The guys mostly underwhelm; Nicki Minaj becomes obsessed with three of them anyway

By Annie Barrett
February 22, 2013 at 07:27 AM EST
Michael Becker/Fox

And now American Idol — wondrous benefactor of the Great Future Lady Winner of Season 12 — will begrudgingly show us some guys. As on Wednesday’s show, 10 contestants performed and five were cut, with Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine craning his turtle head to Seacrest at one point to “tie break” the judges’ split vote on Paul Jolley with a programmed response recited off a TelePrompter. Riveting stuff.

The guys weren’t great, to put it mildly. As Mariah Carey reminded us, the ladies have been doing “uh-mazing……..ly. Woot!”

ELIMINATED

Johnny Keyser — Vocally I’d have put Johnny ahead of some of the guys who advanced — his cover of “I Won’t Give Up” was on-pitch at least, just boring and without any sort of special energy. Nicki and Mariah loved the fact that he was a real, live man and they would not shut up about his sexy masculinity. They want so desperately for him to be this magical sex unicorn, and he’s just not. Tragic. Still, I think he was held back because the producers knew he could coast on through to the finals with that chiseled face. Sorry, Johnny! You’re too pretty and you need to leave. Again.

I’m sure Nicki’s most profound comment of the evening — “Kudos to you for being nicely, freshly groomed” — will replay in Johnny’s mind forever, a reminder to keep his hair balmed and carry on.

J’DA — Thank God his “Rumour Has It” cover was hilarious to watch, because if you closed your eyes you’d probably back away slowly from the TV and trip over your nearest block of night cheese. Big news: It turns out that I’ve always wanted to watch a man in side-slit aging diva pants and seemingly a sparkle-overlay hairnet writhe around on the sacred American Idol Oval while gazing longingly into the camera and pretending to be a cat. I just didn’t know that until tonight. The judges were only into J’DA’s theatrics, not his voice, and J’DA himself was pretty much on the same page, naming his chief goal as to “glisten and glitter” onstage. I loved the money shot of Mariah perking up at the mention of glitter.

NEXT: Sitting on the Dock of the Disco Kevin Harris — Pardon me, who?! Like last night‘s Jenny Beth Willis, here was someone we’d never seen before, I’m pretty sure, who was pure cannon fodder. A shame, because he had cool dreads and a cute attitude (he’s doing this for his young sons!). It was also a shame that his “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” cover was so embarrassingly off-key. There’s no way this is one of the Top 20 male voices who showed up out of thousands to audition, right? I mean, jeez, Idol, we get it about the lady winner. But pretending some of these guys were really the cream of the male crop is just absurd.

Chris Watson — Whoa. Terrible. No one should be allowed to sing “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” cloaked in sparkle-studded pants, vest, and what I’m sure Curtis considers his signature head scarf. The “prettiest man” Nicki Minaj has seen in her life would look so much better in a faded tee and jeans. He never had a chance in that getup. The audience absolutely could not care less that he was even onstage; in fact, they were probably trying to avoid eye contact. Oh, and his voice sucked.

Jimmy Smith — You could argue that vocally Jimmy deserved to move on after his modest but lovely “Raining on Sunday” cover. But there’s a difference between not screwing up and making an actual impact. Compared to the over-the-top Vegas circus shows, he just didn’t stand out. But this is exactly the type of pleasantly bland contestant who typically gets through and sticks around way longer than expected — like Casey James, for example, or Tim Urban. They wanted to get rid of him before the country singer had the chance to infect the nation with his luscious curls and easygoing smile.

*

MOVING ON

Paul Jolley — The whole time he was singing, I couldn’t tell if Paul’s cover of “Tonight I Want to Cry” was really thoughtful or really boring. It was one of the simplest performances we’ve seen — spotlights from the back, and Paul barely moved around. It was nice. That’s about it. He’s just flavorless enough to maybe not pose too much of a threat to the ladies. I definitely didn’t see what a very flattered Keith Urban (watch, now all of his tunes will get covered, and some twice) meant by repeated references to Paul’s “power,” but I might have been caught up in my quandary about whether or not he legitimately reminds me of Adam Levine, in the face. (Who cares?)

NEXT: He’s like Justin Bieber, but Chinese-Mexican and can’t hit a high note Elijah Liu — Ewwww, so far. We’d met him briefly during the Hollywood Round and I hadn’t realized what a little Bieber bugger he is. It’d be fine if his rendition of “Talking to the Moon” wasn’t so pitchy and awful. Every time he went up into that “falsetto” (which sounded to me like just a tinny, directionless version of his middle register), the first note was way wrong. Also: the second, third, fourth, etc. notes. Nicki Minaj’s super-helpful note to Elijah was that he was a “little star” and that she wanted to have his babies. He’s 18, so it’s okay. Classy, even. Legal. She’d sign him today, based on his “most marketable face/voice combination.” Gag me. What is this, The X Factor?

Devin Velez — Finally, a performance worth remembering because the person involved was SINGING. Eighteen-year-old Devin made a smart move switching to Spanish midway through Beyoncé’s “Listen” — what could have been a cheap ploy coming from a more gimmicky contestant played out like an appropriate and natural surprise from this good-natured kid. You could tell right from the first few notes (this song gets down low!) that we were dealing with an actual singer. Mariah noticed how Devin critiqued his own performance with tiny tonal changes and facial expressions during the last verse — I loved that she pointed that out in a sort of knowing, braggy way. Good work, Gumshoe Glitter.

Charlie Askew — Tonight, at least, I was apparently in the mood to be delighted by the outlandish “rocker” antics of a socially awkward child who looks straight out of the ’70s — like “Freddie Mercury’s love child from Woodstock,” according to Keith. Major high praise from Keith, whoa. Anyway, yeah, Charlie’s kneeling, lurching, altogether ridiculous cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” legitimately drew me in. He just seemed to be having such a blast with it, like there was a natural order at work amidst all these crazy moves that somehow belied his nervousness.

Does that even make sense? I’ll try again: Charlie’s performance was really more like a thrilling home video — something he’d have done in his garage with that golf club as a mic. It would have been the greatest performance in the Askew family’s garage in history. Definitely. But can it sustain itself on the Idol stage longer than a couple more tries at best? Doubt it. I’m already sick of the way he keeps talking back to the judges. It seems an inevitable recurring symptom of Charlie Askew Syndrome is not knowing when to shut the f— up and listen.

Curtis Finch, Jr. — Okay, for me Curtis’ rendition of “Superstar” was the prettiest vocal of the night, with Devin’s running at a close second. The problem with Curtis is that he seems so fundamentally arrogant, and nothing annoys me about arrogant people more than when they pretend they’re actually really humble. When Mariah told him he “didn’t even have to perform for us” considering his voice and musicality spoke for themselves and Curtis gushed “Bless you for that,” what he really meant was “Obviously you are correct.” Church boy is gonna have to tone down the holier-than-though haughtiness. Also, his performance was a bit too orchestrated and fake for my tastes. At some point vocals cease to matter and you need to like the guy under them first. GREAT voice though.

Did you see any potential frontrunners on Thursday? Is Idol saving the best guys for next week? Doubt it!

Follow @EWAnnieBarrett

Read more:

All ‘American Idol’ recaps on EW.com

Zoanette Johnson: Really, ‘American Idol’?! — VIDEO

Mariah Carey gets the Nicki Minaj phone call: A dramatization

‘American Idol’: 12 Wishes for Season 12

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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  • 06/11/02
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  • Simon Fuller
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