Kree Harrison (left) and Angela Miller
threw yet another new twist
at its 40 remaining contestants
: a sudden-death round.
"One song, one chance, no mercy," Ryan Seacrest
said as the first group of 10 female contestants gathered in Las Vegas to try to finally sing their way – in front of a boisterous studio audience – through to the "America votes" phase of the competition.
Five women moved on, five went home.
Kentucky high school junior Jenny Beth Willis, whose rendition of a Trisha Yearwood song earned mixed reviews from the judges, was the first up. Although Keith Urban
appreciated her "effortless confidence," Nicki Minaj said her performance lacked excitement (a comment that elicited the first audience boos of the season). Final result: It was the end of the road for Willis.
Tenna Torres, 28, – who attended Mariah Carey
's camp for kids as a youngster – took the stage next and impressed the judges with her take on the Natasha Bedingfield's "Soulmate." But she lost style points with Minaj, who didn't like one particular aspect of her look. "Lose the hair," said Minaj, who felt the contestant's coif aged her. Final result: She made it through to the Top 20.
The three most powerful performances of the night all made it to the next round: Nashville's Kree Harrison, who despite taking a decidedly plain-Jane approach to styling, wowed the judges with her version of Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain." "You sang the hell out of that song," said Carey.
Angela Miller, 18, of Massachusetts, belted out Jessie J's hit "Nobody's Perfect." But she pretty much was.
And Amber Holcomb, an assistant teacher from Texas, closed the show with a rousing (and well received) rendition of "My Funny Valentine."
For the final spot of the night, it came down to Anchorage, Alaska, resident Adriana Latonio, 17, who tackled Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way," and Shubha Vedula, a Michigan high school senior who sang Lady Gaga
's "Born This Way."
Although the judges saw potential in both contestants, they ultimately picked Lantonio's powerhouse vocals in a final emotional moment.
Thursday will bring out the guys. The first round of 10 will take the stage to try to make the top 20 – but once again, five will go home.