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Tonight the first ten guys were put through the Vegas Week sudden death round, and only five survived. The line-up was: Paul Jolley, Johnny Keeser, JDA, Kevin Harris, Chris Watson, Devin Velez, Elijah Liu, Charlie Askew, Jimmy Smith, Curtis Finch, Jr.

First up was Paul, from a tiny town in Tennessee. He chose to simply sing on a stool in the dark, but daringly sang judge Keith Urban’s own “Tonight I Wanna Cry.” He has a stage presence, surely, and a smooth tone, but he didn’t seem spectacular up there. Keith spoke first saying, “Firstly, I want to say thank you: It’s a huge honor for someone to do one of my songs. If you get through, I would ask that you don’t underestimate the quality and power that’s in your voice, you don’t need to compensate for it with a lot of over-performing.” Nicki said, “I think that other performances that you’ve done have won me over a little more.” Randy said, “The guys (Nicki and Keith) are right on one hand, but on the other hand, what I’ve always liked about you is if you choose to be a country singer, I think you have the potential and possibilities to do whatever.” Mariah said, “It’s just refreshing and nice to see that you want to do something in this genre, and you have the ability.”

Johnny is 23, from Florida, and is another contestant who was cut in last years’ Vegas Week. He sang Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up,” and it started off a little slow, but he really picked it up with the chorus. Keith stumbled, then said, “It was good! That’s the best you’ve sung, I think, for me. There was something effortless about it.” Nicki said, “You came out really, really relaxed. To me you don’t have the greatest vocal in the world, but you have a sparkle in your eye.” Randy said, “I like you, I was always pulling for you. For me tonight, it felt like an okay performance.” Mariah said, “I love your commitment to music, and you are giving us that sexiness. My opinion is that you’re worthy to be around.”

Next up was JDA, 27, the drag queen who calls himself, “The star of my own life.” He sang Adele’s “Rumour Has It” with attitude, dramatics, and surprisingly, not an overly-feminine energy; it was almost androgynous, which is strange considering he was decked out in tons of glitter, a black gown, and silver pumps. Keith said, “Well, we are in Vegas, so you were certainly right at home on that stage. I want to commend you for putting on a show. I also applaud your originality.” Nicki said, “Work it girl, work it. First of all, you are a superstar performer. You give a show every single time. You were organic and feeling the warmth of the audience, and you showed them that. The only thing I didn’t like, your vocal was a little phone-voicey.” Randy said, “You don’t miss a beat. But you should be thinking more about the vocal as well, because this is a singing competition. The problem is, I felt no originality.” Mariah argued, “I felt like you were so confident, you weren’t wavering vocally. Your brand of masculinity or whatever you’re giving us is fantastic.”

Kevin, 28, is from Alabama, and has two young boys at home. He sang Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You,” and started off strong with the first note, but it quickly faded into a mediocre sound and performance overall, save for a couple high notes at the end. Keith said, “I thought it was a really good song for you. Your range is crazy. I get that you’re trying to show what you can do. But I think tonight was very good.” Nicki said, “Every single solitary music choice that you’ve made tonight has been perfection. I loved everything about it.” Randy took the complete opposite view, saying, “I was bored. I felt like it was karaoke. I wasn’t blown out at all.” Mariah said, “It’s obvious that you’re a born singer,” but she wished he’d chosen a song that showed off his range more.

Fifth to perform was Chris Watson, 25, from Delaware, who took the stage in a black, sparkly get-up. He sang Otis Redding’s “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay,” but it was hard to figure that out, since the words for a little hard to understand. Kevin said, “I don’t think that was a great song to show off your voice, but I think that you had so much confidence on stage, and I love the way that you carry yourself.” Nicki said, “You are the prettiest man I’ve seen in my life, ever. I want to marry your vibrato. There’s a soulful, raspy uniqueness every time you sing. It gets me!” Randy said, “It sounds like the song goes nowhere for you. The Chris tonight, you didn’t give me enough. I was bored.” Mariah said, “The charisma that you had, and the connection with the crowd was great. For me, it wasn’t your best performance vocally.”

Devin Velez, 18, from Illinois sang “Listen,” by Beyonce, and made it his own, masculine version, which isn’t easy to do with a self-proclaimed diva’s song. He even added in a little Spanish, and the performance seemed like it would have fit well in a Broadway musical. Keith said, “You made a connection with me from your voice, you didn’t have to do anything else but sing the song, and be in the song.” Nicki said, “Tonight, not only did you do an amazing job at singing the song, but I think you made a smart choice as an artist to sing in Spanish. You have a nice spirit, a warmth about you that shines through your eyes.” Randy said, “I thought it was amazing, and by the way, what I really love is you took your time with it. It was a great arrangement.” Mariah said, “No matter what, I can’t wait to see what a producer does when you get into the studio and make an album.”

18-year-old business student from California, Elijah is quite the lady’s man, and he chose to sing Bruno Mars’ “Talking to the Moon,” which seemed like an easy choice, considering his higher voice and resemblance to the pop star. He certainly wasn’t bad, but his voice didn’t wow me. Keith said, “I have to say that it was a fairly shaky performance tonight, it wasn’t great vocally. But what I like about you is you look like a freaking pop star.” Nicki said, “You are a super, duper star little boy. I would sign you today. You have the most marketable face and voice that I’ve seen tonight, and you’re ready now!” Randy said, “This was not a great vocal, you had no moments in the song. But I know you’re capable.” Mariah disagreed a bit, saying “I think there were two distinct moments. I liked the control that you used.”

Charlie Askew, 18, has always had a tough time connecting with people, until he discovered music. He took the stage in a thrift shop outfit that he had consulted with JDA on, and sang Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” A classic song, surely, and he started off sounding great, but started to lose it at the chorus, and had trouble getting it back. Keith said, “I love your originality, your fearlessness, your unpredictability.” Nicki said, “You’re made the most interesting song choice of the night. Your weirdness, your awkwardness excites me. It’s rockstar, it’s fresh, it’s crazy.” Mariah said, “I know that you wanted to bring your own thing, and that’s what you’ve done.”

Country boy Jimmy, 23, from Tennessee took the stage to sing Keith’s “Raining on Sunday.” Hmm, I wonder if these guys are trying to butter up one of the judges? He hammed it up for the cameras, and seemed to please the crowd a lot. Keith said, “It’s really hard to critique someone who’s singing your song. I thought you did a really great job.” Nicki said, “I thought it was a good vocal, but I was a little bit bored.” Randy said, “You’re a very interesting mixed bag, but I don’t know if it all came together tonight. It wasn’t great.” Mariah said, “Maybe it wasn’t your best vocal, but I still think there’s something about you that America should see.”

Last but not least was Curtis, 25, from Missouri, who feels gospel is “in his blood.” He sang “Superstar,” and his booming, soulful voice swept the room. His range is out of this world. Keith said, “Your voice is beautiful, and I’d love to hear more of it.” Nicki said, “You take the competition to another level. You are well on your way. It’s your time.” Randy said, “You can sing anything! Just make sure you keep it young, that was very old-fashioned.” Mariah said, “I wouldn’t even begin to critique you. It moved me to tears, as it always does when you sing. Just relax it a little. Your voice and your musicality is who you are.”

Tonight the decision wasn’t unanimous, so the tie-breaker was brought in. Curtis went through without a hitch, and then Jimmy and Kevin were dismissed quickly. Elijah got the second spot, followed by JDA, who was sent home. Paul was the split decision, and Jimmy voted to keep him around. Next was Chris, who didn’t make it, followed by Charlie, who obviously made it (because otherwise there would have been no mystery with the last two). So it was down to Devin and Johnny, and after the producers stretched it out for the last few minutes, they made the right choice with Devin.

Next week the drill is the same: Five more girls and five more guys will be eliminated in Vegas!