For one prolonged moment Thursday night, as the crowd inside the American Idol studio loudly chanted for the judges to use their one season-12 save on Devin Velez, it seemed like the bilingual crooner would indeed live to sing another week.
But in the end, it seems Nicki Minaj couldn't be persuaded by the rest of the superstar panel.
"I don't know why," Velez told E! News backstage after the show. "She has a lot of girl power and lot of girl thoughts. Maybe she just wants a girl to win. The girls have been so consistent with their songs, and the girls are amazing this year [so] I have nothing bad to say about any of the contestants."
That includes Lazaro Arbos, who joined Velez in the bottom two Thursday and who had, the night before, botched the lyrics to the guys' group number.
Still, this week's eliminated contestant was confident their poorly received rendition of "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" had played a role in the voting results. "I think it played a huge part, just because I know that my solo performance was awesome," he said. "I heard it from Smokey Robinson, so American—I love America, but they don't have any say because I sang Smokey's song and he loved it.
"But the fact that the group number came afterwards, that's the last thing that [voters] remembered," he continued. "And even though I did pull us through the song, maybe it was just my time to go. It's OK."
Helping to ease the sting: A suprising post-elimination offer from Mariah Carey. "Mariah was emotional but she said, 'I would love to, sometime down your road, do something with you,'" Velez revealed. "And coming from Mariah—she doesn't say that to everyone! Her hug was so sincere, and her tears were not of joy, but I got to wipe a few, so I'm not washing this finger."
All joking aside, Velez is looking forward to the future. "It's been a greay journey," he said. "I haven't cried yet, just because it's not goodbye. I still get to do the tour, and I'm hoping to go back home and win prom king at [his military academy]. There's a crown, so hopefully it's mine!"