On Wednesday night, we spent a lot of time with the "American Idol" Men. Too much time, if you ask me. Hollywood Week used to be a highlight of the "Idol" schedule, but Wednesday's show was a mess that didn't leave me appreciating a single singer on a particularly high level.
But maybe Thursday's show will be better as we trim the masculine side of the "Idol" field...
8:00 p.m. PT. First off, apologies for missing the East Coast airing of "Idol" tonight. I know you don't care, but I'm sorry anyway. Traffic on the 405. How Los Angeles is that? Exactly.
8:02 p.m. Is "Idol" emulating "American Horror Story" with some of this choppy editing? I somehow doubt it. We're promised this is Solo Day and we're going to get some great performances. I hope that's true. This is also the first chance to see which of these performers can also play instruments. It's hard to know which White Guy With Guitar is going to win if we don't know which white guys actually play guitars?
8:03 p.m. Up first is Paul Jolley, who doesn't appear to play a guitar. He's painfully nervous. I don't know if he's in pain, but it's painful to watch him shake and to listen to his voice crack. Will he even be able to sing? Kinda. He's got a very pop-friendly voice. He's also excruciatingly cheesy, both in his tone and in his arm-waving, wincing mannerisms. The judges are impressed. "You walked out so defeated and that really irritated me," Nicki Minaj says, demanding one minute of professionalism. Yay, Nicki Minaj! "Be jolly," Keith quips. Two minutes later, Randy Jackson gets it. Paul Jolley fits in the "Much better suited for 'Canadian Idol' catagory."
8:06 p.m. We don't have to watch Lazaro Arbos stutter before he performs a so-so version of "Edge of Glory."
8:06 p.m. I don't especially like Curtis Finch Jr. as a personality and he didn't come out well in Group Night yesterday, but when it comes to singing, the gap between Curtis and the first two performers tonight is massive. I don't think American voters will like him at all, but he's good enough that we have to let America reject him. "Absolutely beautiful as alway," Mariah says, calling herself "blessed" to hear him sing.
8:08 p.m. The judges have made some decisions: Lazaro, Curtis and Paul all step forward. And they're advancing. I wonder how bad the people in the back row were if Paul and Lazaro advanced and they didn't.
8:13 p.m. We've been promised favorites are going home. Whee!
8:14 p.m. Other people may be nervous, but not Devin Velez. He's confident. His version of "What a Wonderful World" is over-sung, but he probably has the voice to get away with it. If we put up with DeAndre Brackensick's weak falsetto, surely Devin's far superior falsetto deserves some credit.
8:16 p.m. In contrast, I like Gurpreet Singh Sarin for his charming, easy-going style.
8:16 p.m. I think that Cortez Shaw like a 90 percent version of Joshua Ledet. For some people that will be an insult. I think I mean it as a compliment.
8:17 p.m. Hmmm... Matheus Fernandes was on "The Glee Project." Surely he's being a wee bit disingenuous with all of her nervous protestations about his inexperience. I really don't like Matheus' Kelly Clarkson cover. It's entirely overwhelmed by emotion and barely sung at all. There's wailing and breathlessness. Mariah didn't feel like he was connected. "Sometimes things can go from inspiring to becoming you wanting a pity party," says the awesome Nicki Minaj. She urges Matheus to be comfortable in his greatness.
8:20 p.m. Judgment time! Devin, The Turbanator, Cortez and Adam step forward. They're advancing. That means Matheus is done. He advanced as far as he deserved to advance. It gives me no pleasure to see him go. It was just his time. He vows not to give up.
8:26 p.m. No one has more at stake than Nicholas Mathis. Why is that, "American Idol"? Or was that just a fat joke, Ryan Seacrest? No. Nicholas has a daughter and a son and he wants to give them a better life. I think he starts his audition in a key that he can't really sing. He just doesn't have the melody. And the part at the end when he gets down on his knees while singing sharply doesn't work at all. Keith says Nicholas was chasing a song instead of chasing a dream. Nicholas begs for another chance. Ugh. Awkward. He's sad and also angry as he storms off.
8:28 p.m. Will Jimmy Smith and Papa Peachez shine? This is an interesting low-key version of Papa Peachez, who seems determined to show that he can win "Swedish 1970s Lounge Singer of the Year." Nicki told Papa the day before he needed to step up and stop being complacent and now she's "so disappointed." She fears that the competition has sucked his special quality from him. I feel like we're going to look back on tonight as the night Nicki Minaj took over "American Idol." And oy but Jimmy Smith is corny. Can he play the guitar? Because if he can... He might be your winner!
8:32 p.m. Life and death time... Nicki Minaj says that if people didn't fight for their lives, they should be disappointed with themselves. What about the men who will fight for her honor?
8:36 p.m. Nicholas and Papa Peachez are asked to step forward. They're both going home. Johnny Keyser and Vincent Powell advanced from that group. Nicholas doesn't want the camera in his face.
8:38 p.m. Ah, Nick Boddington. He's overhauled his hat selection since his elimination in Las Vegas last year. He's playing the piano/keyboard and it's a great choice. He sounds good and seems musically capable in a very welcome way. He looks more like an Observer than an Idol (and he can't out-sing Michael Cerveris), but in this contest, he's set himself apart tonight. Keith likes Nick.
8:40 p.m. Endearingly socially awkward Charlie Askew is wearing a shiny suit and doing jumping jacks backstage. He begins his perform of "Somebody You Used to Know" with an amusing spoken intro and his vocal on the Gotye cover is spot-on. I'd like to believe that America will like Charlie Askew. He deserves America's liking. "Charlie, I am obsessed with you," Nicki says. "Baby, I could say the same thing," Charlie responds. "I glorify weirdness," Charlie tells Nicki when she praises his oddness. OK. I like Charlie, but I don't want him to become too cocky. "I'm gonna eat him," Nicki says.
8:43 p.m. Charlie, Nick, JDa and Matheny advance.
8:48 p.m. Time for another group. Lots of people are singing "Jar of Hearts." Actually, it's just two: Burnell Taylor and Marvin Calderon. Why did Seacrest make it sound like there was an outbreak of some sort? They're both advancing.
8:50 p.m. We've heard only good things about and from Micah Johnson. But how will he perform tonight in the solo spotlight? He'll perform well, duh. Even though Randy is initially skeptical of Micah's decision to sing Randy Travis, The Dawg is eventually swayed. "I like it when I can hear you do more with your voice," Mariah says... Was that a criticism? We'll find out after another break.
8:56 p.m. Mariah's still hemming and hawing. "For this round, it's not gonna work," Mariah says. Interesting. It's a "No" for Micah. "I'm still living. I've still got a job. And there's always next year," says Micah, whose attitude is awesome.
8:58 p.m. Boo. I wanted Gabe Brown to stick around.
8:58 p.m. TWIST! The guys who were put through earlier all have to return to the stage. Randy congratulates them. Randy warns them that they're seeing the girls next week and then next Thursday, eight guys will be eliminated. Laaaaaame.
8:59 p.m. Yay! Bring on the ladies.
What surprised you tonight? Any new favorites?
Everything: American Idol
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