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Can an "American Idol" alum breathe new life into the Fox singing competition that's shedding viewers at an alarming clip?

Fox officials must be hoping so. E! News reports that Jennifer Hudson has signed on as judge for season 13. E! also says the other two judging spots are intended for former "Idol" contestants: Kelly Clarkson and either Adam Lambert or Clay Aiken.

According to E! sources, Clarkson is close to signing on but no word yet on whether Lambert or Aiken will fill the final spot. Producers are expected to keep the panel to three members.

The Oscar-winning actress and Chicago native returned to the stage last week on "Idol," the show that first put her in the spotlight back in season three. She sang a duet with Candice Glover, the latest contestant to wear the "Idol" crown.

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Chicago high school senior Devin Velez has found himself on the receiving end of some surly tweets from "American Idol" judge Nicki Minaj.

Minaj's social media smackdown started after the Portage Park teen responded to a question from reporters Friday about whether Minaj over-reacted to the males' group performance during Motown week. (Devin, Lazaro Arbos and Burnell Taylor gave a shaky rendition of "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)." After they sang, a displeased Minaj basically told them to get off stage.

"Looking back at the video I know where Nicki was coming from," Devin said. "I agree with the first half of her critique, when she said it felt like it was Hollywood Week. When she went crazy was when she was like, 'Get off the stage, blah blah blah.' And it's just like, 'Whoa Ms. Minaj, I need you to calm down please.'"

"We're still human. We still have feelings," said Devin, whose tone of voice was more matter-of-fact about the incident than mortally wounded. "She doesn't care sometimes. It's all good. We still love Nicki."

Well, Nicki didn't love hearing that Devin might be the least bit miffed about his public dressing down.

She unleashed the following tweets later that Friday:

Chicago high school senior Devin Velez was the latest Top 10 finalist to get eliminated Thursday on "American Idol."

That leaves only two males -- Lazaro Arbos and Burnell Taylor -- in the Fox singing competition. They, along with Devin, turned in a shaky performance of "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" on Wednesday for Motown Week.

Did Devin end up paying for all of their sins?

In an interview Friday, Devin said the group was unprepared and the criticism levied by the judges was "well deserved." He also noted that he was "a little at fault," but he also wasn't the one who forgot the lyrics. (That would be Lazaro.)

In any event, it came down to viewer votes and Devin got the lowest number. But don't expect sour grapes from this good-natured guy. He said he's thrilled to have made it to the Top 10 so he can go on tour this summer.

Besides, he's already got his sights set on another crown: prom king. The big dance is June 1 at Rickover Naval Academy in Edgewater.

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Devin Velez's long and winding road will continue on "American Idol" after the Chicago teenager gleaned enough viewer votes Thursday to keep him around for at least another week.

The remaining Top 9 contestants sang Beatles songs during the performance round Wednesday. Devin, 18, sang "A Long and Winding Road."

"It was the middle of the pack," "Idol" mentor Jimmy Iovine said Thursday about Devin's performance. "It wasn't amazing. But it was very, very promising. Devin has a great ear. That's a big asset for a singer but he has to learn how to consistenly apply it."

Judge Keith Urban said he didn't feel enough of an emotional connection coming from Devin, but the rest of the judges praised the Starbucks barista.

Viewers must have liked what they heard, too, but Devin still wound up in the bottom three on Thursday's results show. He also finished in the bottom last week, so he has some work to do if he's going to stick around.

"Idol" finalist Paul Jolley got the boot Thursday.


The "American Idol" microphone's cross-country tour blew through Chicago on Friday. Nearly a dozen local "Idol" fans -- along with season 10 finalist and Milwaukee native Naima Adedapo -- made up the relay team that helped shuttle the mike through the city.

The relay members were randomly chosen after registering online to be part of the team designed to drum up publicity for the Fox singing competition, which announced the Top 10 finalists on Thursday's show. Chicagoan Devin Velez, an 18-year-old senior at Rickover Naval Academy, made the cut.

"I'm a big 'Idol' fan and I wanted to show support for Chicago," said Buffalo Grove resident Denise Silver, who took a half day off work at her retail job to turn up at The Bean in Millennium Park, where relay members met Friday morning before hoofing it, mike in hand, to the Art Institute.

The mike also took a ride on a Segway tour and stopped at Soldier Field, Navy Pier and Water Tower before dropping in at Giordano's for some deep-dish and taking in the views from the Willis Tower sky deck. The tour arrived here after being in Detroit. Next stop: Oklahoma City. The microphone's two-week, 5,000-mile publicity trek started last week in New York and ends in L.A. March 13 in time for the Top 10 live performance show.

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It might be a while before Devin Velez is back in Chicago making tall soy no-whip mocha lattes at Starbucks.

The Portage Park barista and Rickover Naval Academy senior became an "American Idol" finalist Thursday, getting enough viewer votes to join the ranks of the Top 10 and secure a spot on Idol's summer tour.

Velez's mother, Sandra Liz Lam, was in the audience of the Las Vegas theater when her son's name was called. "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest invited Lam on stage, where she wrapped her oldest child in a huge hug.

Judge Nicki Minaj, who called Velez a Spanish Ken doll during Wednesday's live show, urged the young crooner to continue singing in Spanish and English like he did with his most recent performance of the classic "Somos Novios," recorded in English by Perry Como ("It's Impossible"). Check it out here:

Rickover Naval Academy cadet Devin Velez will be among the 10 male semifinalists singing live tonight on "American Idol."

This is the first week in the current 12th season where viewer votes -- not just the judges' preferences -- start to count. In other words, if you want to see a local face in the finals, get out the vote.

At 18, Velez is one of the youngest contestants left on "Idol." In a Sun-Times story that ran earlier this week, Velez talked about how he started singing as a toddler. His grandparents have home videos showing him belting out the tunes in his playroom.

His godmother, Pearl Conley of Melrose Park, sent us this photo (below) of Devin as a young boy, microphone in hand. He'll take the mike again tonight, this time on live television, in front of millions of viewers. Whether he makes the cut will be revealed on tomorrow's results show starting at 7 p.m.

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