‘American Idol’ Recap: Girls On Fire

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American Idol promised a fierce fight from the females on this season of the FOX show for good reason.

Thursday’s episode showcases some of the best vocalists we’ve seen in a while and cuts seem much more difficult for the judges. Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Nicki Minaj have their work cut out for them this week when they round out the Top 40.

There’s an overwhelming amount of talented women and viewers are repeatedly reminded there hasn’t been a female winner in six years. The ladies are allowed to choose a song from the list or perform an original.

Surprise standout. The first solo of the night comes from Angela Miller, 18, who surprises judges with an original song and a turn at the piano. Her song, “You Set Me Free,” is perfection and earns a standing ovation from all four judges. Nicki admits she hadn’t really noticed her until now. Me either.

Who’s that girl? When brown-haired beauty, Kree Harrison, 22, hits the stage I don’t recognize her from auditions. The Texas native sings “Stars” by Grace Potter in honor of her deceased mother. Keith gets goose bumps as soon as she starts and Nicki and Mariah seemed to have a mini battle over who loved her more. Nicki says, “That voice. That’s the voice.” Watch it again above.

Another wallflower who blew the judges away is 15-year-old Julianna Chahayed. The timid teen chooses “Changes” and becomes a fast frontrunner after her flawless performance.

Holding steady. A few fan favorites delivered in full force. Candace Glover, 23, sang “Girl On Fire” by Alicia Keys and proved initial instincts right. She is amazing. Another quick decision came for Janelle Arthur, 23, who solidified her spot as the country-singing girl to look out for after her strong solo. “I think you are a superstar. A country superstar,” Nicki quipped.

Diss-missed. This season’s quirkiest contestant, Kez Ban, 27, was finally eliminated after singing a short original song that failed to impress the judges. They told her on the spot instead of waiting for her to finish. Weird. I’m surprised there is no long speech from Nicki, who has been particularly passionate about this contestant in the past. After deliberating with the panel for a moment, she simply says, “Your journey ends here.” Ouch.

Is she still here? The craziest contestant ever, Zoanette Johnson, 20, is still in the competition. She makes up a song onstage and plays the drums, badly. Judges don’t mind when she stops midway through to yell at the band and find her fallen drumstick. I get that there has to be an entertainment factor and controversy is certainly a good thing for ratings. But, this contestant’s presence among such strong vocalists is borderline insulting. Nicki makes some ridiculous comment about being honored to be part of the “Zoanette Johnson era.” Ugh. She’s terrible.

Back to the boys. After the ladies are cut down to 20, judges set their sights on the 28 remaining men. David Leathers, Jr. is sent packing for a second time — in the same round as last season. Adam Sanders gets eliminated after he goes head-to-head in a sing off with Josh Holidaywho makes it by the skin of his teeth after his pants-ripping rendition of “Georgia”. . . like for real, he ripped his pants during the big finish.

The Top 40 will compete in Las Vegas before returning to Los Angeles for the live shows.

Did the judges get it right? What do you think of the Top 40?

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