During Hollywood Week on this season's "American Idol," Nicki Minaj remarked that she was honored to be a part of what she dubbed "The Zoanette Era."
On Wednesday, that era officially began, as contestant Zoanette Johnson took "Idol" by storm and wowed the Vegas crowd and viewers at home like the force of nature she is. Ten contestants performed on Wednesday's show and five were sent home by episode's end, but Zoanette stood head, shoulders and a massive blonde mane above everyone else after her towering, earth-shifting performance of "Circle of Life" that earned her the title of "Queen of the Jungle" from Keith Urban.
Minaj was particularly moved by Zoanette's bigger-than-life performance. "I love you because that song was such a smart choice, because it matches where you are and where you're about to be and where you're from," she told her. "And it makes so much sense! And I'm proud that this place right here gives people like you and me that came from absolutely nothing, from a country that we didn't probably ever think we would make it out alive, it gives us a shot. Thank you. Thank you!"
It was no surprise that Zoanette was sent through to the next round, where she will be joined by fellow contestants Breanna Steer, Aubrey Cleland, Candice Glover and Janelle Arthur. Arthur was the final contestant allowed through, edging out the extremely likeable Rachel Hale, even though Hale out-performed Arthur on Wednesday's show. Arthur benefitted from goodwill from her earlier performances, and Hale was cut due to the exceptionally strong pool of talent performing on the show.
Hale, who received high marks from the judges for her performance of Grace Potter's "Nothing But the Water," was sent packing along with Cristabel Clack, Jett Hermano, Juliana Chahayed and Melinda Ademi. Of those, Clack and Chahayed made the best impressions, the former with her well-received take on Alicia Keys' "No One" and the latter for her touching, vulnerable spin on Demi Lovato's "Skyscraper."
But the rest of the field was simply too strong. Steer gave a spunky, borderline felonious performance of Jazmine Sullivan's "Bust Your Windows" that made Urban think she might actually smash out the windows in his vehicle and which Minaj called "sexy on a stick." Minaj suggested Steer team up with Cleland, whose lovely, perfectly controlled version of Beyoncé's "Beautiful Nightmare" inspired Mariah Carey to call her "limitless" in the competition.
Glover, a favorite heading into the night, gave a powerful, assured performance of "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" that brought Urban to his feet. "Baby, that was beautiful," he told her. "If song choice is an important thing, that was a great song choice." Minaj told Glover, a late-round cut in Season 11, "It boggles my brain you didn't make it last year."
Thursday's episode will see the final 10 guys take the stage, and the field will be narrowed to five by the end of the two-hour show. But is there even room for guys in the Zoanette Era?
What did you think of Wednesday's "Idol"? Let us know in the comments!
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