American Idol's women gave the guys a lot to live up to Thursday night. A few of them measured up to the challenge, while others fell apart.
Song choice presented a problem all night, and proved the undoing of promising singers like Chris Watson, whose neo-Hendrix garb and pedestrian cover of (Sitting On) The Dock of the Bay made him look like a bad oldies act.
Some of the singers survived questionable song choices, though. For Paul Jolley, it was a close call. The judges split over his performance of judge Keith Urban's hit Tonight I Wanna Cry, forcing record executive Jimmy Iovine into his tie-breaking role.
Iovine told Jolley he sounded like he was singing a Keith Urban song while auditioning for Phantom of the Opera, then explained to him all the ways that contestants who over-sing fail on the show. Then he put him through anyway. Sure hope Jolley's a fast learner.
Curtis Finch Jr. and Devin Velez didn't have any of those problems, though. They gave the two most accomplished performances of the night. Finch's gospel-infused rendition of Superstar floored the judges to the point that Minaj told him, "You know damn well you're going through." And Velez gave a perfectly paced performance of Beyonce's Listen, beginning it in English, then switching to Spanish, then changing keys.
Elijah Liu, an 18-year-old singer of Mexican and Chinese descent, isn't nearly the singer those two are, but he was easily the most contemporary act of the night, singing Bruno Mars'
Talking to the Moon
. He had his shaky moments, especially when he tried to sing involved falsetto passages, but the judges weren't about to let him go.
They didn't feel those same compunctions about J'DA, who came out in high heels singing Adele's Rumor Has It without switching any of the song's gender-specific pronouns. J'DA, who told Nicki Minaj he was there to "represent for the gays," gave an audience-rousing performance but still didn't make the cut. That's too bad, because he wasn't one of the night's worst singer, and he was its most accomplished entertainer. It would've been interesting to see what happened to J'DA once he got in front of a voting audience, but a lot of Idol's more conservative viewers are probably breathing a sigh of relief that he didn't make it.
If anybody took J'DA's spot, it was probably Charlie Askew, who continues to be one of Season 12's more interesting cases. Though he seemed completely assured on stage when viewers last saw him, he seemed scared to death Thursday -- though the tremble in his voice only served to help him sing Elton John's Rocket Man, with its lines about being "lonely out in space." Askew was wearing a belt picked out by J'DA, and he probably also picked up a few lessons in showmanship. Askew's got good instincts and tons of raw potential. He also seems to be a fast learner, which Idol viewers tend to reward. And once he gets lost in a song, he's completely fearless, to the point that Urban likened him to "Freddie Mercury [having] a love child out at Woodstock somewhere.
Also eliminated Thursday: Jimmy Smith, Johnny Keyser and Kevin Harris.