American Idol Review: The Balladiers

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It's another Sudden Death round tonight on American Idol. The first 10 of the Top 20 guys will have their chance to perform for the judges and at the end of the night, only 5 of them will be left standing. Or sitting, actually. In those really uncomfortable stool-chairs.

What wacky things will Nicki say? Will the judges need Jimmy to help them break a tie? Let's find out now...

Chris Watson in Vegas

Starting the night, Paul Jolley from Palmersville, Tennessee sings to honor his late grandfather. He takes a giant risk and takes on Keith Urban's "Tonight I Wanna Cry." It's a bit slow to be the first song of the night and he seems to struggle a little in some of his bigger, upper notes. Keith thanks Paul for singing one of his songs and says if he gets to go through, he doesn't have to push too hard. Nicki said other performances of his have wowed her more than tonight and he has a problem with over-performing. Randy calls his decision to sing a Keith Urban song risky and says he has a great range and has great potential as an artist. Mariah agreed with Randy. My vote: Paul's on the short list to go home, in part because he went first and also because it wasn't fantastic.

Former Idol contestant Johnny Keyser feels that getting cut in last year's Vegas round has propelled him to this moment. He sings "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz. It's boring and he tries to eye-sex the camera. It's a terrible song choice because it shows no range at all and the only interesting part was the bridge. Keith stumbled to find words but said this was the best Johnny has sounded but seemed nervous. Nicki said he looks "real sexy" tonight and seemed relaxed when he took the stage. She doesn't think he has the greatest voice but thinks the girls will like his look. Randy called tonight "okay" and remarked that there were no moments in the performance. Mariah rambled for 60 seconds and said something kind of unintelligible about not wanting to upset her husband by saying that Johnny's bringing masculinity. My vote: Johnny doesn't make it past Vegas. Again.

JDA is the star of his own life and is choosing his own path to happiness. He channeled his inner Adele with "Rumor Has It." I'm not sure he blinked during the entire performance, which was theatrical and had the judges enthralled, start to finish. The singing was...okay? Keith commended him for putting on a show and applauds his originality, but felt like JDA got lost in the theatricality of the performance. Nicki said that no matter what, he's a superstar and an organic performer but his vocals tonight weren't great. Randy echoed Nicki. He's a great performer but he gets lost in his motions and doesn't focus on the vocals. Mariah didn't think he wavered vocally and was fantastically confident. My vote: JDA gets another week. Barely.

Kevin Harris, nicknamed "Butter" during his audition because of his smooth voice, chooses Bryan Adams "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)." Vocally, this is the best performance of the night. He doesn't strain to hit notes and the vocals aren't overdone. While I wish he'd chosen a different song, his performance was flawless. Keith thought it was a really good song choice. Nicki said everything he did tonight was "perfection." Randy was bored and wished he'd chosen a different song. Mariah said it's obvious he's a born singer but also wishes he'd chosen a different song. My vote: Jimmy will get called in on this one and will keep Kevin around.

25 year old Dover, Delaware native Chris Watson hopes the tables will turn for him and he'll go from earning tips to leaving them. He picks Otis Redding's "(Sittin On) The Dock of the Bay" and butchers it. I can't tell if he's trying to make it rock or R&B but there are weird runs and dropped syllables and while he works the stage that's all that works. Keith said this isn't a singing competition. It's a connection competition. Chris' voice wasn't great but he connected with the audience. Nicki said she wants to marry Chris' vibrato and she loves everything about him. Randy loved his vibe but didn't think he took the song anywhere. Mariah was surprised by the song choice and thought this wasn't his best vocal performance. She loves him anyway. My vote: Nicki's love won't be enough to save him.

Devin Velez is a student and barista. He sings Beyonce's "Listen." He has a really nice lower register and a really strong voice with great tone. He switches into Spanish part of the way through the song and bobbles just a bit when he starts singing in English again, almost like he got lost in the words of the song and emotion of the moment. Which is okay. Keith said he used his voice to connect with the audience. Nicki said he did an amazing job singing the song and said he made a smart choice to sing part of the song in Spanish. Randy thought it was amazing and loved the arrangement. Mariah cautioned him against critiquing himself at the end of his performance. My vote: Devin's sticking around.

The fifth of six children, Elijah Liu is a ladies man. He targets those ladies with Bruno Mars' "Talking to the Moon." His vocals are a little rocky, but he reminds me of Justin Beiber. If America were voting right now, he would be around. However, the judges get the final say. Keith complimented him on his song choice and thanked him for choosing something current and relevant and for presenting himself as a pop star. Nicki said she wants to have his babies. Randy said there were no moments in the song, but they like him. Mariah disagreed with Randy and said he had two distinct moments but agreed with everyone else regarding his marketability. My vote: Elijah will stay because they like him.

Charlie Askew went to JDA for fashion advice and used a golf club to practice holding a microphone. He sings Elton John's "Rocket Man" and he starts off strong but gets a little lost in his choreography and his voice cracks and falters. Nicki gives him a standing ovation. Keith calls him Freddie Mercury's Woodstock love child, which is maybe the most apt description we've heard of him yet. Nicki said this was the best song choice of the night. Randy said his originality makes him lovable but thought the performance was over-staged. Mariah said she lives for the song choice but said he's done other things better in previous performances. My vote: Nicki will fight hard for him and will lose.

Jimmy Smith, like Kree Harrison, has also been performing on the Nashville bar circuit. He also takes on a Keith Urban song, "Raining on Sunday." He's pure country, that's for sure, and it works for him. He's got a great voice that is well suited to his chosen genre. Keith thanked Jimmy for covering a song that he himself covered. Nicki said she was bored. Randy said it wasn't great. Mariah said it wasn't his best vocal but there's still something about him that America should be able to see. My vote: I would keep him. They'll probably send him home.

Closing out the night, Curtis Finch, Jr. sings Luther Vandross. He's proud of his lower register. And his swag. He has definitely studied at the Joshua Ledet School of Performing on American Idol. Keith called it beautiful, if over-performed. Nicki said he raises the bar every time he steps on stage. Randy said he's "unparalleled" in the competition and has to make sure he keeps it young if he moves forward. Mariah was moved to tears by his performance and hopes he'll relax a little in the future. My vote: He's safe.

And now it's time for Sudden Death.

Curtis Finch, Jr. gets called back first to learn his fate. Nicki tells him to quit acting like he doesn't think he'll make it through. He's safe. Jimmy Smith is up next. Randy says this is torture for them but he's going home.

Kevin Harris sends love to Kevin's children and says he won't be going through. Elijah Liu, father of Nicki's future children, is staying.

JDA gets word from Nicki that he'll be going home despite his unique and talented personality.

The judges couldn't decide Paul Jolley's fate so Jimmy Iovine steps in to help them out. After saying his performance was like Keith Urban singing Phantom of the Opera, he saves Paul.

Chris Watson's Idol career ends tonight. Charlie Askew stays for another round. 

The final two guys are Johnny Keyser and Devin Velez. Nicki says they should both be proud of themselves for making it this far and then quickly rips off Johnny's band-aid. It's the end of the road for him.

3 out of 5 isn't bad, right?

To be fair, none of the guys were exceptional tonight. Some were better than others but there wasn't a performance or vocal that had me jumping out of my seat or wishing I could download it from iTunes. With the exception of JDA, every single one of them chose a slow, sleepy, mostly boring ballad which made the entire night drag. Not even "Rocket Man" felt up tempo, and comparatively speaking, it's not a slow song. Song choice is everything, guys!

Here's hoping the next set of 10 guys find a tempo.

What did you think of tonight's Idol? Did the judges make the right calls regarding who to keep and who to save?

Miranda Wicker is a Staff Writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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