Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Nicki Minaj (l-r), "American Idol" judges, Pasadena, California,
(USA Today)-- Thursday, the American Idol producers began its Top 40 reveal show reminding viewers that a woman hasn't won the competition in six years.
This is the producers' way of saying -- Will you vote for a girl already? Pretty please?
The other way is by throwing some serious talent onstage at the top of the show -- and they did that, too.
Angela Miller became an instant front-runner the moment she sat behind a grand piano and started singing an original tune called You Set Me Free. It didn't hurt that the judges' mics stayed on through the performance, so viewers could hear just how much Keith Urban and Randy Jackson liked Miller's performance.
"Good Lord!" exclaimed Urban. Jackson just repeated "Wow" over and over.
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Several other singers had performances that were just as impressive -- R&B singer Candice Glover, country girl Janelle Arthur, the rarely seen but always striking Shubha Vedula, the effortlessly energetic Melinda Ademi.
And then there's Zoanette Johnson, who's either crazy talented or just plain crazy. Either way, she used her solo performance as a chance to write a song and, apparently, learn how to play the drums. She's got to be a nightmare to work with, but she's a blast to watch. It's tempting to root for her to make the finals, just to see how much she'll develop and what surprises she still has in store.
By the end of the show, American Idol had its Top 40 for the season -- though they had to cut an additional eight men and four women to get there. In the process, they showed the entire country that the judges aren't sure Rachel Hale and Josh Holiday have what it takes, forcing them into a sing-off with other singers.
Next week promises even more brutal cuts, teasing a live sudden-death round as "One round, one song, no mercy."
And if you liked Miller's original tune, check out her Taylor Swift cover.