Welcome to another bloated edition of American Idol
. Just like last week, this week will see 10 girls and 10 guys take the stage in Las Vegas to sing their hearts out for a chance to make it farther in the competition. This installment is all about the ladies, as 10 female vocalists get narrowed down to five.
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Your usual recapper Bill King is out this week and I'm filling in. Now I have a shocking American Idol confession: I haven't watched this show in a long time. Like, Paula Abdul long. Does Randy Jackson still say "dawg" all the time? Because I feel like that's the only American Idol constant.
I'm confessing with the hope you'll go easy on me. Recapping this two-hour American Idol is going to be like running a marathon when you haven't even mastered the sprint.
Apparently the tagline for this sudden-death round is "One Song, One Shot, No Mercy", which sounds like the tagline for a Vin Diesel movie. It could also be the tagline for the Mad Max movie Nicki Minaj is starring in at all times in her mind. Who knows?
The point is, the contestants are being judged on only one song by the panel of judges, instead of by America. Take that democracy!
If we were going to do a sudden death style competition, I'd rather it be Celebrity Death Match-style instead of whatever this is. The show reminds us the girls can sing any song they choose and play any instrument they fancy. Which means we can expect to hear a whole lot of deliberating on song choices tonight.
Who will impress us and who will weird us out? Who will pick the exact wrong song for their vocal register? Who knows! (Really, I don't.) So let's get into the show!
Melinda Ademi Kicks Off The Night
Melinda Ademi is the first up! She's tried this whole crazy American Idol thing before back in season 10, when we found out she came from a family of refugees She says she wasn't ready then but now, at the very ancient age of 19, she's prepared for AI.
Keith Urban thinks she has raw talent, despite her nerves. Nicki mentions Angela sang the same song last week and she was much better. Ouch! Perhaps Melinda shouldn't have picked a song someone else already sang? Nicki points out this was also the second time Melinda sang a Jessie J song. Randy Jackson doesn't think she had enough big moments or that she had a big enough range.
Randy seems to think she might be in trouble tonight. Mariah Carey is really gentle with her criticism, writing off the performance to nerves. Mariah, dude, this is sudden death. It's no time to be touchy feely. The word "death" is in the title.
Candice Glover Makes Us Feel Like a Natural Woman
Candice reminisces about getting cut last year in Vegas. She has a lot to prove, mostly that she belongs with everyone else. She sings "Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin and really belts it out of the park. Keith Urban actually gives her a standing ovation as she kills the final note.
Keith mentions it was the exact right song choice for her. Then he starts singing his criticism, which seems a little much. This is the contestants time, Keith. If I wanted to listen to you sing I would go to a concert.
Nicki is amazed Candice didn't make it past Vegas last year and says she has one of the strongest voices in the competition. Randy thinks Candice has grown since, but thinks this song wasn't her best performance. Randy says the star in her is her voice. (So far, not one "dawg". This show really has changed!) Mariah Carey asks if the arrangement was Candice's idea, and of course it was.
Juliana Chahayed Sings a Stripped Down Skyscraper
Juliana is 15-years-old and even writes her own song. Her family seems really adorable, especially her dad who sings in Arabic. Her staging is very simple and intimate. It's only Juliana, a spotlight, and her guitar. She sings a very interesting, very stripped down version of Demi Lovato's song "Skyscraper".
Keith Urban says she seemed nervous. Nicki appreciates she has her own kind of style, but thinks she does seem a little too timid. She says it works for her vocal style, but isn't sure how it will pan out in the competition Randy loves the honestly of her delivery and really liked her performance. Mariah wrote down the word "celestial".
Also if you wanted to play your own Idol drinking game, chug when you hear the number 15 because every single one of the judges mentions her age. Randy does some kind of awkward joke about how Ryan Seacrest couldn't have sung on stage when he was 15, but I'm pretty sure Ryan was born with a microphone in his hand, so the jokes' on you Randy.
Jett Hermano Tickles the Ivories
In her pre-performance video package we find out Jett left her academic scholarship to pursue music, because she knew it was her real passion. For her song she chooses a very cool, stripped down version of Rihanna's "Only Girl (In the World)" while playing a grand piano. It's slower than the Rihanna version, while still maintaining a lot of the song's pop catchiness.
Keith loved the unique arrangement of the song and likes that she made it her own. He thought she brought out a sexiness in the song. Nicki also liked the arrangement but she never felt like she was waiting for a big finish that never came.
Randy wanted to see her rock it out on stage and was disappointed. But Keith disagrees and likes the stripped down quality to the song. Judge fight! Mariah thinks there's something different about her. Man, Mariah's feedback is absolutely useless isn't it?
Cristabel Clack Belts Her Heart Out
Cristabel talks to Ryan Seacrest about almost giving up on Idol. She's a mom of three children and mentions the importance of her family. She's spent time touring with a famous gospel band, so she knows the ropes and it shows in her performance.
Cristabel belts out "No One" by Alicia Keys and apparently her outfit theme of the night is bows. So many bows. There are bows all over her sweater, plus she has a huge bedazzled bow on her skirt. She finishes off the song with a crazy vocal run that has Keith and Randy on their feet. Nicki looks like she's napping at the desk though.
Keith absolutely loves her voice. He loves the "soul, croaky, cool thing in there" which makes it sound like there's a monster living in her vocal chords. Nicki beatboxes into the mic but thinks Cristabel's rasp is getting out of control.
Meanwhile, Randy loved her performance and loves the rasp. Drinking game word for this performance is "rasp". Mariah thinks Cristabel should do what she does best and then weirdly makes everything about background singers. Thanks Mariah.
Aubrey Cleland Gets Glam
Aubrey's opening package is pretty basic and focuses on how she moved out to California to focus on music. Her look is very glamorous, which makes sense because she's singing Queen Bey herself. She changed the arrangement of Beyonce's "Beautiful Nightmare" to be much slower, which seems like the general theme tonight.
Keith is loving Aubrey's balance of poise and fire. Poise and Fire would be a great name for an 80s hair metal band, so I'm writing that down somewhere.
Meanwhile, Nicki is obsessed with her. She says it in this intense way that freaks me out. Watch out Aubrey, I think Nicki is hitting on you. Nicki liked the way she sang the song in a rich texture with a lower vocal register. Nicki is also really obsessed with Aubrey's look.
Actually obsession is the theme of this performance, because Randy is also obsessed with everyone. Are Randy's jokes always this awkward? I miss the "dawgs". Randy thinks Aubrey would make a great commercial artist and says she's the whole complete package. Nicki and Randy are going to get into a fight for Aubrey's love, I just feel it. Mariah Carey seems drunk.
Rachel Hale Prays For Confidence
Rachel is from a small town where they're currently thrilled about their second stop light. She's a songwriting major, so we know she's serious about music. She comes out and sings an obscure country song and really has fun with the performance. While most of the songs tonight have been pretty slow (or pop songs made into ballads) Rachel kicks it up a notch and really does show off that prayed-for confidence.
Keith felt the song got on top of her in some parts but liked her spirit. Nicki wants to know where the burst of crazy confidence came from. Rachel says she's been praying for it, which turns into the whole judging panel taking the prayer thing and running it into the ground. Our drinking game song for this performance is "prayer".
Nicki says her little ladybug came alive on stage. Randy was happy to hear an up-tempo song after all the ballads tonight. Mariah talks about Rachel's smile for so long I just assume nothing musical will be mentioned, but eventually she weighs in that Rachel's impressed more in other performances.
Breanna Steer Busts The Windows
Breanna's area in Louisiana was wiped out by Hurricane Isaac. As someone who was in New Orleans (on vacation!) during Isaac, I really feel for her in a visceral way. She says it's turned her into a stronger person, and she's certainly a strong singer.
She slinks out to sing "Bust Your Windows," which was made most popular by the first season of Glee when Amber Riley killed it. In her all black ensemble, she kind of looks like a sexy cat burglar. She certainly has the attitude of the song down, and she really wails on the final note.
Keith might have PTSD because he's had some windows busted out of his car in the past. He really liked her vibe and seems a little afraid of her now. Nicki apparently likes to call people ladybugs. Is that even a term of endearment? Our new drinking game term is "ladybug", I apologize for any alcohol poisoning.
Nicki loves her so much she wants Breanna and Aubrey to form a girl group. Nicki thinks she performed like an artist at her own show. Randy Jackson also says he would sign her right away and thinks she's a great artist who understands her strengths. Apparently if you can scare Keith and get Nicki to hit on you, you're doing pretty well. Mariah loves everything and uses the word marketable.
Janelle Arthur Goes Country
Janelle is a country girl inspired by the great Dolly Parton. You know she's a country girl because she's sporting cowboy boots and crazy fringe on her shirt. Janelle, we get you're country from the Lady Antebellum song. You didn't have to go overboard with the fringe. Fringe is not a look anyone really needs to be bringing back.
Her voice sounds like it's being really strained by this song. Certainly not the strongest performance of the night by far, despite how much the judges seem to adore her.
Keith thinks it was a limiting song and the melody kept pulling her back down. He thinks it wasn't the right song choice to show off what she can do. Nicki thought it felt a little bit flat, even though she was looking forward to her performance. She thought Janelle might have been nervous or disconnected and is bummed she didn't really deliver
Despite all that, Nicki still thinks Janelle's a star, but advises her not to try too hard. Randy says Janelle is his favorite country performer in the competition, but agrees it was a bad song choice. Mariah is also still a fan and agrees the song was wrong. Our drinking game word for this performance is "song choice".
Zoanette Johnson, Queen of the Jungle, Takes Us Home
Zoanette is originally from Liberia and fled with her family during the civil war. She chooses to sing "Circle of Life" from The Lion King and it makes me want to go and hang out with Simba. Plus Mufasa only wishes he had hair as awesome as Zoanette's. Her voice is extremely strong and it's an interesting choice in a night full of slowed down pop ballads.
Pretty much everyone jumps up and gives her a standing ovation, which is certainly a good sign. All she needed was a baby lion to hold up and I think the whole crowd would have bowed to her. Way to bring down the house!
Keith loves that he has no clue what she'll do next, then calls her the queen of the jungle. Nicki gets emotional because of Zoanette's background coming from nothing. Nicki also says she's unforgettable and then thanks her.
I think Zoanette is totally a shoo-in. Always go with Disney songs, it works every time. (I have no idea if that's true in Idol-land, but it's certainly true in my heart.) Randy says Zoanette just showed America why she's on the show, while Mariah thinks her spirit is too big to be contained. I think she's a pretty safe bet to move on.
Who Stays and Who Goes?
No split decisions this time, the judges apparently worked it out by themselves. Suprising absolutely no one, Zoanette Johnson is the first one to be chosen.
Melinda Ademi is sent packing and even Melinda seems to have seen this one coming. Mariah Carey is surprisingly good at the breakup conversation though.
Next up is Juliana Chahayed and her vocal style isn't really Idol's style so she's sent packing. Poor Juliana. 15! Never forget. (The show never lets you because everyone mentions her age about 20 times even as she leaves.)
Aubrey Cleland is up next and we all know Nicki is absolutely obsessed with her so it's no surprise she gets sent through, although Nicki fakes her before she can take her seat.
Up next is she of many bows, Cristabel Clack. Sadly they don't send her through, with Randy saying it wasn't her best performance. Candice Glover is on the chopping block next and makes it through to the next round. "How do you feel?" Mariah asks her. Sadly Candice doesn't reply "like a natural woman!"
Now it's time to fill those final two spots and Jett Hermano is up next. While she made great artistic choices, her voice and ascetic just wasn't right for Idol. After Jett is Breanna and judging by how much Randy and Nicki love her, it's not a shock she makes it into the final round to form her girl band with Aubrey.
Last stool and it's down to Janelle Arthur and Rachel Hale, the two country sweethearts. Rachel doesn't make it but Janelle goes through, which judging only by tonight's show kind of surprises me. Out of the two performers, I thought Rachel's performance tonight was actually much stronger.
So what did you think? Did your favorites make it or were they cut? Would you like to be one of Nicki's ladybugs or does she scare you? Share in the comments!