Paul Jolley: Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton's "I'm Just a Fool" -- I think what Keith was getting at in his wordy but vague criticism of Paul was that he's simply too theatrical and needs to tone it down in order to be relevant as a "pop country" artist. "I feel like you keep underestimating the quality of your voice," he said. It seemed weird that Paul received such wandering, non-committal critiques from the whole group after what was arguably one of the better vocals of the night. He was on-pitch, he looked alive, and he wore a sleek black shirt with tiny ruffles -- what more could you really ask for in this tepid group of guys on such a lackluster night?
I like Paul better when he's singing than when he's speaking, sad to say. (Ideally I'd want to enjoy both Pauls equally and be Jolley all the time.) I cringed so, so hard when he told Keith he wanted to be the guy version of Taylor Swift and then gestured desperately to the audience…"If everyone else wants me to be!" Ugh, gross. So hammy. And it's exactly what Keith and Jimmy Iovine want him to avoid -- the blind people-pleasing without a better understanding of his abilities. Sounds like they want him to sing as simply as possible. But I'm sure they'll give him hell for trying that, too. This is one very cute white male they've got on their hands, and he will not get off that easily.
Lazaro Arbos: Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" -- I can't say Lazaro wowed me compared to anyone else, but in a way I was bowled over by his performance because I expected so much worse from him. Last week I thought he was off-pitch and could barely understand his lyrics; this week was much better.
"Feeling Good" is way overdone on Idol and Lazaro does not have the chops to distinguish himself vocally. But what he did do was solidify his place in the Top 10 with his endearing intro video, continued effort to "think pink," and that triumphant, dramatic camera sweep of his sassy and genuinely happy final line of this song. Who doesn't like feeling good? And who doesn't want poor Lazaro to feel good right now? You'd have to be some sort of monster!
Curtis Finch, Jr.: R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" -- Did the judges attend some sort of off-camera religious revival while Curtis was up there singing? Their praise-the-Lord antics -- "We just had a sermon in Vegas, baby!" were WAY overblown and so obviously orchestrated ahead of time. Curtis can sing, yes. If you look away, you will enjoy listening to him. And maybe you like to look, too! I still find him fake as heck (God is watching) and while I can appreciate an on-pitch vocal and a high-energy presentation, I can't get behind the "You just ooze everything good and light and godly and whole and positive" type of critique. This is another tired, played-out Idol song that a contestant sang very well. End of story.
"That was just what I needed in this moment of my life right now…. There's so much bad energy, for no reason, at times!" cried Mariah (this was maybe five percent of her total word salad aimed at Curtis). What?! Talk about desperate to create a moment. Nicki had the right idea directly following Curtis' final note, when -- in the midst of a full house Standing O behind the judges' table, she appeared to be waving away an exquisitely pungent fart.
NEXT: 'You wasn't sittin' on it right tonight'