There were a few things you kept hearing Thursday night (Feb. 21) on "American Idol." Nicki Minaj kept making comments about how good looking or obsessed she was with this or that contestant. Randy Jackson kept disagreeing with the judges to his right (Minaj and Keith Urban). One-fifth the songs performed were made famous by Urban. And everybody kept reminding us that it was "Vegas, baby!" That being said, "American Idol" embarked on its second evening of Sudden Death cuts, this time around for the guys. And by night's end, five more were sent through, five more finalists were sent home.
Minaj has become the judge to watch, far overshadowing her fellow rookie judges with her extemporaneous free-word associative ramblings that has others on the panel (and viewers at home, most likely) laughing and wondering what she's talking about half the time. But she's entertaining. And before the two hours was up Thursday evening, Minaj had wanted to marry one contestant, cradle another in her arms, and have the babies of another.
She's toned down her wardrobe and amped up her verbal eccentricities. Apparently creativity needs an outlet...
But those that didn't make it included: Johnny Keyser, the returning contestant from Season 11; JDA, whose over-the-top rendition of Adele's "Rumour Has It" had the audience screaming but had the judges decrying performance over singing (also the first time the excuse that it was Las Vegas was used); Kevin Harris, whose high-pitched Bryan Adams cover might have been a winner had he not wanted to extend vocal runs at the end of his lines; Chris Watson, a bringer of karaoke Otis Redding with a pair of black pants wrapped around his head (finally sent home despite Minaj's constant trumpeting of his talent, which viewers never saw); and Jimmy Smith, who you knew was going home about halfway through the first verse of Keith Urban's cover of Radney Foster's "Raining On Sunday."
But, then, there was the borderline guy, the finalist that needed Jimmy Iovine's tie-breaker vote -- Paul Jolley. (One has to wonder, though, how that decision was actually made with only one judges tie, because if Iovine had not sent Jolley through, that would have left only four to be sent through to the Top 20. Somehow, it appeared fabricated, a bit of false and unnecessary drama for the cameras.) It also doesn't spell well for Jolley's future on the show in the coming live shows.
The other four male contestants that joined the five girls from Wednesday night's Sudden Death round were:
Devin Velez performed Beyonce's "Listen" and wowed the judges. In the reveal, they left him and Johnny Keyser as the last two to choose from to fill the fifth vacancy. But given Velez' critiques, there was little doubt he was getting the nod.
Elijah Liu sounded like a Bruno Mars clone when he sang the R&B singer's "Talking To The Moon." Just on his vocals alone, he deserved to move ahead -- and he did.
Charlie Askew was pure entertainment set in the extreme awkwardness of eccentricity and adolescence. He did a sometimes brilliant, sometimes not-so-smooth vocal of Elton John's "Rocket Man." But his on stage moves were much akin to a child learning to do something new. And like the parent rooting for the child to complete the act, a viewer cannot find the will to negatively criticize. Neither could the judges.
And Curtis Finch Jr. powered through another song, laying down his gospel vibe on Delaney and Bonnie's "Superstar." His vocals are a testament to control. The problem is: He reminds you of Carlton Banks (the character on "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air") trying to impress. It's almost an exaggeration in action. But his singing was what mattered.
With two nights of Sudden Death down and ten places in the Top 20 filled, "American Idol" is set for the second half of the round. And if the second two nights in any way follow the course of the first two, America might be witnessing the countdown to the first female "American Idol" winner since Jordin Sparks in 2007.
But that remains to be seen...
"American Idol" returns on Feb. 27 and 28 to complete the Sudden Death Round and fill up the Top 20. Those twenty will face the viewing audience's votes to see who stays or who goes home.
"American Idol" airs on Fox Television at 8 p.m. (EST) on Wednesdays and Thursdays.