It's Night 3 of sudden-death rounds on "American Idol" and the big story is Zoanette Johnson.
Yes, the same woman who butchered the national anthem during her initial tryouts. And the same woman who, in Hollywood, did some crazed, erratic drum-bashing thing that surely prompted many viewers to wonder what the judges had in those Diet Coke cups when they gave her another pass.
But, of course, the Zoanette show would surely hit a road block in Vegas. The big-voiced, wild-haired, unpredictable woman from Liberia just couldn't go on, right?
Wrong. Zoanette Johnson is part of your "American Idol" Top 20." It's true. I'll give you a moment to let that sink in ...
Zoanette got there by taking the stage last on Wednesday night and bellowing out a version of Elton John's "Circle of Life" from "The Lion King" that was part song, part tornado, and 100 percent emotion.
It wasn't exactly a masterful piece of art, but it had the crowd roaring and the judges dazed.
"Forget the king of the jungle," raved Keith Urban. "Kudos to the queen of the jungle."
Nicki Minaj, who was moved to tears, told Ms. Z, "You just served it. You're unforgettable. You're a superstar. ..."
Added Mariah Carey, "It's almost like your spirit is too big to be contained."
It will be interesting to see if America's voters will be as kind to Zoanette as our four arbiters have been. It's clear, though, that she commands the stage.
Advancing along with Zoanette were Candice Glover, who retained her status as an early favorite with a sparkling performance of Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" that wowed the judges, and country singer Janelle Arthur who fell a bit flat on Lady Antebellum's "Just a Kiss," but apparently had built up enough good will with the judges to squeak by.
They'll be joined in the Top 20 by Aubrey Cleland and Breanna Steer, two contestants who hadn't gotten much camera time until now, but made a great big impression.
Cleland's take on Beyonce's "Sweet Dreams" had all the judges talking about her contemporary commercial appeal and Mariah deeming her vocal ability "limitless."
Steer showcased a strong, confident voice on Jazmine Sullivan's "Bust Your Windows" that excited all the judges, especially Nicki.
"You had your swag on," she blurted. "You're giving me sexy on a stick right now."
Among those who saw their "Idol" journey come to an end were Melinda Ademi, who was a bit wobbly on Jessie J's "Nobody's Perfect," and Jett Hermano who didn't quite connect with the judges on a slowed-down version of Rihanna's "Only Girl (In The World)."
Also leaving the party were raspy-voiced Cristabel Clack (Alicia Keys' "No One"), Rachel Hale (Grace Potter's "Nothing But the Water"), Juliana Chahayed (Demi Lovato's "Skyscraper")
"Idol"'s sudden-death phase continues on Thursday as 10 more guys sing for their lives.