Ryan kicks off tonight's show from outside the Mirage in Las Vegas -- right in front of the volcano, in fact -- as he says it's another sudden death round like the ones we saw last week. Tonight ten female contestants will sing and five will be sent home. Nice volcano. I'm just surprised Ryan was willing to be filmed in front of that much "flaming" imagery.
After the credits, Ryan's back inside to welcome the crowd, introduce the judges, point out the 15 remaining guys in the audience and bring out the "ladieeeez." Tonight, they are Melinda Ademi, Candice Glover, Juliana Chahayed, Jett Hermano, Christabel Clack, Aubrey Cleland, Rachel Hale, Breanna Steer, Janelle Arthur and Zoanette Johnson, who looks ready to make the most of her last appearance on this show. We're starting with Melinda, whose intro reel reveals that she's 19, from Yonkers and a music major. She's also back from Season 10, as she cannily explains how "my story was featured" about her family of Kosovo war refugees. She's feeling more ready this time around, she says, but her rendition of "Nobody's Perfect"... isn't. She has to work too hard to be heard over the band, which makes her voice sound rather weak. Keith loved it, though, talking about her raw talent and potential. Nicki preferred Angela's version last week, which isn't encouraging. Randy was looking for big moments, because he's the kind of person who goes to movies to see explosions. Mariah agrees with Keith that Melinda's nerves were showing at first, but she got there by the end. So as long as five other singers aren't there the whole time, Melinda should be fine.
Candice Glover's intro reel tells us that she's 23 and an "excursions coordinator," which means she has to spend her days wearing a blue polo shirt and dealing with people who are on vacation and expect everything to be perfect with their rented scooters and what not. No wonder she wants to be a singer instead. She's also a returning contestant, having gotten cut during last year's Vegas round, so now she's even more determined. Her song tonight is "Natural Woman," which starts strong and gets stronger, at least vocally -- with the key change and the big notes at the end and all -- even if she looks bored through most of it. Keith gives her a standing ovation, gushing about her song choice and voice and even singing to her a bit himself. Nicki wonders why the hell she didn't get farther last year, but somehow manages to not direct a stink-eye at Randy right next to her. The effort is visible, in fact. But she gives up on it when Randy defensively says last year was a different time. He advises Candice to just go batshit with that voice of hers. Mariah gets Candice to take credit for the arrangement, and Ryan comes out to tell her that she had the guys in the audience feeling like natural women. They all seem to agree heartily. Better luck the next time you try to gender-shame someone, Ryan.