‘American Idol’: Zoanette Johnson Completes The Circle Of Life

We’re back in Vegas for a second round of eliminations. After tonight, five American Idol contestants will be heading home and we’ll be introduced to the Top 10 ladies of Season 12. Overall, it’s a night of sad ballads, misfires and probably one of the most surprising superstar performances of the season.

The judges look well-rested, and I have to say the female judges, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, look especially radiant tonight. But more importantly, Zoanette Johnson is back! I have everything crossed in the hope that my favorite wacky contestant makes it through.

Melinda Ademi is a 19-year-old college student. Skinny little Melinda pulls out a very jerky rendition of a Jessie J song. Someone’s definitely been practicing her stomping and head-jerks in the mirror.

Keith Urban likes it and I think he’s had too much Diet Coke. I agree with Ms. Realness Minaj, who says she “didn’t love it.” Randy Jackson also says it was okay. Everyone’s fairy godmother, Mimi is blaming the performance very generously on nerves.

Candyce, one of the most promising returning contestants, is up next and pulls out “Natural Woman.” In her white leather studded jacket and red pumps, Candyce delivers just enough moments and big notes to make both Randy and Mimi happy. Melinda better be happy she didn’t have to go on before that.

Goddamn, Keith is goofy. Nicki is totally making it sound like last year’s judges were WACK and throws some side-eye Randy’s way. Ha ha! Randy dubs Candyce one of his favorites and gives her a “nice job.” Mariah calls her a “bona fide singer” and good lord, her mimis are out tonight in that strapless gown. Natural woman or not, they are truly impressive.

Melinda returns to the stage. Oh, wait — it’s another skinny little brunette with curly hair. It’s Juliana with a giant guitar. She gives a breathy version of “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato. All these sad songs. Ugh.

Keith and Nicki both compliment her particular style of singing but worry about her timidity. Is Randy wearing military insignia? In any case, he liked her and so I’m guessing Mariah will too. And she does. She says she wrote down “celestial” during the performance. To be fair, Mimi is constantly writing down “celestial” at any given point in time.

Jett is a smarty-pants who realized that she truly wanted to be a singer. Sitting at the piano, she does a loungy version of Rihanna‘s “Only Girl (In The Word).” I feel like Michelle Pfeifer should be draped over the piano.

She gets praised by Keith for the level of sexiness she brought to the song. Nicki says there was no climax. Yeah, it wasn’t good for her. Randy kind of echoes Nicki’s sentiment. Mariah proceeds to give the vaguest critique ever. It’s okay, though, because her hair is fabulous tonight.

Cristabel is a 29-year-old Texan and comes from the world of gospel. She takes on Alicia Keys‘ “No One” and when the band kicks in, I’m thankful that we finally have some kind of upbeat song after the string of sad ballads. Her crazy licks at the end bring Randy to his feet.

Keith searches desperately for the adjective to describe what he likes about her voice and the word is “scratchy,” I yell at the TV. Nicki’s not bowled over and I love, love, love that she has the balls to keep it real. Randy disagrees and praises her. The point in Mariah’s rambling critique is that Cristabel has had better performances.

Aubrey is 19, beautiful and I can’t remember seeing her before. If Simon Cowell were sitting on this panel of judges, girlfriend would definitely be making it to the end. She is totally his type.

Aubrey can actually sing, but more importantly, she’s drop dead gorgeous. Her song choice is “Beautiful Nightmare” by Beyonce. Keith praises the fire in her voice. Nicki declares herself obsessed with her. She and I are totally on the same page these days. Randy calls her the “whole, complete package.” He and Nicki kind off go at it for a hot second, but thankfully Mimi steps in with a one-word critique: “Limitless.” She’s a big Bradley Cooper fan, y’all.

Rachel is super bubbly and you may remember her as the “happiest contestant.” I earn the nickname of the happiest audience viewer when she comes out with a rousing country song. For the first time, it feels like a concert. In case you can’t tell, I’m over the schmaltz.

Keith praises her spirit, but says the song got on top of her. Nicki loves that Rachel has come out of her shell. Randy agrees with me that it was a treat to finally get an upbeat song. Mariah starts in with her pointless critique that basically tells Rachel she has a lovely smile. Tonight, Mariah has said two words: celestial and limitless. And quite frankly, that’s all she should ever have to say.

Breanna Steer is from Louisiana and I love that she picked a fun song, “Bust Your Windows.” She’s got an edgy personality, which is refreshing, but she needs to learn how to get that eyeline straight. Still, I really, really applaud her song choice.

Keith reveals a little something about his crazy dating past and I’m intrigued. Nicki is a big fan and congratulates her on her song choice. She wants Breanna and Aubrey to start a band. Randy also gushes over her. I love that Mariah loves that song. I feel like all her votes tonight will be “abstain.”

In case you forgot, Janelle is a country girl. She takes on Lady Antebellum‘s “Just A Kiss,” and, frankly, we’ve seen her do better. Keith rightfully points out that the song choice limited her potential to show off her talents. Nicki was sad that Janelle didn’t have the confidence she needed tonight. Randy gives more of the same but says that she is his favorite country singer. Mariah again refuses to let anyone know how she is going to vote.

And after the commercial break: Zoanette! Yay! I have no idea what to expect from her, but I know it’s going to be amazing.

We come back and Ryan is goofing off with Nicki’s Hello Kitty mirror. Zoanette’s story starts. We learn that she is from Liberia and she effing opens with “Circle Of Life” from The Lion King in her Mufasa wig. Our girl knows how to make an entrance! She finishes a powerful performance with tears streaming down her face and I can’t tell you how much I love this woman.

Keith is almost speechless and dubs her “Queen Of The Jungle.” Nicki gives her all the props she deserves and even gets teary-eyed. Randy and Mariah were both bowled over, as well they should be.

Back from commercial break, the judges rise from the stage like some discarded members of Destiny’s Child. Zoanette is the first one called upon and isn’t fooled for a second when Randy tries to play like she might not make it. She takes the first chair of the five surviving ladies. Go, Zoan!

Mariah lets Melinda down easy. She takes a bow and leaves gracefully. Juliana gets the news from Keith that she’s not continuing on. She and the judges hug it out and then Zoanette gives her a farewell hug ’cause she’s the best. Aubrey gets the news that she’s staying from Nicki. This whole business of trying to trick the contestants into thinking they’re not making it is so hokey.

Cristabel doesn’t make it. Candyce has to know she made it. She gets the news from Mariah doing her best Lisa Van Der Pump impersonation: “You’re going through, dahling!”

Jett is not making it through. Breanna does make it after a lengthy fake-out from Nicki. And I have to say, this is my favorite of Nicki’s wigs. The two country ladies, Janelle and Rachel are the only ones left. Surprisingly, given Rachel’s feisty performance, she goes home. Janelle joins the other four ladies whom we will see next week in the Top 20!

Thursday night, five guys will go home while the other five will continue on to sing another day.