Devin Velez was at the top of his game during the male death rounds on “American Idol” Thursday night, as he delivered a spot-on performance of Beyoncé’s song “L:isten” and even sang parts of the song in Spanish.
From the 20 male contestants left in the competition, the judges cut five males and so far have advanced five others. Next week the judges will fill the five remaining spots left — sending 10 males and 10 females to the next round.
Velez had the judges clapping and even impressed with what pop star Nicki Minaj called a “more marketable” bold move.
“Devin, obviously we’ve loved you for a really long time, and tonight not only did you do an amazing job at singing the song, but I think you made a smart choice as an artist to sing in Spanish,” said the “Super Bass” singer.
“You have warmth about you that shines through your eyes,” she added, telling the contender that she was happy his family was there to witness his accomplishments on the show.
Before taking the stage, a video of the Chicago resident showed him describe his childhood and how growing up “was a little rough” because he “grew up without a dad.”
“Money was tight when I was little and I grew up with a lot of hurt,” he said. “My mother is my role model, my rock. She always has my back. Having her here no matter what happens, I think I will be alright.”
As Velez’s mom beamed with joy after he finished singing, the rest of the judges gave Velez feedback on how he made the song in a very entertaining way.
“You made a connection with me from your voice, you didn’t have to do anything else,” said country music star Keith Urban. “I saw you tonight.”
Velez, 18, made an impression on the judges early on in the competition after singing Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World."
As his competitors let their emotions and insecurities get the best of them, Velez stayed cool and collected throughout each audition.
"I’m not that nervous. I don’t think I’m going to get nervous ,” Velez said. “I haven’t been nervous yet in the competition. It’s because you need to stay focused.”
Velez, who also sang Andrea Bocelli’s “Somos Novios” and earned a standing ovation from music producer Randy Jackson during the a capella rounds, said he “didn’t expect” any of the accolades he's received on the show.
“What I really love is that you took your time with it,” Jackson added about Velez’s rendition of “Listen.”
“The whole thing putting the Spanish in is like 'oh yeah, this is amazing.' It was a great arrangement,” said the experienced music producer.
Music legendary singer Mariah Carey agreed with Jackson.
“I love that you did that you did with this song because it brought the world of R&B and Spanish together,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what a producer does when you get into a studio.”
Below is the complete list of the first five men in the Top 20.
FIRST FIVE MEN IN THE TOP 20
Curtis Finch, Jr.
Paul Jolley (saved with tie-breaking vote from Jimmy Iovine)
MEN CUT FROM THE SHOW