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'American Idol' Recap: Nicki Minaj Gets Tough
Judge pulls no punches as winnowing continues in Hollywood

After Wednesday's group rounds, which decimated the field of Idol wannabes, the boys last night had one more chance to sing for their suppers and prove that they are live-show ready. While all the judges (except Nicki) slept through the proceedings, a few people did well, but no incredible standouts emerged. 

In fact, the most interesting thing to happen last night was more of a subtle shift for Idol, which eliminated many of the contestants with interesting or tragic backstories. Those set adrift by the panel of judges last night included Micah Johnson of the terrible tonsillectomy, rock & roll baker Gabe Brown, Christian youth leader S'anni and Nate Tao, who sagely noted, "It's not the end of the world, but it sucks." Also taking the long bus ride home is Matheus Fernandes, whose version of "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" by Kelly Clarkson prompted Randy Jackson to make his patented "What's that smell?" face. Nicki Minaj bluntly told the former contestant from The Glee Project, "Things can go from being inspiring to becoming you wanting a pity party." 

'American Idol': Rolling Stone's Complete Coverage

Nicki was on a roll last night. After Papa Peachez failed to step up, she told him, "That flame is burned out. I'm so disappointed," then hastened to add, "I still love you." But that's probably not enough to cling to at night. While Nicki may have sounded harsh to those she was dismissing, she correctly pointed out, "If you didn't fight for your life tonight, you should be pretty upset with yourself." 

Here is what passed for highlights last night: 

Being up first is never fun, but Paul Jolley managed to eke out a solid performance of Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away" after spending the first five minutes on stage actively stressing out, which did not impress the judges. "You walked out so defeated and that really irritated me," said Nicki Minaj. "Give us one minute of professionalism." 

Lazaro Arbos, who hadn't heard of the Beach Boys until yesterday, killed his cover of "Edge of Glory." Jimmy Smith who has one of the least Google-able names in the competition, sang a sweet version of "Landslide" that made Nicki smile and Mariah Carey root for him. 

"Charlie, I am obsessed with you," Nicki announced to socially awkward Charlie Askew, and he probably believed her. After his performance of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know," she added, "Today you became an artist in my eyes." 

Although we've never seen Devin Velez before, Randy apparently gave him a standing ovation during auditions. He over-sang "It's a Wonderful World" in exactly the way the judges like, which prompted Keith Urban to announce, "You were born to sing." 

Gurpreet Singh Sarin – who hasn't yet earned a "The Turbanator" chyron – sang a delightfully anachronistic rendition of "Georgia on My Mind," accompanying himself on guitar for a surprisingly Dylan-esque performance.

While yesterday Nicki called Cortez Shaw's cover of Whitney Houston "disgusting," he staged a one-man comeback that wowed the judges. He is moving forward along with Nick Boddington, JDA, Mathenee Treco, Johnny Keyser, Burnell Taylor, Curtis Finch Jr. and Marvin Calderon

Come back next week when the girls finally get a chance to perform. Then next Thursday, eight more guys will be cut.  

Previously: Forgetting the Words With Style


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