American Idol made its first round of Sudden Death cuts Wednesday, and at least two of the five women who survived are probably headed for the finals.
Massachusetts teens Angela Miller and Kree Harrison impressed both the judges and, for the first time, a live audience, as 10 women from the Top 40 sang on the stage of The Mirage in Las Vegas. They joined Idol's first Alaskan contestant, Adriana Latonio; returning teen Amber Holcomb; and former Camp Maria attendee Tenna Torres as the first singers named to the Season 12 semifinals.
Miller, who performed an original song last week, sang a rendition of Jessie J's Nobody's Perfect that had Randy Jackson gushing: "I think America is witnessing the building of a superstar."
Nicki Minaj found Harrison's subdued, bluesy take on Patty Griffin's
Up to the Mountain
very sexy. "I would be very afraid if I were any of these other girls tonight," Minaj said. "Every time you sing a song, you make love to the song."
Latonio, who had been little seen to this point in the season, made a strong impression by singing the Aretha Franklin hit Ain't No Way. She got a standing ovation from the audience and an "A+" from Mariah Carey.
Holcomb was cut in Las Vegas last season but learned her lessons well. She reinterpreted My Funny Valentine as a sultry R&B ballad, earning enthusiastic praise from judges who had panned another singer, Isabelle, for singing an old-fashioned standard just moments before.
"I think you know how brilliant that performance was," Carey told her. "I wanted to smack you."
Torres, who's in her last year of eligibility, reminded Minaj of an '80s R&B singer as she performed Natasha Bedingfield's Incompatible. "You had control of the whole song," Minaj said before adding a piece of advice: "Lose the hair."
Other singers didn't fare so well. Isabelle gave a solid performance of God Bless the Child, but her stock arrangement didn't win her any style points. Backup singer Kamaria Ousley picked a song - Kelly Clarkson's Mr. Know It All - that didn't show any of her strengths. Country singers Brandy Hotard and Jenny Beth Willis couldn't connect with their material the way Harrison did. And New York teen Shubha Vedula showed tons of promise, doing Middle Eastern runs over the melody of Lady Gaga's Born This Way, but she tried to pack so much performance and so many styles into such a short amount of time that she ended up confusing the judges.
Ten men will perform on Thursday. Next week, another 20 singers will perform. After that, the judges will hand over the decisions to the voting audience. And audience that already seems to be favoring Miller and Harrison.