"I don't know where I am right now ... I don't know what's going on," bemoaned "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson on Thursday's show. For once, I agreed with R-dawg.
The "sudden death" round -- meant to cut 10 semi-finalists to 5 -- was one of the oddest nights of television in recent history. Among the "guys" performing included a cross-dresser and a man-child. On top of it all, the best *performance* (note, I didn't say vocal) of the night didn't even make it through.
Check it out below and the five contestants that did advance.
Did not advance. JDA
The flamboyant luxurious French cosmetics salesperson delivered the most memorable audition of the night. Wearing heels, a necklace bigger than anything found in Mariah Carey's jewelry box, and all of the body glitter in Vegas, JDA worked the stage just as well as any contestant on "RuPaul's Drag Race." Unfortunately, as entertaining as his Adele routine was, the vocal was the weakest part and he was cut. JDA milked every second in the spotlight and managed to out-diva Mariah:
1. Paul Jolley
Paul looked anything but jolly as he took the stage. He was visibly nervous, and took a huge risk by singing judge Keith Urban's "Tonight, I Wanna Cry." Paul is nice-looking, has a nice voice, and delivered a nice performance, but everything is just ... nice. The judges were split on sending him through, but Jimmy Iovine broke the tie and said yes. Listening back to his vocals, I agree they were good enough for the top 5 today, but I'm not sure he will have staying power.
2. Curtis Finch Jr.
Curtis comes from a gospel background and sang "Superstar." It's clear that in his own head he is one. The 25-year-old is gifted with tremendous range, but his confidence can come off as cockiness. Like Angela Miller, he's been one to watch all season, and sailed straight through to the live show. Watch:
3. Devin Velez
Another standout, Devin chose to tackle a tough song -- Beyonce's "Listen." He challenged himself even more by singing half of it in Spanish. Like Curtis, there was no doubt Devin would advance. But unlike Curtis, he comes across as humble, although I got the sense that he is always chasing the perfect performance. His cover wasn't perfect, but it was damn good:
4. Elijah Liu
I'm thrilled this biracial (half Chinese, half Mexican) teen made it through and judge Nicki Minaj complimented his marketability, because there aren't many young Asian or Latin artists in the pop scene. He covered Bruno Mars (another biracial singer). This kid's got swagger and a good voice -- dare I say Bieber-esque? The vocal was shaky and off-key in parts, but he had real tenderness in other sections. He may be 18, but Nicki's gushing felt a little inappropriate. Watch:
5. Charlie Askew
I feared that socially awkward man-child Charlie would collapse in front of a studio audience, but he came alive. Like Elijah, there was some real tenderness in his voice. But then his performance to Elton John's "Rocketman" went, well, askew. His vocals took off, but not in a good way. There's something very endearing about Charlie, and the judges made the right choice picking him over the pretty (and pretty bland) Johnny Keyser and Chris Watson.
Who was your favorite?
-- Lawrence Yee