Aubrey Cleland and Charlie Askew kick off "American Idol," one of them is about to join the summer tour as an 11th member. I hope it's Askew, he was stunning last week with his original song, "Sky Blue Diamond."
And it's... Cleland. Oh well, she was good too, just not as good.
Kree Harrison up first as the actual finalists sing the songs of the Beatles, doing "With A Little Help from My Friends." Great pick; she's at ease and in command, brings an urgency to the song. Audience is into it throughout; didn't give me goosebumps, but well done.
Keith Urban liked her "soulful" sound, Nicki Minaj likes how she puts her own "Kreeness" on songs and notes she's becoming "a superstar before our eyes." Randy Jackson calls it "the bomb," while Mariah Carey says deadpan, "I didn't think it was good... I thought it was fantastic."
Burnell Taylor up next, he's singing "Let It Be," which he didn't know before. Oh, and he's fabulous from the get-go; his unique, pure tone just rolls out, the audience is spontaneously applauding at various points.
There's an earnestness to his voice that fits the song perfectly. Taylor -- whose familiy survived Katrina -- is putting real emotion into the performance, he brings the place down at the end on "whisper words of wisdom." Surprised the judges didn't stand for him; one of my favorite songs of the year.
Minaj first this time, she says "you caressed it, you treated it like it was a newborn baby," says she felt like she was in church. Jackson calls him "a great singer and a great artist," likes how he made it his own. Absolutely right, everyone knows the song but he put his own interpretation on it. Carey calls it "genuine and heartfelt," loves his "realness." Urban finishes, praises his "soulful" tone.