The guys performing on stage.

You would have sworn it was the season finale when the Top 16 lit up the stage for their opening sequence song.

You would have sworn it was the season finale when the Top 16 lit up the stage for their opening sequence song. Never has Locked Away by Rock City feat. Adam Levine sounded so good – they even received a standing ovation from judge Somizi Mhlongo!

House music diva Mpumi came on to entertain the audience while the guys were getting ready for their first ever solo performances in front of a live voting audience. Needless to say, the energy was cranked up high in the packed State Theatre in Pretoria.

Charming baritone Thamsanqa kicked off the “Hits from the Last Decade” theme with a local is lekker favourite, Akulalwa by DJ Shimza feat. Dr Malinga. He brought the energy with a vibey performance that received mostly positive reviews from the judges.

Gareth Cliff simply said he has booked himself in the Top 10. Somizi also applauded him on a great start to the show, but warned against “gospelising” songs going forward. Randall Abrahams concurred with his fellow judge, and complimented the rugby player on being able to energise the audience. “It looks good for the future,” he said. Unathi Msengana was certainly energised, and thanked the singer for “respecting a House song”.

Sanele took on Charlie Puth’s massive hit, One Call Away. His rendition upped the excitement ante and the judges were generous with their praise. 

“You nailed it! It was clean and effortless. In one word, it was superspendiflorous!” gushed Somizi. Unathi agreed, saying it felt like Sanele had taken everyone’s critique over the weeks and applied it. Randall was also impressed, but cautioned the young singer to take care that he nails the song from start to finish. “You’ve proven that if you’ve got a good song, a great band and backing vocal, you don’t have to do much,” was Gareth’s take.

Following that tough act was Bevin. The teen got on stage to sing Chris Brown’s sexy Back to Sleep, and delivered in spades.

While Unathi admitted to feeling nervous contestants choose sexual songs that require them to be sensual, she was glad Bevin was able to deliver. Randall said his “street sound” was something no producer should ever take away and Bevin himself should never reign it in or water down. Gareth threw the teen contestant’s name in with the likes of Justin Bieber and Usher, while Somizi conjured up another unique adjective to describe his happiness with the performance.

Capetonian Lusanda slowed it down with local love jam of the moment, Thandiwe by Vusi Nova. If the crowd’s reaction was anything to go by, Lusanda’s crooning was on point.

But the judges had a different outlook. Randall said the song choice would get him by even though he struggled in some parts. Gareth said Lusanda was showing off a little bit and needed to remember that sometimes less is more. Somizi felt the contestant was self-indulgent and didn’t connect with his audience. Unathi agreed with her fellow judges, and asked that Lusanda connect more with the song on an emotional level in future.

Still keeping it on Mzansi shores was Tebogo, who performed Rainbow by Black Motion feat. Xoli M.

Gareth went out on a limb and guessed that people didn’t think it hit the spot. Somizi couldn’t fault him vocally, but said he needed to “find that thing!” Unathi said she loved the vocal and the performance, as well as the different shade he had delivered it in. Randall predicted Tebogo will still be on stage in a few weeks to come.

Thami came on with a completely different take of Drake’s Hotline Bling. Slower, quieter, sexier…the young man gave it his all and was justly rewarded with a standing ovation from the crowd.

Somizi said Thami’s falsetto will make local R'n'B star Donald “speak Chinese”. Unathi called the performance flawless. “You’ve matured and grown into yourself as a performer and a singer,” was Randall’s praise. Gareth agreed with Randall but confessed he was concerned about Thami turning the popular song on its head by completely changing the melody.

As predicted, Terra didn’t have to dig deep for his inner neo soul crooner when he performed Maxwell’s Bad Habits, showing off shades of his voice that had the crowd on its feet chanting “We want more!”

Unathi couldn’t contain her excitement and said she wished someone could send Maxwell that performance. Randall called this week “real competition” and Terra the most technically gifted singer this season. Gareth said it was sophisticated, while Somizi gave a deep satisfied sigh before declaring it the performance of the night!

One almost felt sorry for the last performer of the night, Keegan, after such high praise for Terra. Closing the show off with Usher’s Climax, he was in it to win it – and boy did he deliver!

Randall led the charge of praise with a shocking: “It ain’t over till the Keegan sings! Ladies, it is going to be a BIG season! Thamsanqa, Bevin, Terra and Keegan!” Gareth followed with his own high octane comment. “This is not the guy we put through in auditions. It’s like he multiplied himself by 10. He’s going to the top!” Somizi did a praise sing and couldn’t articulate more than that, while Unathi ululated and called it “not just my performance of the night but the performance of the last two week!”

One thing is for sure, the boys are not here to play. The competition is on!

Don’t miss next week when six contestants will be cut and the Idols Season XII Top 10 will be announced. It’s going to be epic!

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