The judges have their own euphemisms when they don't like a performance – it's usually easy to read between the lines: If they compliment a singer on his shoes, he won't advance. On Thursday, Nicki Minaj actually told a contestant, "Kudos to you for being really freshly, nicely groomed." They might as well have had a stagehand pull him offstage with an oversized vaudeville hook.
After several weeks of good behavior by the judges, Thursday's episode showed a spark of life when Nicki – who was wearing her very best Jan Brady wig – began rolling her eyes whenever Randy Jackson spoke. At one point, Ryan Seacrest even tried to get them to kiss and make up. There was talk about lipstick, and Mariah Carey did her best to look at anything other than the awkward air kiss that followed.
But the theatrics did not eclipse some solid singers – and a few performances that just weren't good enough for the competition.
The Good: Curtis Finch Jr. wowed judges with his version of Luther Vandross's "Superstar." It was oversung. But there was no denying Finch's vocal talent. Charlie Askew's rendition of Elton John's "Rocketman" was interesting and well-suited to his voice. And Devin Velez pleased the crowd when he infused Spanish lyrics into Beyoncé's "Listen." The three of them advanced easily.
The Okay: Elijah Liu chose Bruno Mars's "Talking to the Moon," a song that felt current and new. Paul Jolley sang Keith Urban's "Tonight I'm Gonna Cry." Generally, it's a risky move to sing a song made popular by one of the judges, but Jolley's performance was pleasant, if a little shaky. Both advanced, although the judges were split on their assessment of Jolley.
The Others: Johnny Keiser, Kevin Harris, Chris Watson and Jimmy Smith sang unspectacular versions of various songs that everyone knows. Each of them had a decent voice, but none of their performances were all that unique, and none of them advanced. On the other side of the spectrum, J'DA performed an over-the-top rendition of Adele's "Rumor Has It." It wasn't enough for him to advance, but his performance – at one point he collapsed on the floor but continued singing – was by far the most memorable of the night.
There are ten contestants – five men and five women – who have made it to the next round. Next week, the remaining 20 contestants will complete for the remaining 10 spots – and all will hope the judges don't compliment what they're wearing.