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Freelance entertainment writer, martial arts instructor, and mother of two.

American Idol, Feb. 20 & 27 – The Top 20 Girls Become the Top 10

Melinda Ademi, 19, Yonkers, is a music major. She auditioned two years ago, and her family was featured for their move from Kosovo to the U.S. Looking back, she realizes she wasn’t ready when she auditioned before, but feels she’s ready to meet this challenge head on. She sings Nobody’s Perfect and has a lot of energy, but is hard to understand and sounds a little flat. She emotes well, though.

Keith Urban really loved it and felt like the nerves were trying to get on top of Melinda, but that she started to come through the zone in the middle. He thinks she has a lot of potential. Nicki Minaj points out that Angela sang the same song last week, too, but that it was more connected then, and she could only think of the other performance while Melinda was singing. She also notes it’s the second Jessie J song she’s done.

Randy Jackson didn’t find enough big moments in Melinda’s song and notes she’s up against some big voices tonight. When she went up from the big notes, she started breaking up a little, yet all the high-range stuff in the middle was cool. Mariah Carey agrees it’s a tough night and feels the nerves did get to Melinda too much. By the end, she thought she was there and that she reached where she needed to.

Candice Glover, 23, St. Helena Island, SC, is an excursions coordinator. People come to her if they want to have fun on their vacation. Getting cut in Vegas last year, she feels she has to work harder to prove she belongs here. She sings Natural Woman, a song I always compare to Kelly Clarkson’s stunning version in season one. I’m happy to say Candice has me sold by the chorus.The nice part is she doesn’t overdo it, even though she very easily could.

Keith gives Candice a standing ovation and says it was a great song choice from the moment she started singing. Everybody repsonded, and there’s just something about her voice. He sings, “You’re a natural singer.” Nicky agrees Candice was born to do it and notes every time she remembers she was cut last year, she can’t figure it out, because she hears one of the best voices in the competition. Her confidence is worth a billion words and sets her apart.

Randy calls Candice one of his favorites in the comepetition and recognizes her growth from last year. He knows she now believes she belongs there. This song wasn’t her best, as he’s seen her better, but it was still really good. She has an unbelieavable instrument in her voice, and he encourages her to go for notes only she can do. Mariah agrees she’s a bona fide singer, and that’s what the show is all about. She and Candice agree it was a great arrangement.

Juliana Chahayed, 15, Southern California, writes songs with her sister and recently performed at their school. She thinks she gets most of her talent from her dad who sings in Arabic. Her family is very supportive and proud, so she wants to live this dream for them. She sings a unique version of Skyscraper and has a beautiful, almost-haunting tone, but through much of it, it’s hard to understand her.

Keith tells Juliana she struggled with pitch a lot in the song, but he’s chalking it up to nerves, as she’s just 15. There’s a purity about her voice that he loves, a mix of Jewel and Taylor Swift. Nicki furthers that, saying she’s one of the few to have a signature sound to her voice, so is very recognizable. She does seem very timid, and it works for what she does, but it may not work with all the bigger voices and personalities. Yet, she can picture her at her show doing what she does. She’s just not sure if it will pan out here.

What Randy really loves about Juliana is the honesty of her delivery. It’s like she is telling them this is who I am, this is what I do, like it or not. He likes that and applauds that, because a lot of people want to give them who they want them to be not who they are. Mariah heard an angelic quality, especially when everyone could hear the air. For her it was a beautiful thing to witness. Juliana wasn’t doing vocal gymnastics, but that’s not what she’s presenting to them.

Jett Hermano, 25, Seattle, is a legal assistant. Though she works at a desk, she knows she belongs on a stage. When she was 18, she left a Bill Gates scholarship she had for academics, because she knew she was meant to do music. Tonight Jett sings Only Girl, again with a unique version, as she accompanies herself on piano. I love the version of the song. She’s great, but there’s a tiny bit of something in her pitch I can’t put my finger on.

Keith loves that Jett did this arrangement of the song. The musicianship was fantastic to see, and by slowing it down, she brought a sexiness to the song different than Rihanna. Nicki liked the arrangement as well and the breathy falsetto, but she thought it was going to climax in something, and she never felt that.

Randy thought he knew where Jett was going with it. He thought she was going to get up from the piano halfway through and just rock it and wear it out vocally. It was absolutely beautiful and he loved the falsetto thing at the end, but in the middle part where the tempo came in, he wanted more. Mariah always felt Jett was an interesting addition, and there’s just something interesting about her. She’s not sure where she’s going to take. It didn’t matter to her what Jett did at the end and did enjoy the first half of the song.

Cristabel Clack, 29, San Antonio, is a worship leader. She almost didn’t come here to Vegas after feeling such fear on the plan on the way there. But now she feels God came and assured her she should be there. She spent two years traveling with gospel artists. She’s been married for seven years and has three children. They are who she is today. She sings No One and emotes the song great, but I think Alicia Keys maybe have been a little too ambitious for her. Yet, she gets big applause from the judges, and even a S.O. from Randy

Keith loves Cristabel’s voice, that soul, quirky thing in there. He thinks it was a really good song for her and believes she has crazy potential. Nicki says umm … and Keith imagines the worst. She likes the song for her and recognizes her unique voice. She likes the raspiness, but felt it got a little out of control.

Randy loved it and thinks Cristabel was on point. He loves the rasp, and what he loves the most is that while there is a potential to oversing, at one point she just let herself go, and that’s what you’re supposed to do. Mariah knows Cristsabel is one of the singers who have sung all over the world and can probably fit into any situation vocally, but her favorite is when she sang His Eye Is On the Sparrow. She’s an admirer of the background singers. She knows they’re people Cristabel knows.

Aubrey Cleland, 19, Westmont, OR, has always wanted to be a veterinarian. Her grandparents have a farm and always had animals, but she discovered signing. She loves where she’s grown up, but she’d like to be in a big city and follow her dreams of being a singer. She has faith that she’ll be the last person standing at the end of the season. Tonight she sings Sweat Dreams and does really well with it. It doesn’t knock my socks off, but her tone and everything is right on.

What Keith loves about tonight is the diversity. Aubrey came out and did her own thing, making him love what the girls are doing tonight. What he loves about her is the balance between poise and fire. Nicki is obsessed with her. She’s beginning to feel like she was in a twilight zone. For the first time, someone came out looking, feeling and sounding like a current artist. If she couldn’t sing, she would be modeling, because she’s absolutely stunning. She sounds pretty in her low voice, and the high voice isn’t like Beyoncé, but it still made Nicki feel like she was at her concert.

Randy is a huge fan and is obsessed with himself, and Aubrey, and the three other judges, and a little bit Ryan even. She is a very great commercial artist, and he even told someone in Hollywood they need to sign her right now. He feels she is the complete package. It’s another great performance, but he feels it wasn’t the perfect song for her, as it didn’t have enough range. Mariah thinks Aubrey is limitless, and she hopes she continues with them.

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