idol-16

The drill tonight was the same as last night: The ten guys sing, the judges give comments, and America votes. Tomorrow, five of them – along with five of the girls – will be sent home, and the ones that remain are the Top 10 finalists. Those who sang were: Elijah Liu, Cortez Shaw, Charlie Askew, Nick Boddington, Burnell Taylor, Paul Jolley, Lazaro Arbos, Curtis Finch Jr. Devin Velez, and Vincent Powell.

First up was lady’s man Elijah, who’s been known to pick timely pop hits, and knows how to work a crowd. He sang Rihanna’s “Stay,” and his pop star quality was evident, but his vocal was lacking. Keith said, “I love that you did that song and I thought it really suited your voice. I thought it showed really good control.” Nicki said, “I liked it. You look great, you’re very marketable. I think you stayed in it.” Randy said, “I like that song and I like the lyric. The problem with me was it just kinda stayed in first gear. It was so-so.” Mariah said, “I thought it was one of your better performances. Your relevancy is your strongest point.”

Cortez came out strong with Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven,” but it didn’t come off as very genuine. Keith said, “I’m not sure that was the best song for you for what you do really well.” Nicki said, “You definitely enjoyed it. You didn’t seem nervous, that’s a good thing. I want to see you look even sexier. I loved that your charisma came out.” Randy said, “Sometimes when you hit those high notes it sounds like you’re straining a little.” Mariah said, “I think the audience was happy to hear an uptempo song. I don’t know if it’s you though.”

The kooky-but-lovable Charlie is a natural performer who always has a classic song choice, and tonight was no different: He sang Genesis’ “Mama,” and showed off his intense passion. Keith said, “It just feels disingenuous a little bit. Tonight, for me, felt the most disconnected.” Nicki tore apart his style choices, and told him he shouldn’t have changed. Randy said, “The beginning was really, really terrible. The end of it you went to like a scream. It didn’t all connect at all.” Mariah said, “It seems like you like the classic rock songs. You added some diversity.”

Nick just barely made it through Vegas Week, so tonight he went back to playing the piano, and a softer choice than last week: the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris.” He added some of his own flair to it, and it was a great choice for him, vocally and stylistically. Keith said, ” What a perfect song for you! I think you were really nervous in certain spots, but I heard through that. I think it was beautiful tonight.” Nicki said, “I felt it was pretty and I definitely think that’s your comfort zone. It’s true to you.” Randy said, “I thought it was a good solid performance. I was happy just to see you come back to you, instead of trying to be something else.” Mariah said, “I feel like you really kicked it in at the end. Congratulations.”

The classy, usually stylish Burnell wore a 90s kick-back jean jacket and backwards hat that didn’t fit at all with his lovely version of “I’m Here,” from The Color Purple. Keith said, “Your voice is instantly recognizable. You’ve got your own thing, it’s incredibly strong. I loved it.” Nicki said, “You are one of a kind. You were born to do this.” Randy said, “When you first started singing, that urgency in your voice, you really believe it.” Mariah said, “You did it again. It was a tearful moment. I’m so proud of you.”

Paul Jolley is a seasoned country music video extra from Nashville who was saved by a tie-breaker during Vegas Week. Tonight he sang “Just a Fool,” by Blake Shelton and Christina Aguilera. Keith said, “You could just ease it in a little bit more. I feel like you keep underestimating the quality of your voice.” Nicki said, “I thought it was a solid performance. I didn’t find a problem with it.” Randy said, “The beginning was amazing. It may just be you trying to find the sweet spot when it gets intense. It’s in there!” Mariah said, “You have a very strong instrument. Theatrical is part of the mixture of who you are.”

Crowd-favorite and sweetheart Lazaro sang “Feeling Good,” which has the classic feel and jazzy tones that seem to complement his style and voice perfectly. It was a nice mix of understated and powerful. Keith said, “I love the way that you connect with everyone.” Nicki said, “I loved it. I love you. The people went crazy for you. I think that was a very strong vocal. I like that you put some attitude on it.” Randy said, “Dude that was great!” Mariah said, “It impresses me how you throw yourself into every song that you do.”

Curtis did really well with his rendition of “Superstar” last week, and tried for another big religious number with R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” tonight. He certainly hits some of those notes hard! All of the judges gave him a standing ovation, and Keith said, “You just ooze everything good and light and godly and whole!” Nicki said, “This is bigger than American Idol to me. I don’t care how many votes you get for the rest of your life, you have a calling to make people feel good. This is what we need from you!” Randy said, “The competition tonight? It started right here for me.” Mariah said, “The energy that you gave off and what you were feeling and spreading to us is what I needed right now in my life. Thank you.”

Next, Devin took the stage to sing “It’s Impossible,” and was smart to once again incorporate a verse in Spanish, which the judges had loved during Vegas Week. Keith said, “You are such a good, good singer. It got stronger and stronger. You are so gifted.” Nicki said, “I thought it was muy bien. You feel very real and very believable. Congrats.” Randy said, “Your tone is a tone that I actually really, really like. You feel so comfortable. I like the style!” Mariah said, “That performance was incredible. I love when you can jump between genres and different languages. I feel that there’s potential to reach an international audience.”

Vincent finished off the show with Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road.” Keith said, “I feel tonight that nerves got on top of your talent, and you have a deep talent.” Nicki said, “I love that song, great song choice. Still a great voice, but your voice didn’t really come alive in that song.” Randy said, “It just wasn’t your best performance. I think you overshot it just a little bit. You’re still one of the greatest singers in this.” Mariah said, “There were moments of brilliance in that.”

That’s it for the semifinals! I’ll be back next week to report on who made the Top 10 and their latest performances.