Much like last night, Ryan comes to us from a darkened stage where tonight's ten male semifinalists are lined up, and raises his voice to tell us excitedly how they'll have to impress a crowd of 1500 people! Wow, that's almost as big as my old high school auditorium. The judges are also here, Randy wearing a black zoot-suit jacket with his giant initial monogrammed on the breast. After his ensemble last night, anything is a step up. Ryan actually gets excited throwing it to credits, but quickly regains his composure after they're over. He's got to chat with the judges, after all. He starts with Mariah, asking what impressed her about the "ladies." Mariah talks about the raw talent from last night and how hard it was to eliminate anyone. I have a feeling that won't be as tough tonight.
So tonight's dudes are raised up onto the stage on that magic platform: Paul Jolley, Johnny Keyser, JDA, Kevin Harris, Chris Watson, Devin Velez, Elijah Liu, Charlie Askew, Jimmy Smith and Curtis Finch, Jr. You may or may not remember all of them from before, but that's okay -- you may or may not ever remember some of them after tonight.
We're starting with Paul Jolley, the retail worker from Palmersville, Illinois. Of course that means nothing to you, so we'll remember him as the guy who split his pants wide open during his last-chance sing last week. He's also the one who recently lost his grandfather, so it seems like he's due for a break. He sings a sad, emotional ballad whose entire chorus seems to be one long high note, which has a certain cynical genius. He gets a standing ovation from the women's section in the audience. Keith thanks Paul for doing one of his songs (and thanks, Keith, for letting me know who did it originally), and advises him that he has a strong enough voice not to need to over-perform. Nicki, who seems to have addressed her roots issue since last night, agrees and says this wasn't her favorite performance form him. Randy says, "Yo, yo," and talks about the range of today's country singers, which he thinks Paul has the potential to meet. Mariah agrees that it was nice to see his flexibility. His flexibility isn't the issue, it's the flexibility of his pants.
We come back to Johnny Keyser, who I think has already done better this year than he did last year. He says that getting eliminated last season kicked off his growth. His artistic growth, that is, to a tumor. He's looking better tonight, singing "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz, keeping the performance simple and making it all about the vocals. Keith says it was the best he's heard from Johnny, which isn't exactly gushing praise. Nicki says she didn't see the nervousness that Keith did, and repeats her earlier query about whether he has a girlfriend, which he says he still doesn't and Nicki replies that the girls will love him. Randy thought it was just okay and that he played it too safe. Mariah agrees with Nicki on Johnny's "masculinity," which I'm starting to suspect will carry him to the top three if he makes it to the voting episodes. But then I said that last year, too. Ryan comes out and interviews Johnny about how he tried to keep calm and cool all day and then jokes insecurely about the lack of masculinity on the stage up until now.