It's Charlie Askew's turn and Ryan interviews him backstage about his outfit, (all black, all vintage, all frilly) and the golf club he's fidgeting with. In his intro reel, Charlie reminds us that he's very socially awkward -- not that having difficulty carrying on a conversation with Ryan Seacrest is necessarily an indicator of that. He sings "Rocket Man," using half of a microphone stand (hence the practicing with the golf club) and making the most of his high, reedy voice. Except he goes a little too high near the end without quite achieving escape velocity. Nicki clearly loved it unreservedly, though, being the only judge to give him a standing ovation. Keith says he's sure nobody left their TV during that performance, and speculates that Charlie might be Freddie Mercury's Woodstock love child. In which case he'd be my age, but whatever. He also appreciates Charlie's fearlessness, originality and unpredictability. Nicki gushes about him and says she wants to cradle him in her arms, going on about how much she loves him. Randy is confused and preoccupied by his uncontrollably juvenile reactions to Nicki's comments, but manages to call Charlie out on being too stagey. "Where are we?" he asks rhetorically. Charlie answers, "Vegas, baby!" winning the night and at long last putting Randy in his place at the same time. Mariah's just embarrassed by Randy, and tells Charlie how much she loved the song choice and wants someone to work with his voice. Ryan unwisely gives Charlie a moment to work the crowd and barely reels him back in time to go to the ads.
Jimmy Smith from the Charlotte auditions is next. The curly-haired country singer does an undemanding ballad about spending the day in bed, smiling all the way through it. Keith makes a helpful (to me) remark about how hard it is to critique someone for singing one of his songs before clarifying that it was actually a cover when he did it, too, and that Jimmy did a good job. Thanks for the critique of the performance, Keith. Nicki says she was bored, thinking about something else (Chris Watson, Elijah Liu, Charlie Askew). Randy agrees, saying it didn't all come together. Mariah says she's been his biggest defender, but tonight there was a lot of pressure on him. She tries to end on a positive note, but it's clear that he's done.
Last to sing tonight is Curtis Finch, Jr., guy from the Chicago auditions who was gunning for Charlie during the group round in Hollywood. He's now a tutor at a charter school, when I thought he was a choir director. Anyway, he considers himself a gospel singer, so I guess it's close enough. He's always been an impressive singer, but his cover of Luther Vandross's "Superstar" cover tonight is so drenched with cheese it could be served at Guy Fieri's restaurant. He sells those super-high notes hard, though, and the judges and the audience love it. Keith says parts were "overperformed" but his voice is beautiful. Nicki talks about how he always takes it to a new level. Randy loves the range he showed, but advises Curtis to keep it a little younger. Mariah says he already knows what he did so she doesn't need any critiques from her, other than to suggest he loosen his tie a little or something. When Ryan joins him onstage, Curtis points out his mother and grandmother in the audience. Though he doesn't say who is who.