On Wednesday night, it was the boys' turn to try and woo the American public. In the past, many male American Idol contestants have coasted along on the wave of easily enamored teenage girls. But there aren't many contenders for the preteen demographic this American Idol season, save for Elijah Liu. Elijah, whose face Nicki Minaj is already envisioning plastered over anything with a flat surface, had a lot to prove after the judges made such a spectacle over him last week. After all, the American Idol judges also made a big deal over Zoanette Johnson and we all know how that turned out.
Elijah performed "Stay," by Rihanna and Mariah Carey's and Nicki's comments illustrated that it isn't so much the quality of his vocals but his image that they are most excited about. Nicki repeated what she said the previous week about Elijah being marketable while Mariah added that his relevancy was his strongest point. As helpful as his relevancy may be, the fact that teenage girls will adore him will likely be his greatest asset this season.
You have to give Cortez Shaw credit for trying very hard, too hard, in fact, to appeal to that same demographic. But Cortez is no Elijah, as Nicki so tactfully pointed out after his performance of, "Locked Out of Heaven," by Bruno Mars, when she insulted his outfit and suggested that he work with Elijah's stylist. Later, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest helpfully pointed out that Cortez styled himself, since the contestants don't get stylists until they make the Top 10. No doubt Cortez was really happy Ryan pointed that out to the millions of viewers.
While Cortez may not have quite the same appeal as Elijah to the target American Idol demographic, none of the other male contestants are even in the race. True, there are others with significant talent but it's worth noting that America doesn't have a token "boy with his guitar" this year. Which in some ways is refreshing but honestly, Wednesday night could have really used a Phil Phillips moment. Every day is better with a Phil Phillips moment.
In place of a Phil Phillips moment, viewers were given a Charlie Askew moment and it's not one they'll soon forget. Charlie came out on stage in a camo tank top, with a ponytail and feather earring to perform, "Mama," by Genesis. Nothing worked for Charlie throughout the course of the song, but it was during the critiques that he really began to suffer. Keith Urban said that he seemed disingenuous while Nicki lamented that she felt as though somebody stole her kid. It was at that moment that producers probably should have intervened since Charlie's composure started to crack. Almost on the verge of tears, he explained that he was angry and just needed to vent a little bit. Going on to say that he only smiles to hide what he's really feeling. Ryan did his best to console a visibly disturbed Charlie but let's face it, Charlie needs more than an on-camera pep talk from a television personality.
If American Idol can't be counted on to do the right thing and not exploit Charlie, let's hope America gets it right and puts an end to Idol's irresponsible and careless charade.
Many of the other male contestants struggled to manufacture some kind of moment but were forced to settle for middle of the road. Nick Boddington, returned to his "piano man" roots and sang,"Iris," by the Goo Goo Dolls. Keith thought it was a perfect song choice but Randy and Nicki were more tepid with their feedback. Mariah went on to deliver her specialty: Word salad. At this point the sound guys have taken a page from the Oscars and eventually just drown her out with music. Can we nominate American Idol for an Emmy in Outstanding Sound Editing?
Paul Jolley is one of those contestants that you really want to like and then he says things like, "I want to be the guy version of Taylor Swift. If that's what you want from me." Yeah Paul, we're all clamoring for a male version of Taylor. Way to identify the real hole in the market. His apropos song choice was, "Just a Fool." It wasn't a terrible performance...so much for being like Taylor.
Devin Velez targeted his Latino niche by performing another bilingual song. Keith thought his rendition of "Somos Novios," by Andrea Bocelli started off shaky but the rest of the panel had all good things to say – including Nicki who said he was looking like a Spanish Ken doll. Then there was Lazaro Arbos, who was looking like a cross between a Cuban Ken Doll and Don Johnson with his white blazer and hot pink shirt. Lazaro gave a solid performance of Michael Buble's, "Feelin' Good," prompting Randy to declare that Lazaro was, "it it to win it."
Vincent Powell elected to sing "End of the Road," by Boyz to Men. Obviously, Vincent doesn't have a superstitious bone in his body otherwise he would have picked something like, "And I Tell You I'm Not Going." Unfortunately, Vincent's song choice may have been a foreshadowing of the results show since all the judges agreed that he failed to achieve the greatness they claimed to see during the "Sudden Death" performances.
Two contestants who certainly didn't let he judges down on Wednesday were Burnell Taylor and Curtis Finch, Jr. Burnell opted to perform the song from his original audition, "I'm here," from the Color Purple. Nicki said that Burnell was ":one of a kind" and "born to do this" and the others agreed. But no one excited the panel more than Curtis, whose rendition of, "I Believe I Can Fly," not only got a standing ovation but single-handedly transformed a panel of music professionals into televangelists, as they all attributed Curtis's talent to a higher power while simultaneously praising God and Curtis.
Time for some predictions! Although this was a much harder one to call than the girls, the top five boys, in no particular order will likely be:
- Elijah Liu
- Burnell Taylor
- Curtis Finch, Jr.
- Lazaro Arbos
- Devin Velez
What are your thoughts on Curtis? Did you feel the heavens open up like the judges or do you agree with your trusted writer who felt it was predictable and indulgent? Share your opinions in the comments section!