‘American Idol’ Report Card: Burnell Taylor, Curtis Finch Make The Grade

Charlie Askew, Paul Jolley look like they're headed for permanent detention after Wednesday night's 'Idol.'

After the women of “American Idol” laid down the gauntlet 
 on Tuesday, it was the guys’ turn 
 on Wednesday to fight for the five finalist spots that will be handed out on Thursday night (March 7).

And, whereas the judges said it was going to be really hard to cut the ladies down to just five finalists, the job should not be that hard when it comes to the their male competition. The talent pool is way more shallow on the other side, with a roster of guys ranging from the strong (Burnell Taylor, Curtis Finch, Jr.) to the almost comically weak (Charlie Askew, Paul Jolley).

Who soared and who stumbled? Read on to find out!

Curtis Finch, Jr.:
He may have lacked his own identity as a child, but CFinch became his own man Wednesday and crushed the game again. He took R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” and soared to the heights, giving it a touching gospel flair and a positive energy that Nicki Minaj said people need right now. And that crazy falsetto note in the middle? Forget about it. Grade: A

Devin Velez:
I already tagged Velez as one to watch 
 thanks to his demo-crushing funky bilingual style. He did it again with his Spanglish take on the 1970s Perry Como weeper “It’s Impossible,” which was pretty much flawless. Like a lot of the guys, he’s mining a granny-baiting adult contemporary vibe, which may come back to bite him in the end, but man, that voice. Grade: A

Burnell Taylor:
With his “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” look — acid washed jean jacket, salmon-colored shirt, backwards floral baseball cap and big round glasses — Taylor lost the fashion war, but won the vocal battle. His stirring cover of “Idol” legend Jennifer Hudson’s “I’m Here” proved his power, range and emotion. His personality and star charisma, however, are still a question mark. Grade: B+

Lazaro Arbos:
Lazaro sounded strong and confident singing the standard “Feeling Good.” He was definitely mining a Rat Pack throwback vibe, which may not be particularly current, but he’s among the strongest contenders from the men. He’s got a winning smile and a great story … and yet, I just don’t get a superstar vibe from him. Grade: B+

Nick Boddington:
Dressed like a balding extra in the “The Flamingo Kid,” the Boddy was back at the piano for the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris.” He took a song as edgy as a butter knife and found a way to dull its edge and make it even loungier and softer around the middle. Imagine sitting through two hours of that? Also, Nicki, that’s one of your favorite songs of all time? Grade: B-

Vincent Powell:
Speaking of appealing to the over-50 crowd, VPow went all couples skate with Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road.” The mix of gospel and soul showed off his versatility and chops, but I had to agree with Keith Urban that nerves got the better of him. Grade: B-

Elijah Liu:
I was so distracted by the skunk stripe in his hair that it was hard to get excited about his take on Rihanna’s “Stay,” which, as Randy Jackson said, kind of just got stuck in first gear and never went anywhere. I had to disagree with Nicki, who said, “I think I’d be willing to stay.” Elijah might look good on blankets, but he mostly just rocked me to sleep. Grade: C+

Cortez Shaw:
After killing it last week with a slowed-down “Titanium,” Shaw set sail on the S.S. Cheeseball with a Disney channel remake of Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.” The whole thing felt like an audition for the Fresh Beat Band, and not in a good way. And Nicki was right, the clean-cut grunge look was way corny. Urban loved the song, but thought it didn’t suit what Shaw does well, whatever that is. Grade: C

Paul Jolley:
Drama king PJ barely made it this far and it’s hard to think of a major male pop star who’s gotten anywhere in the past 20 years using words like “shindig.” Covering Christina Aguilera’s little-known recent single “Just a Fool,” and saying he wanted to be the “guy version” of Taylor Swift didn’t help. Is that even a thing? With his bedazzled tuxedo shirt and high school musical moves, Jolley looked like he was trying out to be Constantine Maroulis’ Broadway understudy. Grade: C-

Charlie Askew:
Thankfully, he ditched the pencil-thin porn ‘stache, but kept the unfortunate feathery dangly earring and tie-dye tank top. I didn’t like “Mama” when Genesis sang it and Askew’s screechy, no-key karaoke musical homicide was as painful to watch as it was to listen to. I’m glad he got his chance to vent, but he’s clearly too thin-skinned for this game. And you know what people were saying at home Keith? “WTF?” D-

Do you agree with our grades? Let us know in comments below!

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