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Here at Country Weekly, we’re all about equality. So are the folks at American Idol, of course, though the all-male cast of winners from the show’s last five seasons suggests otherwise for the voting crowd. For season 12, you almost get the sense that Idol producers would just cut the guys out completely if they could in order to have a woman take home the crown. But fair is fair, after all, and so tonight (March 6) the remaining 10 dudes got their turn in front of the judges and America for a chance to move on to the final five.
And yep, we’ve got a country-singing guy in the mix in the form of Palmersville, Tenn., resident Paul Jolley. Tonight, he saddled himself with the rather unenviable task of doing two people’s jobs on the Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton duet “Just a Fool,” and ended up sounding a bit like he was playing two different characters in a theater production. But Paul, who wants to be something like the male Taylor Swift, has nonetheless been blessed with a big, expressive instrument, so there’s room for growth if he gets to move forward. Country judge Keith Urban liked Paul but felt like his performance was a little too cabaret, and wanted him to “ease in” a little more.
Without question, the evening’s standout performance was Curtis Finch Jr.’s impassioned take on R. Kelly’s inspirational hit “I Believe I Can Fly.” He took this one straight to church, singing straight from the gut and injecting the thing with so much hope I doggone near sprouted wings myself. “We just had a sermon in Vegas, baby,” praised Keith. Fellow judge Nicki Minaj went further, saying “This is bigger than American Idol to me. You have a calling on your life to bless people and to do so much good.”
Another impressive moment came courtesy of Devin Velez, who showed of his skills by singing the standard “It’s Impossible” in English and Spanish. Then there was Lazaro Arbos on a swaggering rendition of Nina Simone’s “Feelin’ Good.” Also Burnell Taylor, who nodded to Idol history by singing season three winner Fantasia’s “I’m Here” and still sounding completely like himself.
Vincent Powell also performed well, doing the 1990s prom thing with Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road,” but falling in the last slot after both Curtis and Devin, it lacked a little impact. Tennessee native Nick Boddington sounded comfortable seated at the piano for Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris,” but the fireworks never really happened. And though Elijah Liu was hardly the best singer of the bunch doing Rihanna’s “Stay,” he’s got a Bieber thing going on that’s guaranteed to bring in the votes from the screaming teenage girl contingent.
Less fortunate were Charlie Askew’s unhinged version of Genesis’ “Mama” and Cortez Shaw’s karaoke run through Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.” Charlie might have curried some favor with voters when he tearfully said, “The only reason i smile so much is because I feel like I have to.” But you never know with the Idol voting crowd.
It was a tough one tonight, but here’s who I think is moving on (not necessarily based on performance): Curtis, Devin, Lazaro, Elijah and Burnell. Come back tomorrow evening (March 7) when we find out the results.