For weeks, the folks at American Idol have been talking about the incredible talent among the female singers on the show in Season 12.
Tonight, the first group of 10 guys get to show they’re worthy as well.
I’ll be grading each performance as it happens right here. After the show, look for a recap highlighting the night’s best and worst. And I’ll post a separate photo gallery of the performances.
Paul Jolley: He’s 22, from Palmersville, Tenn., and dedicated his audition performance to his grandfather, who had passed away shortly beforehand. Interesting, he’s starting things off with a Keith Urban song, “Tonight I Wanna Cry.” His voice soared when he hit the chorus, and he certainly delivered the Idol glory note at the end. But I wasn’t thrilled with the opening of the song. All in all, it was a bit of an uneven performance. And that’s about how the judges’ critiques turned out, too. Grade: B-
Johnny Keyser: Johnny is a 24-year-old from Florida who made it to Vegas last year and was actually considered for a wild card spot. He’s going to sing Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up.” Hey, here’s betting that’s good enough to advance tonight. Johnny started out the song very strong. Really liked the opening. The song slowly built and there were a couple of times when Johnny went off the mark slightly. But all in all, that was a pretty solid performance. The judges give him high marks for his masculinity, OK marks for his voice. Grade: B
Josh “J’DA” Davila: Now comes J’DA, who wants to bring Boy George back to music. Oh, that’s the song he’s singing, “Rumour Has It,” from Adele. Well, J’DA has the judges laughing. He sang part of the song from the floor. He stripped off part of his clothes during the performance. So let’s give him high marks for showmanship. But that was an Adele song, folks. And that vocal was way, way short of Adele. Nicki praises him for the performance. Randy reminds him it’s a vocal competition. The talking goes on and on and on. Bottom line: The singing wasn’t semifinals worthy. Grade C-
Kevin Harris: Hey, he’s a mystery man. I’m pretty sure we haven’t heard Kevin sing yet on Idol. And, yes, he got his Idol nickname — Butter — from Randy, not Nicki — because his voice is smooth as butter. He’s singing “Everything I Do, I Do It For You.” Is this song in the right key? OK, I did not think that vocal was as smooth as butter. Nicki calls it a perfect vocal. Randy says he was bored. I’m siding with Randy on this one. The performance lacked moments and never clicked with me. Grade: C+
Chris Watson: OK, what’s with this outfit. He looks like John Travolta, circa 1978. But he’s not singing disco. He’s going to sing “Sitting On the Dock of the Bay.” Or should I say he’s trying to sing “Sitting On the Dock of the Bay.” That was an absolutely horrendous vocal. Perhaps one of the worst we’ve ever heard on this show. Chris showed charisma, I guess. But this isn’t Charisma Idol. I didn’t even get the feeling he was trying to deliver a great vocal. He seemed more interesting in looking pretty and prancing around the stage. Grade: F
Devin Velez: The 18-year-old from Chicago sings “Listen.” The opening was a little rough, but he found his stride when he slipped into Spanish — a wise choice — and maintained it for the rest of the song, delivering what is arguably the best vocal of the night so far. Love Keith’s critique: Forget the silliness on stage. Just deliver a vocal the way Devin did. Grade: B+
Elijah Liu: Next up is another teen, from California. He’ll tackle Bruno Mars’ “Talking to the Moon.” Unfortunately, he’s not going to build on whatever vocal moment Devin started. If Randy wants to talk about karaoke performances, he just heard one. Keith is absolutely correct again: that was a “shaky” vocal. Nicki calls him marketable because of his pop star look. Randy tells him to make sure he delivers “moments” if he moves through. Grade: C-
Charlie Askew: Charlie’s a hoot. He’s wearing a belt courtesy of J’DA, whom he says he always goes to for fashion advice. Oh, he glorifies weirdness. That explains it. He’s going to sing “Rocket Man.” Well, he’s much more invested in the song than some of the singers we’ve seen tonight. He turns in an OK vocal. It was the feeling he delivered it with that helped save it. And thanks, Charlie, for saving the theatrics until the end. Grade: B-
Jimmy Smith: Here’s a country singer. Hmm, and the second Keith Urban song of the night — “Raining on Sunday.” Wow, how did these guys get this far in the competition? A nice note at the end, but that’s about it. This is another totally forgettable performance. Which is what Nicki and Randy just said. Wow, Nicki actually critiqued with her ears rather than her eyes for perhaps the first time tonight. Grade: C
Curtis Finch: OK, this guy can sing. He’s released a gospel CD, so perhaps we’ll get one really great performance tonight. He’s singing “Don’t You Remember” and taking some unique liberties with it. He’s also hitting some pretty incredible notes, which is a first for tonight. Didn’t love the performance. It was a bit over the top in spots. But on a night of subpar vocals, that sparkled. Grade: B+
Now it’s judgment time. The judges should keep Johnny Keyser, Curtis Finch, Devin Velez, Charlie Askew and … anyone but J’DA, Chris Watson and Elijah Liu. They were quite vocally challenged.
And here we go with the judges’ decisions:
Advancing on Idol: Curtis Finch, Elijah Liu, Paul Jolley (saved by Jimmy), Charlie Askew, Devin Velez
Heading home: Jimmy Smith, Kevin Harris, J’DA, Chris Watson, Johnny Keyser