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Nicki Minaj AWOL, Curtis Finch and Janelle Arthur same old on 'American Idol'

Nicki Minaj is late and nowhere to be seen as "American Idol" starts its finals — first time I can remember that happening on a live show. They're singing songs from past "Idol" winners.

Curtis Finch Jr. up first; mentor Jimmy Iovine tells him not to be too old-fashioned, which is good advice. Doing Fantasia's "I Believe," in a ridiculously loud red paisley sports coat, looks like he's crawled inside a tie.

Commanding performance, although his usual annoying mannerisms of closed eyes and patterned movements are there. No emotional connection for me — I admire his voice and range, but it doesn't make me want to stand up and shout.

"Excellent," says Keith Urban, with Randy Jackson liking his look. "I'd caution you to now try something a little bit different," he says, since everything up to now has been "inspirational." Mariah Carey liked his "choir feeling," and does like that he does the same thing well each time.

Janelle Arthur up next; she doesn't really belong here in my opinion. Iovine asks her, "we know there are a lot of blonde, very attractive country singers out there — what is it about you that's going to be different?" She says something about wanting to sing more traditional songs.

Doing "Gone," which Scotty McCreery sang — stalking around the stage, swallowing her words a bit. Good energy, and some attitude; looking fierce out there. Again, no emotional connection for me, and vocals at best are average.

Urban liked it; Minaj has shown up, wearing shades and a black hoodie. Wants to hear more of the "pretty" part of her voice, says the song didn't "wow" her and she's never been crazy about her song choices. Jackson didn't think the song went anywhere, didn't love it either. Carey says "your aura was like a star's," but also questions her song choice.

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