'American Idol': Ten Man Jam

Like the girls before them, ten of the top twenty boys were brought before the judges last night, five of them to be raised up to the gleaming Valhalla of the semifinals stage, the other five to be cast into the gloomy oblivion of Tartarus.

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It was boys night in Las Vegas last night, meaning Ryan Seacrest was holed up in a suite at the MGM Grand, wearing a crotchless onesie and surrounded by half the repertory company of Bel Am— Oh, wait, no, sorry. It was the first round of the boys in this new Vegas Week thing some demon at Fox dreamed up. Sorry, Ryan. Maybe in June?

Like the girls before them, ten of the top twenty boys were brought before the judges last night, five of them to be raised up to the gleaming Valhalla of the semifinals stage, the other five to be cast into the gloomy oblivion of Tartarus. So a lot was riding on the minute or so of singing each young man was allowed to do, but unfortunately the results were not great. Let's go lad by lad, which is also Ryan's strategy when he visits London.

Paul Jolly: I know that's not how his name is spelled, that there's an "e" in there (no, not Paeul, it's Jolley), but it's more fitting to call him Jolly, because that's what he is. Bright and fruity and brittle as a Jolly Rancher, Paul is a little Southern thang with a shiny face that would be perfect in some sort of Mr. Shopping Mall local beauty pageant. He wore white pants to his initial audition! Anyway, last night he had the ballsy temerity to sing a Keith Urban song... to Keith Urban. Keith was grateful for the homage, but he and Nicki both thought that Jolly was over-singing, adding too much business to it. Nicki said that his eyes were "overly theatrical," which, yes Nicki, his name is Paul Jolly and he works in "sales and retail" and wears white pants to televised auditions. What, is that person not going to have theatrical eyes? Seems like criticizing a mule for being a mule.

Johnny Keyser: Ah, our dead-eyed reincarnated dark lord. Johnny Keyser came close to the semifinals last year but was unceremoniously dumped at the last minute, hardly even on camera. So he's back this year with something to prove. Last night he sang a Jason Mraz song, which was an OK choice, if a little boring. Nicki hit on Johnny again, asking him "Do you have a girlfriend?" Johnny reluctantly responded that he didn't, which, like... Nicki there's maybe another question that you could have/should have asked... You know... If he doesn't have a girlfriend, he might have a... Anyway, most of the judges liked Johnny's performance, with Mariah saying that he brings a certain "masculinity" to the show. Which was a really weird and vaguely gross comment, and of course one that Ryan seized on immediately, saying something like "I'm glad there's finally some masculinity on this stage," so you see even Ryan makes fun of himself, so don't get mad at me.

JDA: Pronounced "Jada," like Pinkett or an annoyed teenage girl saying the name of a Linda Fiorentino/David Caruso movie, JDA is the best. So much fun! And, gasp, he's actually out as a gay person. I mean, there's not much to be done about hiding it, but he said the words, the actual words. Someone, Ryan I think, said something like "We haven't had this much glitter on stage since Adam Lambert!" and it was like, yes and you know what else? JDA's actually out on the show! So, good for JDA. He sang some Adele song that everyone's sick of and he did too much wiggling around — the judges thought his performance was distracting, as "this is a singing competition" — but that doesn't matter. He's JDA and he's tons of fun. Like, he won Drag Race last night and he's not even on Drag Race. RuPaul was in the middle of doing a Lip-Sync For Your Life bit but then stopped suddenly and said, "Wait, hold on, oops, no, sorry, you guys can go home, JDA just won." Good for JDA.

Kevin Harris: Kevin seems like a nice guy, handsome and burly, but he sang Bryan Adams's Robin Hood song and it was just zzzzzzzz. Someone tell Kevin Harris that it's 2013! The four-year-old girls watching this show have no idea who Kevin Costner is, let alone the one song from his movie about Robin Hood. I mean, he sang it well, but Randy was correct in saying "I was bored, I felt it was karaoke." Yes, I just said "Randy was correct." I know that means I have to turn in my gun and badge, but whatever. Randy was correct. It's just the sad truth.

Chris Watson: Chris is a ridiculously handsome hippie/waiter who has big hair that he puts up in a scarf, but last night... Oh lord. He was in a weird be-glittered vest and his headband was equally bedazzled and it just did not look right. Imagine a production of Starlight Express set in some sort of space jail. It was not good, not good at all. And he sang "Sitting On the Dock of the Bay," which, again, zzzzzz. Can we just put that song in a little lock box and bury it under the Tetons for a few decades? That and a few other songs just really need a rest. Send them to the mountains for some R&R and Idol contestants can sing some of the other literally countless songs that there are to sing. I like Chris as a contestant — he's fun and a little weird and, yes, bonkers good looking — but he's gotta stand out for, y'know, singing.

Devin Velez: This poor guy sang "Listen" from Dreamgirls and mixed in some Spanish with the English and it was all veryyyy big. Toweringly huge for someone as slight and small as little Devin. I guess it was good? I mean, the only time you would ever want to listen to Devin Velez singing "Listen" from Dreamgirls is if you were actually in the movie Dreamgirls, like some sort of John Ritter/Stay Tuned situation, but that's OK, I guess. Sure, fine. Go ahead, Devin. Why not.

Elijah Liu: Yikes! Little Elijah, with his spiked hair and silly jacket, "sang" a Bruno Mars song and it was not good. The song is "Talking to the Moon," which is a very funny song title, and he really squeaked it out. It was bad. But the judges were pretty easy on him, Keith saying "You look like a freaking pop star," which... Wait, didn't someone just say "this is a singing competition"? Or is a lot of look and performance only a problem when the person is flamboyantly effeminate? I am confused. Oh well, Elijah giggled and nodded his head and it was clear where this was going. They like this kid, guys. They like this kid.

Charlie Askew: This is that small person who is probably a ghost or maybe a 14-year-old Cynthia Nixon time traveling somehow. He's kinda fun I guess? He sang "Rocket Man" last night and everyone's ears bled profusely, but Nicki gave him a standing ovation anyway. She is a huuuuge fan of this little weirdo, and that's great and all, but it might also indicate a problem with Nicki's judging over all. It's not enough to just like the funny characters. Because if this was a funny characters show, it would be very, very different. Ultimately, yes, this really is a singing competition and the perfectly named Charlie Askew is basically the best singer in his school's chorus and no better. Nicki may identify with that, but I suspect that Nicki also identifies with elaborate birds and bright signs. And an elaborate bird can't win American Idol. A neon billboard can't win American Idol. A human singer has to win American Idol. And I'm just not sure that's who Nicki is invested in.

Jimmy Smith: I barely remember this guy to be honest. He sang something vaguely related to Keith Urban? He's a big shag monster with a hoo-haw twang and he should probably be drinkin' beers down by a crick instead of singing big ballads on American Songfarm. But here he is anyway, and the judges are all "Who are you again?" and the audience shrugs its shoulders and that's kinda that.

Curtis Finch: Boy can blow. He's a bit cheesy, a member of the Jacob Lusk school of ham hurlin', but that's OK. When you've got Charlie Askew farting all over the place and Elijah Liu doing whatever he's doing, it's nice to have a guy with a big brassy beautiful voice throwing the whiz around. Curtis is fine. I really wish Keith Urban hadn't said "Preach on brother Curtis" to him after he sang, but what can you do. Keith's just happy to be out of the house, away from Nicole, away from her rakes and her scissors, her cold hands and her jars of strange rocks. I guess he can say "Preach on brother Curtis" if he wants to.

OK, it's time to get some of these jerks out of here. Goodbye Kevin Harris, goodbye Jimmy Smith. Fine by me. But wait. What fresh hell is this?? Goodbye JDA???? Nooooo. Come on, Idol. You stink. You guys stink a lot for sending him home. And for sending Chris Watson home. And for.... oh sweet misty morning, sending Johnny Keyser home! What is anyone thinking? Does anyone even bother consulting Ryan on these decisions? At least they asked that weird little glow worm in the corner, Jimmy Iovine, if he wanted to keep Paul Jolley and he said yes. At least there was that. But Johnny Keyser? Sigh. I wonder if they think he's too handsome, that he'd get all the girlies voting for him and then they'd end up where they have the past several seasons. Same for Chris Watson. And same for JDA. Ha, well, OK, no, probably not for JDA. But those other two? For sure.

Anyway, that's that. Elijah is through, Curtis is through, Charlie Askew and Devin Velez are through, and of course Paul Jolly. At least there's that too look forward to. Four weirdos and a toothpaste commercial. Could be worse, I suppose.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.