‘American Idol’ Season 12 recap, review: Jimmy Iovine wields power in boys’ sudden death round

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His cameo on Thursday night's "American Idol" was short and sweet, but music producer Jimmy Iovine has already changed this year's "Idol" game.

The setting: Vegas, baby, where 10 of the Top 20 guys were fighting for their lives -- or at least another "Idol" round. By the end of the night, there would be five men standing.

Paul Jolley -- the jittery bundle of nerves who nearly lost in during Hollywood Week -- was the victim of the dreaded "Wrong Song" syndrome. And even worse, he sang said song in front of its originator, Keith Urban. And even worse, he did it like he was auditioning for Phantom of the Opera, at least according to Jimmy. That's why he landed up in a scary split vote position.

Still, King Jimmy had the power to save Jolley, and he did just that, saying, "I think I saw a good singer with the wrong song … You over sang it. You have a great instrument, and it is because of that I am going to recommend you go on."

Bullet dodged, Jolley!

Of course, one has to wonder what would have happened if Jimmy had sent the 22-year-old Tennessee native home. Would that have automatically opened up a slot for one of the five guys who ultimately were sent packing, or would there have been six boys eliminated instead of five? We'll never know the answer to that question, but here's what we do know:

America already loves Charlie Askew. Now that the shows are being taped live in front of an audience of 1,500 (they'll go totally live in two weeks), we can get an inside look at who's getting the most cheers from someone who isn't named Urban, Carey, Jackson, or Minaj. The socially awkward Charlie Askew may have been dubbed "Freddie Mercury's love child out of Woodstock" by Keith, but his quirky cover of Elton John's "Rocket Man" drew big hoots from the audience. On to the next round.

Pretty boys finish last. Sorry, Johnny Keyser, but when the female judges are hootin' and hollerin about how sexy and masculine you are, it doesn't bode well for your singing. Nicki's critique of the 24-year-old's cover of "I Won't Give Up" was classic: "Kudos to you for being nicely, freshly groomed."

Ditto for Chris Watson, who Nicki called "the prettiest man" she's ever seen in her life. But what about his rendition of "Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay?" Not so much. Chris and his sparkly head scarf were sent packing, as was curly-haired cutie Jimmy Smith. Boy, we'll miss his smile.

Rumour has it that America isn't ready for a gender bending "Idol." Yes, J'DA put on a show. But have you ever laughed your way through the song "Rumour Has It"? The judges were chortling throughout this Adele cover, and when it came time for his inevitable elimination, you could hear a collective sigh of relief across Middle America.

Nicki Minaj needs a date or something. Sure, Elijah Liu could very well be the next Mexican-Chinese Bieber. But did his tween idol-style falsetto really warrant this gushing commentary from Ms. Minaj? "I don't care about that song; you are a super duper star, little boy. I want to have your babies. You're my new favorite boy, I'm obsessed with you!" Suffice it to say, he moved on.

Also moving on to the next round are Devin Velez (who brilliantly went bilingual midway through his performance of Beyoncé's "Listen") and Curtis Finch, Jr.

"American Idol" airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 PM ET on FOX.

More from this contributor:

Life after 'Idol': What the former judges have to say

'American Idol' season 12: Who shines in the Top 40?

'American Idol' Season 12 premiere: Nicki Minaj lives up to the hype

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