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American Idol picks first five boys and Nicki Minaj crosses a line

Jodi BradburyThe Christian Science Monitor

On Thursday night, it was the boys' turn to subject themselves to American Idol's daunting sudden death round. (Am I the only one who can't help but think of The Weakest Link every time they say sudden death?) But before they even got a chance to perform, Ryan Seacrest put American Idol judge Mariah Carey on the spot, asking her what she loved about the girls the night before. Seems like a simple enough question but Mariah, looking like a deer caught in headlights, was stumped. Suddenly it felt like a scene out of a MIss America pageant's Question Round as Mariah rambled on nervously, failing to address the question posed to her.

Thankfully, Ryan quickly moved on to the performances. Aside from perhaps, Kree Harrison, the girls' performances from the night before were nothing remarkable so it was with baited breath that viewers waited for the boys to blow them away. As we waited, we had to listen to American Idol judge Nicki Minaj sexually harass more than one of the male singers.

First, she questioned Johnny Keyser, about his relationship status (still single) and went on to tell him that he was sexy and masculine. Next up was Chris Watson who Nicki said was the prettiest man she had ever seen in her life and she wanted to marry his vibrato. (Does telling a man he's pretty constitute sexual harassment?) Chris should have been happy to know she wanted to make an honest man out of his vibrato since poor Elijah Liu got no such offer; instead, Nicki called him a little boy and then told him she wanted to have his babies. Finally, Nicki told Charlie Askew that she wanted to cradle him in her arms. Perhaps recognizing that her creep-o-meter went into overdrive with the Elijah comments, Nicki clarified that Charlie reminded her of her brother, so apparently this would be strictly platonic cradling.

Mariah, on the other hand, seemed to think her husband, Nick Cannon, was lurking off-stage just waiting for her to insult his manhood by appreciating another man. She tried very hard to be demure when she agreed that Johnny was masculine and Nick was a pretty boy. When it came to Elijah, she simply said that she liked that he was Mexican and Chinese. "It's a good mix," she told him, as if his nationality was a bottle of wine from a particularly good year.

American Idol's male judges kept things pretty even-tempered. Randy Jackson was tough to please while Keith Urban appreciated everyone for their own special reasons; unfortunately not many of those reasons were good vocals since the boys did not fare much better than the girls who preceded them on Wednesday. Of the 10 performances, only two male contestants delivered strong vocals.

Curtis Finch, Jr. sang Luther Vandross's verison of, "Don't You Remember," and while the judges agreed that Curtis over-performed (something that seemed like a trend on Thursday) they also agreed that his was one of the best voices in the competition. Randy actually gave very sound advice when he suggested that Curtis remember that he's only 25 and to try to do something a bit younger. Let's hope Curtis takes that to heart so viewers don't have to endure a Jessica Sanchez-like repeat from last season.

Joining Curtis in the elite duo of good vocalists was Devin Velez, whose bilingual performance of Beyonce's, "My Own," had the judges professing their love.

While both Curtis and Devin easily earned their places in the final five of the evening, not all of the decisions came easily to the judges who needed to call on Jimmy Iovine to cast the deciding vote on a hung decision. You'll remember Jimmy Iovine, music producer and chairman of Interscope-Geffen A&M and American Idol's Fifth Judge. Iovine, seated in the audience and looking like an understudy for the part of Grumpy in an off-Broadway production of Snow White, made the crucial decision on the fate of Paul Jolley. Paul Jolley was the first to perform on Thursday and while Keith was very honored that he chose to sing his song, "Tonight I Wanna Cry," all of the judges warned Jolley about his tendency to over-perform.

Of course, Jolley was the first of a long line of over-performers. Jda who rolled around on the stage in an abundance of estrogen, sparkles and stubble, made Paul Jolley seem perfectly tame in retrospect.

Based on the potential in Paul's voice, Jimmy opted to send Jolley to the live shows.

The two final boys to make it through, much to Nicki's delight, were Charlie Askew – whose rendition of "Rocket Man" was turbulent, at best – and Elijah Liu who performed Bruno Mars's, "Talking to the Moon."

American Idol has now revealed half of season 12's top 20. Next week the final boys and girls will be announced; here's hoping they saved the best for last.