It was the second week of sudden death eliminations in Las Vegas on American Idol, with the final group of 10 ladies taking the stage on Wednesday night. It was a strong night filled with powerhouse performances and nary a disaster in the bunch, but the judges still had to choose five to eliminate at the end of the evening.
So, who was saved and who went home? Let's get right to the judges' decisions.
Zoanette Johnson: Zoanette closed out the evening with "Circle of Life" from The Lion King as a tribute to her native Liberia. She earned a standing ovation from the judges and nearly brought Nicki Minaj to tears. Keith Urban crowned her the "Queen of the Jungle," while Randy Jackson had a message for anyone who doubted the decision to advance her past Hollywood: "This is the reason she's here. That spirit that you have ... that's what it's really about. It's infectious."
Aubrey Cleland: Though Minaj and Jackson disagreed over Cleland's song choice (Nicki calling Beyonce's "Sweet Dreams" a "perfect" choice, while Jackson was iffy), she wowed the panel overall. "I think you're limitless," Mariah Carey told her. Despite his qualms with her song choice, Jackson added that she has "the whole complete package."
Candice Glover: The judges lauded Glover, one of the frontrunners of this season, for choosing "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman" for her song in the sudden death round. "You definitely were born to do this," Minaj told Glover, a repeat competitor. "It boggles my brain that you didn't make it past Vegas [last season]. ... You have one of the strongest voices in the competition." Hers was probably the least surprising promotion of the night.
Breanna Steer: Steer opted for Jazmine Sullivan's "Bust Your Windows," and while Urban wasn't familiar with the song, he loved her performance. The other three judges were thrilled with the choice, however, and Jackson and Minaj told Steer they would sign her right then and there if they could. "You're giving me sexy on a stick right now," Minaj told her. "You were performing like you were at your own show."
Janelle Arthur: The final elimination came down to Janelle and Rachel Hale, the two country superstars among the girls' pool, and it was Rachel who got cut. "This was a tough one for us," Jackson told the girls. And a somewhat surprising one, given that the panel gently criticized Arthur's selection of Lady Antebellum's "Just a Kiss" for her song. Minaj said the performance "felt a little bit flat" and that Janelle seemed "disconnected," and Urban added bluntly: "That wasn't a great song choice to show what you can do." Luckily, she'll have at least one more round to redeem herself!
Melinda Ademi: Urban praised Ademi's "raw talent" on Jessie J's "Nobody's Perfect," but Minaj pointed out that not only was it the second time Ademi sang a Jessie J song, but that Angela Miller had blown away the judges with the same song last week. Mariah Carey noted that Ademi seemed nervous on "a really tough night," competition-wise, and the performance wasn't enough to carry her through to the next round among this group.
Juliana Chahayed: The 15-year-old sang and played guitar on Demi Lovato's "Skyscraper" and Carey praised the "angelic" tone of her voice while Urban said she sounded like a nice blend of Jewel and Taylor Swift. Minaj, however, predicted her elimination right after her performance, saying: " You seem very, very, very timid. It may not work with all of these bigger voices and personalities." Unfortunately for Juliana, it didn't.
Cristabel Clack: Clack gave a stirring performance of Alicia Keys' "No One," and the judges unanimously praised her raspy tone, but it wasn't enough to carry her through on a night that featured such a high caliber of talent. Urban told her she had "crazy good potential," and it's quite possible Clack might make a comeback on future Idol seasons.
Jett Hermano: Jett offered a subdued, piano ballad version of Rihanna's "Only Girl," which Urban loved, while Minaj and Jackson seemed bored. "I thought it was going to climax to something, and I never felt that," a disappointed Minaj told her. Carey seemed to be in Jett's corner, calling her "very, very intriguing," — but again, on a night like this, she just wasn't up to par.
Rachel Hale: The real heartbreaker of the evening comes with Hale being sent home after a fiery rendition of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals' "Nothing but the Water" — but it's clear that there's only room for one country crooner in this competition, and that honor went to Janelle. "Where did this burst of crazy confidence come from?!" a thrilled Minaj asked Hale after the performance. Perhaps it will be enough to see her through to her next endeavor.
So, what did you think? Did the judges make the right calls? Do you think Zoanette redeemed herself this week? Sound off below!
American Idol returns Thursday at 8/7c on Fox, when the final group of 10 guys will perform and five will be sent home.