‘American Idol’ review: Charlie Askew takes over; Devin Velez, Paul Jolley step up

American IdolLet’s give some love to the judges on “American Idol” Thursday night before talking about the actual performances themselves. This panel is really stepping it up! After all the criticism that we’ve handed down to the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler (plus Britney Spears on “The X Factor”), you have to give a little bit of credit now to the likes of Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, and Nicki Minaj for giving some feedback that legitimately helps the singers improve. Do we wish that they showed some bad behavior at times? Sure, but we do love the honesty that is coming from them.

The format here is the same as it was for the ladies, with five out of the ten male singers getting an opportunity to move on to the live voting rounds early next month.

The performances

Paul Jolley – There’s no questioning that the guy lives up to his last name, and there is something about his demeanor that really just makes you want to walk up to him and shake him while jumping up and down. There were some seriously flat notes during his attempt to make Keith Urban happy by singing one of his songs, but overall this was enjoyable.

Johnny Keyser – Why Johnny, why? There are times when we really think that the Derek Hough lookalike will give a great performance, and then there are some issues that drag him down. From this standpoint, this was really all about song choice. Johnny’s “I Won’t Give Up” lacked some of the sparkle of the Jason Mraz original, and while the vocal was okay, we just couldn’t register the emotion that was supposed to be a significant part of it.

JDA – Fierce! For whatever reason, this guy (who is basically Rylan Clark with a better voice) received almost no screentime leading up to this round, and we’re willing to play the conspiracy card here to an extent that for whatever reason, they did not want this guy and his fabulousness to advice. We absolutely loved this take on “Rumour Has It.” It wasn’t the best vocal, but the stage and the style was thoroughly entertaining.

Kevin Harris – We get why Nicki Minaj really liked this performance: Kevin seemed to be a pretty good guy, and he sang this performance of Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” from the heart. Unfortunately, there were also a score of other problems here, beginning with the fact that the song felt too pleading, there’s no personality behind the “nice guy,” and we just cannot imagine what else he really has to give to this competition.

Chris Watson – Chris is the guy we saw about 20 times during Hollywood week with his enchanting mane and penchant for headbands, but we really did not have much of an idea at all just who the guy was. As it turns out, he’s a pretty entertaining bloke, and we like the fact that two out of the ten guys seem to really be big-time entertainers and not just guys with sad stories who are interested in singing ballads. With that being said, why not pick a more exciting song?

Oh, and we loved Nicki’s comment that she wants to “marry his vibrato.”

Devin Velez – Wait, Devin is only 18 years old? There’s just something about his voice that is so mature. This guy was one of the Hollywood Week darkhorses, and we gotta give him some serious credit for taking on Beyonce’s “Listen” and biting at the temptation to over-sing. Not only that, but the Spanish in here was a nice touch, mostly because it was not preceded with some ridiculous monologue about how important it was.

Elijah Liu – Okay, this kid is trying way too hard to be Justin Bieber. Want to know something crazy? He’s the same age as Devin! We don’t want to say that Elijah did a bad job with this performance (as he was pretty strong), but this just isn’t our vocal cup of tea. These sort of singers, unless your first name happens to be Justin, don’t really have that long of a shelf life.

Charlie Askew – This was, in the words of Nicki, the weirdest song choice of the night. “Rocket Man” is a song that we find to be strangely emotional, and we were feeling this with just about every note. We don’t necessarily care that he is a bit of a ham, mostly because it allows us an opportunity to have someone who is not like anyone we’ve ever seen on the show before. One piece of advice, though: don’t talk so much during the judges’ feedback in the future. It’s their turn. (Except for Randy, you can talk all you want to there.)

Jimmy Smith – The country crooner came on the stage in an attempt to follow up Charlie’s insanity, and that is a pretty hard thing to do. The biggest problem that he had was strictly that the background singers seemed to drown him out for a good half of the song. This is still the sort of singer that makes Nigel Lythgoe quiver in his boots, though, as he’s the sort of guy that could garner huge votes in country markets and be yet another white guy winner.

Curtis Finch Jr. – There’s no doubt that Curtis is a stellar singer, and he on the basis of that alone he is probably going to stick around for quite a while. But is he really someone that is likable all of the time? That is the question we struggle to wrap our heads around that well after his cockiness during Hollywood Week (though this could have been the result of the interviewers egging him on behind the scenes). This sure doesn’t hurt him now, but it could during the live voting rounds.

The results

Personally, the five we would have sent through were Devin, Paul, Charlie, Curtis, and Jimmy. Did we get it right? Mostly. Just like the night before, we got 80% of our picks through to the next round. The only shocker to us was that Jimmy was sent home and Elijah stayed in the competition for a little while longer. Is this the show being afraid of the country vote? Paul did stay, but he is a little bit more mainstream.

We are a little confused about the split decision on Paul. If Jimmy had said “no” here, was there a backup person for Jimmy to consider? Otherwise, we just have four singers advancing.

Who was your favorite singer during the audition show this week, and do you think the judges made the right decision? Be sure to share some more of your thoughts with a comment below, and you can read about how the women fared by heading on over to the link here.

Photo: Fox


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