little sleepy and Nick needs to move away from ballad territory. Still, it's one of the better efforts we've seen so far.
Keith: "For me, that was perfect."
Nicki: "I wanted you to keep the original melody...I don't know if it's going to get billions of votes."
Randy: "I thought it was a good, solid performance."
Mariah: "I was happy to see you at the piano...I feel like you really kicked in at the end."
Burnell Taylor was one of the judges' favorites last week. Remember, he's also lost a lot of weight. He sings "I'm Here" from "The Color Purple." He sang this song during his initial audition. I have some issues with the repeat song choice, but this is a pretty solid performance. Burnell's vocals are really strong. I assume he'll sail through to the next round. One small request: Can he please tone down the '80s apparel? This week's look was a bit much. Keith gives him a standing ovation.
Keith: "I believe every part of you and I feel it."
Nicki: "I love you...I'm happy that we found you...I hope people vote for you."
Randy: "I'm happy you returned home to where we first saw you."
Mariah: "It was a tearful moment...I'm so proud of you, so happy."
Paul Jolley has apparently met some pretty famous country stars. He says he'll have a "good old shindig" this week. Don't get too crazy, Paul. He sings "Just a Fool" by Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton. I love this song. Paul actually kind of pulls it off, despite tackling a song that was perhaps designed for two people. Things get a little shaky at the power notes toward the end. There aren't any glaring flaws, though it seems like Paul has a certain disconnect with the audience. There's something missing, but it's not easy to identify.
Keith: "You could just ease it in a little bit more."
Nicki: "I thought it was a solid performance."
Randy: "The beginning, I loved."
Mariah: "You have a very strong instrument...I think the crowd enjoyed it."
Lazaro Arbos has a severe stutter that disappears when he sings. He sings "Feeling Good." Groan. This is one of the songs I want to ban from "Idol." That aside, Lazaro seems much less nervous this week. I'm glad he (sort of) departed ballad territory. It's a pretty good performance. Am I jumping up and down? Not necessarily. No offense to Lazaro, but I feel like I've already seen this performance 100 times on "Idol." It highlights Lazaro's problem. He needs a little more musical uniqueness beyond his back story.
Keith: "That was really good tonight."
Nicki: "I loved it. I love you."
Randy: "He thinks he's in it to win it. And he is."
Mariah: "It impresses me how you just throw yourself into whatever song you're doing...I feel like this song was a bit too low for you."
Curtis Finch Jr. says that during childhood, he felt like he lacked an identity because he shared a name with his dad. Confession: Curtis has been one of my least-favorite singers this season. He sings "I Believe I Can Fly" -- another song that's exhausted its welcome on "Idol." Here's my biggest problem with Curtis: He over-sings. A LOT. And he just seems a little too full of himself. Erase the ego and I might be a fan. Until then, I'm lukewarm at best. But what do I know? The four judges give him a standing ovation.
Keith: "You just have so much hope in you."
Nicki: "You have a calling on your life to bless people and to do so much good."
Mariah: "I just want to thank you for that...You've been one of my favorites the whole time."
Devin Velez has a supportive mom who screams a lot after his performances. He sings "Somos Novios (It's Impossible)." As you can guess by the song's title, he sings half of it in English and half in Spanish. I think Devin has one of the strongest male voices of this competition. I really like the big notes that he hits. He's a pretty consistent performer, too. My only criticism? If he advances, I hope he varies his song choices a bit. I'd like to see him do an uptempo tune that allows for more personality.
Keith: "The very beginning for me was a little shaky...Man, you are such a good, good singer."
Nicki: "I think you're stepping into your own." Calls him "a Spanish Ken doll."
Randy: "This kid is effortless...I love this dude."
Mariah: "That performance was incredible."
Vincent Powell summarizes the situation in his pre-performance interview: "You gotta bring it, or you're going home." He opts for a Boyz II Men tune: "End of the Road." I really appreciate the nostalgia this week, guys. This reminds me of when I went to a Boyz II Men concert with my dad. Anyway, back to the performance. Unfortunately, Vincent caught some of Curtis' problems this week. He's over-singing like crazy and trying way too hard to have the elusive Moment. Vincent is a good singer -- he just needs to tone down the special effects.
Keith: "Nerves got on top of your talent."
Nicki: "Your voice didn't come alive in that song."
Randy: "It just wasn't your best performance, but it was still good."
Mariah: "There were moments of brilliance in that performance."