And now it was all up to the viewers.
Caution: spoilers ahead!
The two-hour show offered soaring, star-making performances from Candice Glover, Amber Holcomb and Angie Miller, who drew standing ovations from judges and admiration from the crowd.
Glover's shimmering and nuanced cover of John Legend's "Ordinary People" earned praise from Mariah Carey, who said it gave her "goosebumps."
"I'm learning [as I'm] listening to you," Randy Jackson said of Glover's skillful performance.
Meanwhile, Miller returned to her comfort zone at the piano to cover former contestant Colton Dixon's song, "Never Gone." The performance had judge Keith Urban calling her a "true artist."
"The trumpets should sound when you walk in the room," Nicki Minaj said. "Can I just get your album?"
However, it was Holcomb, 18, of Houston, who dared to break a cardinal rule of Idol: do not cover Whitney Houston. But with strong confidence, she nailed the late diva's hit, "I Believe In You and Me," with effortless style, chasing the vocal runs and hitting the high notes with sweetness.
"You're not taking anybody on. You're paying homage," Carey said of the cover.
Oregon's Aubrey Cleland, 19, offered a successful – though not exactly understated – version of Fergie's "Big Girl's Don't Cry."
Of the night's two country performers, Kree Harrison, 22, of Woodville, Texas, earned the most praise with Faith Hill's "Stronger," which showed off her smooth vocal range.
Janelle Arthur, 23, of Tennessee, chose Elvis Presley's classic, "If I Can Dream," prompting Minaj to call the blonde "a little marshmallow that I want to eat."
Breanna Steer's pick of Beyoncé's "Flaws and All," as well as Tenna Torres's version of Hill's "Lost," were viewed as safe, while Alaska's Adriana Latonio struggled with "Stand Up For Love."
And Tulsa singer Zoanette Johnson, a favorite of the judges last week, was dubbed "a mess" for her version of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It."
The show returns Wednesday with the remaining men competing for five spots in season 12's top 10, which will be announced Thursday.
Michael Becker / FOX