Randy Jackson said Tuesday that this season is a "girls' year" on American Idol — but not if the Top 10 guys have anything to say about it. Taking the stage for their performances on Wednesday's show, the male semifinalists showed that they, too, are a force to be reckoned with. While the guys' group lacks standouts like Kree Harrison and Candice Glover from the girls, most of the male singers are delivering solid B-worthy performances and can hold their own.
Wednesday was the final night of performances before the first viewer vote elimination, which will take place Thursday. Five girls and five guys will be sent home (but Jackson made a cryptic comment on Wednesday night that indicated a wild card or two might be in store). Here's a rundown of the Top 10 guys, so read on to see how each one did — and who had a near-meltdown:
Elijah Liu: Clearly playing up his heartthrob status ("I'm single and available"), Elijah nevertheless proved he's more than just a pretty face with a heartfelt rendition of Rihanna's "Stay." Nicki Minaj praised his marketability, while Jackson said the performance "never left first gear." Mariah Carey agreed with Jackson but still called it "one of [Elijah's] better performances" and noted, "Your relevancy is your strongest point." Grade: B
Cortez Shaw: Shaw turned Bruno Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven" into a fun song and dance number, showing off some fancy footwork and generally seeming to have fun with the upbeat number. Minaj noted that Shaw got his "mojo" back from the previous week but criticized his denim vest and khaki pants ensemble, saying "I want to see you look sexier." Hold the phone — isn't this a singing competition?? Grade: B+
Charlie Askew: The guys' resident (self-described!) weirdo sported a peach fuzz mustache and again referenced his fanbase of "awkward turtles" before offering an angry, intense rendition of Genesis' "Mama." Charlie is one of the more interesting contestants because of his quirkiness, but unfortunately this is a singing competition and his vocal talent lends itself better to a dramatic karaoke night than a nationally televised singing competition. The judges gave Askew "an earful" (Carey's word) after the performance, with Urban saying it felt "disingenuous," Jackson calling it "terrible," and his biggest champion Minaj asking, "Where's my little baby at? I don't know what happened. ... I'm upset." She wasn't the only one, either — a tearful Askew seemed to be barely holding it together after the critique, and essentially told Ryan Seacrest his typical smiley demeanor is all an act before rushing off the stage. Singing aside, it doesn't seem as if he has the emotional fortitude to keep advancing in the competition. Grade: D
Nick Boddington: Boddington was back at the piano on Wednesday for a soft take on the Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" that was snoozy at times, strained and others, and failed to showcase his full range. Keith Urban called the performance "beautiful" but acknowledged that he felt Nick was "really nervous in certain spots." Jackson, similarly, said it wasn't Nick's best effort but was still a "good, solid performance." Grade: C+
Burnell Taylor: Taylor chose to revisit his audition song — Idol alum Fantasia Barrino's "I'm Here" — and was solid vocally, but his hand gestures throughout the song felt forced and rehearsed. The judges loved it though, with Urban saying "I believe every part of you" and Minaj telling him, "You are one of a kind. You were born to do this." Grade: B+
Paul Jolley: Jolley, who says he wants to be "the guy version of Taylor Swift," was saved from elimination last week only because of Jimmy Iovine's tiebreaking vote, but proved that he definitely deserves a place in the Top 10. He looked totally natural on stage while singing Christina Aguilera's "Just a Fool" — and he's pretty easy on the eyes, too. Minaj and Carey both praised the performance, but deferred to "authentic country star" (quoth Minaj) Urban, who questioned Paul's believability up on stage and encouraged him to give in to his voice a little more. Grade: B+
Lazaro Arbos: Arbos' charming backstory — a chronic stutterer who had to overcome bullying and social ostracism — is heartbreaking and inspiring, but likability will only take him so far in the competition. Fortunately for the fan favorite, his performance of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" brought the house down. Though strained at times, it was definitely an improvement over his effort last week. Carey noted that some of the notes felt out of his range, but Urban praised the way Arbos "connect[s] with everybody." While it's unlikely he'll end up as one of the last men standing, he definitely deserves to survive another week. Grade: B
Curtis Finch: Finch has an almost off-putting level of confidence, made somewhat more irritating by the fact that he has the vocal chops to justify it. He got an immediate standing ovation from the judges panel after performing R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly," complete with an "I'm not worthy" hand wave by Minaj. "We just had a sermon in Vegas!" an exuberant Urban told him. Seems like people will be worshipping at the Church of Finch for the next few weeks at least. Grade: A-
Devin Velez: Velez did a half-English, half-Spanish version of "It's Impossible" that was strong vocally, but a little too old-fashioned when compared to the likes of Elijah. The judges were swayed, however, with Carey praising Velez's "effortless" delivery and potential international appeal. Sure, he can slay a Perry Como song, but we'd love to see Devin take on a modern R&B hit or something more up-tempo to showcase his full range. Grade: B+
Vincent Powell: Vincent may have foreshadowed his own fate with a breathy and occasionally off-key take on Boyz II Men's "End of the Road." He punctuated the end of the song with a few wails and runs, but staying on point for the rest of the performance probably would have served him better. "Nerves got on top of you tonight," Urban told him. "There were undeniable moments of brilliance," Carey told him, but Jackson said flatly, "It just wasn't your best performance. ... You overshot it a little bit." Grade: B-
So what did you think? Is it still definitely a "girls' year" on Idol? Which guys should be sent to the finals and which ones should be sent home? Sound off below!
American Idol returns Thursday at 8/7c on Fox.