• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest
FEB
21
2 YEARS

'American Idol': Five Guys Eliminated in Sudden Death Rounds

Another quintet of hopefuls makes the cut on Thursday's show; meanwhile, Nicki Minaj wants to have Elijah Liu's children.

Chris Watson American Idol - H 2013
FOX
The prettiest man Nicki Minaj has ever seen in her life.

Someday we will all look back on American Idol season 12 as the year when the always-brutal competition show took it one step further with the introduction of the Hunger Games-esque "sudden death" rounds.

On Thursday, Randy Jackson was Head Gamemaker.

The veteran Idol judge, widely mocked for his predictable "yo dawg" commentary, took unexpected and merciless swipes at the 10 guy hopefuls during the live semifinal show in Las Vegas, while Nicki Minaj dropped her Simon Cowell edge to adopt a Paula Abdul-style flirtatious glow toward several singers. 

"I want to have your babies. You're 18 years old, you're my new favorite boy, I'm obsessed with you!," an amusingly goo-goo-gaga Minaj told Elijah Liu, prompting her co-judges to shift uncomfortably in their chairs.

Moving on! WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. The first batch of man-testants leaving Idol, via "sudden death," in no particular order: classy Kevin Harris, chiseled Chris Watson, sparkly Jda, human Ken doll Johnny Keyser and Keith Urban super-fan Jimmy Smith.

And here's who stays (for now): Bruno Mars-esque Liu, soulful Curtis Finch Jr., quirky Charlie Askew, super-talented Devin Velez and sweet Paul Jolley, who was given a spot thanks to the good graces of tie-breaker (and Idol mentor) Jimmy Iovine.

STORY: 'American Idol' Makes First 'Sudden Death' Cuts

The quintet of aspiring hopefuls follow Wednesday's winners Angela Miler, Tenna Torres, Kree Harrison, Adriana Latonio and Amber Holcomb into the top 20. Ten more contestants will join them next week, when the contest airs the gender-divided third and fourth semifinal episodes.

So how did the men fare under the harsh glare of the spotlight, the studio audience and Jackson's evil twin? Let's revisit:

The Winners

Elijah Liu: While his Bruno Mars impression on "Talking to the Moon" didn't live up to the original (few brave souls can out-sing Bruno), Liu's performance turned Minaj into a giddy schoolgirl. "You are a super-duper star little boy. I want to have your babies. You're 18 years old, you're my new favorite boy, I'm obsessed with you. ... I would sign you today!" Meanwhile, the ever-observant Mariah Carey gushed: "I love that you're Mexican and Chinese and I think that's a great combination." 

Curtis Finch, Jr.: This dude can sing anything and, not-shockingly, wowed the panel with his silky (yet dated) rendition of Luther Vandross' "Don't You Remember" cover of The Carpenters' "Superstar." Carey alleged she was moved to (invisible) tears while Urban stroked his perfectly highlighted head of hair, declaring: "I feel thoroughly cleansed of my sins." But Jackson, speaking some sense for the first time in more than a decade, advised Finch, 25, to pick more age-appropriate material.

Devin Velez: The coffeeshop barista from Chicago unleashed a stunning cover of Beyonce's "Listen" and even crooned some of the lyrics in Spanish, a decision Minaj deemed "marketable."

STORY: Keith Urban on 'American Idol' Season 12: 'It's a Girl's Year'

Charlie Askew: This misfit high-schooler is like one of those kids from stage crew who finally decides to try out for the play (and gets the part); he lacks vocal prowess but continues to be a judge favorite. Askew's audacious choice to sing Elton John's "Rocket Man" and then mangle the classic song on stage nonetheless endeared him to the panel, especially Minaj, who raved: "Your weirdness, your awkwardness, it excites me," "I love you so much" and "I want to cradle you in my arms."

Paul Jolley: Rescued by Iovine, Jolley earned low points for over-performing Urban's "Tonight I Want to Cry." We can all agree that the forgettable Jolley's Idol journey won't last for much longer --- but not for lack of singing talent. 

The Losers

Kevin Harris: This all-around class act selected Bryan Adams' "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)," but the treacly pop ballad worked no magic on Jackson, who snapped: "I was bored. It was karaoke." Meanwhile, we were having flashbacks of Kevin Costner playing Robin Hood with an American accent.

Jda: Sadly, the glitter-dusted showman who describes his day job as "I sell luxurious French cosmetics" went home too soon -- in our opinion. Although he's a strong performer, Jda fell flat while attempting to belt Adele's "Rumor Has It." Quoth Jackson, harping on the hopeful's calculated dance moves: "I've felt like I've seen every move 20 million times."

Chris Watson: Groovy and gorgeous, Watson performed "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" -- original, right? -- and Jackson wasn't having it. "The Chris tonight didn't give enough. ... I was bored." Not Minaj. "You are the prettiest man I've seen" in my life," she said. "I want to marry your vibrato."

Jimmy Smith: Jackson's "bored"? We nearly fell asleep during Smith's underwhelming interpretation of Urban's "Raining on Sunday." YAWN.

Johnny Keyser: The repeat Idol auditioner might prevail in the "I look like an Abercrombie model" department, but good genes will only take you so far. Keyser's take on Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up" managed to woo both Carey and Minaj, who called him "masculine and sexy." However, Jackson -- in keeping with his newfound cranky vibe -- felt so-so about it.

So many questions: Do you think the judges make any big mistakes in this round? Which Jackson makes the best judge -- the mean and critical one, or the laid-back and phone-it-in version? (Don't even answer that.) Also: Is anybody else annoyed by the constant hugging?!? Sound off in the comments!

Twitter: @ErinLCarlson

Email: erin.carlson@thr.com