"It's the girls' season to lose," American Idol judge Randy Jackson told host Ryan Seacrest before the Top 10 ladies took the stage Tuesday night. Did they prove him right or wrong?
Tuesday's episode was the first of three Idol shows this week, with the Top 10 guys performing Wednesday and the first elimination based on audience votes, taking place Thursday, when five guys and five girls will be sent home. (But don't be surprised if there's a wild card "twist.") Next week, the remaining finalists will head to the finals.
With possibly the strongest female pool in the show's history, it's going to be a close call for which girls make the cut on Thursday. Here's our rundown of the individual performances on Tuesday:
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Zoanette Johnson: There's no nice way to say it: The most polarizing contestant in the competition kicked off the evening by butchering Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It?," forgetting most of the words and staying generally flat for the majority of the performance. Not to mention, her patterned tights and short denim shorts ensemble was fairly ill-advised. The judges were similarly underwhelmed, with Jackson telling her frankly, "That was a mess." Even resident Nice Judge Mariah Carey couldn't offer much more than, "This wasn't my favorite performance that you've done." Grade: D
Breanna Steer: Breanna's snoozy version of Beyonce's "Flaws and All" was notable mostly for its lack of "moments" (Randy's favorite catchphrase this season). On the judges' panel, Urban and Nicki Minaj seriously disagreed on the performance. Urban praised her song choice, control and poise and told her he had a "sneaky suspicion" she'd be advancing. Minaj, on the other hand, said the song was a complete misfire ("You sounded like you were straining throughout the entire performance") and said she had a "sneaky suspicion" Steer might be sent home after Tuesday's show. Grade: C
Aubrey Cleland: Nerves kept Aubrey a little restrained during the first half of her take on Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry," but as the song went on and she became visibly more comfortable in the stage lights, she let loose a little more and even cracked a smile or two. But anything that she lacked in charisma, she made up for in her vocals. The judges praised her vibrato and the emotional transparency of her voice. "You have multiplatinum potential," Carey told her. Grade: B+
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Janelle Arthur: Though Arthur advanced by the skin of her vocal cords over Rachel Hale last week, her take on Elvis' "If I Can Dream" made quite a good case for her being in the Top 10. Urban and Jackson praised her classic country style, and Minaj, who said she was "a little worried" after Arthur (her "little marshmallow") sang last week, sounded more than a little relieved after her Tuesday performance. "You're back!" Minaj told her. "Best vocal of the night so far." Grade: B
Tenna Torres: Torres took Minaj's advice from last week and changed up her hairstyle for Tuesday's show. It worked, as Minaj told her the new look was "really pretty." But her aesthetic also provoked a brief tete-a-tete at the judges table, with a testy Nicki barking "Shut up, Randy" after Jackson reacted like a schoolboy to Minaj complimenting Tenna's breasts. Though Faith Hill's "Lost" offered plenty of Jackson-approved "moments" (TM) for Tenna, she often sounded like she was straining to make the most of them work, and both Urban and Jackson pointed out that she seemed to get distracted when the camera panned across the stage. Grade: B-
Angie Miller: The artist formerly known as "Angela Miller" returned to piano ballad territory, but this time opted for former Idol contestant Colton Dixon's "Never Gone" as opposed to an original song. Apparently Miller's source material is inconsequential, though, as the 18-year-old cemented herself as one of the frontrunners this season. "It's safe to say there is one vote that is already counted for, as far as the five girls already going through," Minaj said bluntly. "Can I just get your album?" Jackson agreed: "It's like I was at your show. ... You are born to do what you're doing." Grade: A-
Amber Holcomb: Amber tackled Whitney Houston's "I Believe in You and Me," which may have been too ambitious a choice for this stage of the competition. Though she was plagued by nerves for the first verse, Amber soon found her groove and turned the song into a gorgeous tribute to the late singer. The judges gave her a standing ovation afterwards, with Urban praising her "exquisite" tone and Minaj marveling, "Your vocals are surpassing even this competition." Grade: B+
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Kree Harrison: Harrison also chose a Faith Hill song, "Stronger," for an effortless, flawless performance that had Carey applauding before she was even finished and Urban jumping up after it was over. Jackson and Urban both praised Harrison's immense range and told her she'd fit right in among country greats like Patsy Cline and Mindy McCready. Harrison also won the female judges over, with Minaj calling her "my wife" and Carey wondering, "How can you top that?" Grade: A
Adriana Latonio: Adriana gave an impassioned rendition of Destiny's Child's "Stand Up For Love," but though she moved around the stage and didn't hold back when it came back to belting the high notes, something still felt a little off about the performance. The judges thought so too — especially based on the caliber of talent earlier in the night. "After Angie, Amber and Kree, I would suggest that you work a little bit and come back next year," Minaj told her gently. Jackson agreed: "You needed to come in and just slay it and that did not happen. It was actually kind of a little boring." Grade: C
Candice Glover: What's that about saving the best for last? Candice capped off the evening with a pitch-perfect take on John Legend's "Ordinary People." Infusing her stunning vocals with just the right amount of sass and attitude, it's actually frightening to think that Candice will only (presumably) get better as the competition goes on. "That was ridiculous, because you sang notes that people don't even understand how they can fit into a chord," Jackson said. "I'm learning listening to you." But it was perhaps Minaj who most accurately summed up Candice's performance, giving her a wordless critique that consisted of just a salute. Grade: A
What did you think of Tuesday's performances? Which girls are your favorites, and which would you send home? Sound off below!
American Idol returns Wednesday at 8/7c on Fox.