The 25-year-old so-called "gentle giant" of Pine Hill, N.J., was given a last-minute spot among the male semifinalists Tuesday after the Fox singing contest's judges had dismissed him in Las Vegas. Jones was lauded for his bass-fueled take on Luther Vandross' "Dance with My Father" during Tuesday's performances from the 13 male semifinalists.
"Thank you so much for proving why we asked you to come back," said Steven Tyler.
Many of the guys were praised by the panel after crooning a song of their choice, including 27-year-old new father Adam Brock of Washington, Pa., with Aretha Franklin's "Think," 20-year-old musician Colton Dixon of Murfreesboro, Tenn., with Paramore's "Decode," and 28-year-old street performer Creighton Fraker of New York, with Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors."
"I don't want you to go home," Jennifer Lopez told Fraker. "I want you to stay."
Several singers soared with vocal acrobatics, including 19-year-old receptionist Jeremy Rosado of Valrico, Fla., with Sara Bareilles' "Gravity," 19-year-old crawfish lover Joshua Ledet of Westlake, La., with Jennifer Hudson's "You Pulled Me Through," and 17-year-old student Deandre Brackensick of San Jose, Calif., with Earth Wind and Fire's "Reasons."
"Your voice is so perfect to me," Lopez beamed to Brackensick.
Reed Grimm kicked off the show with a jazzy rendition of Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" that included a drum solo from the 26-year-old nanny of Ellsworth, Wis., and some bleeping from the show's censors when Grimm stuck to the lyrics and later when Tyler enthusiastically alerted him that "there's gonna be a whole new generation watching your (expletive)."
The curvy new "Idol" stage seemed to swallow a couple of contestants. Only 22-year-old vocalist Heejun Han of New York and 15-year-old Eben Franckewitz of Loveland, Ohio, received criticism from the judges. They disapproved of Han's song choice of Robbie Williams' "Angels" and chastised Franckewitz for a rocky start on Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain."
"It wasn't all perfect, but at the end, you really brought it home," Jackson told the youngster.
Somewhere in the middle of the pack were 27-year-old performer Aaron Marcellus of Atlanta with the Jackson Five's "Never Can Say Goodbye," 21-year-old country crooner Chase Likens of Point Pleasant, W.Va., with Hunter Hayes' "Storm Warning" and 21-year-old pawn shop worker Phillip Phillips of Leesburg, Ga., with Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight."
"It's not easy having a voice like yours and fitting it into other people's songs," Tyler told a growly Phillips.
The top 12 female singers will perform Wednesday, and then all the top 25 semifinalists will learn Thursday if they received enough votes to be among the viewer-selected top 10 or one of the three "wild card" finalists to be determined by the show's judges.