We've got our top 20 for Season 12 on American Idol. After four sudden-death rounds, the top 40 were whittled down to 20 contestants ready to face America. The changes that the producers made to Vegas week mean that when the top 20 head back to Hollywood, voters will have actually seen them in action. Hopefully, having a slightly educated and informed electorate can avoid a repeat of the Great Taylor Hicks Fiasco of 2006.
The night's big standout was Vincent Powell, who sang Lenny Williams' "Cause I Love You" with a smooth Motown vibe that undoubtedly made Berry Gordy turn up the television set. When the camera cut to Randy Jackson mid-performance, he was in pure bliss. "I felt like the show tonight started right here," Randy said before name-checking Frank Ocean, Miguel and D'Angelo. The audience couldn't contain themselves and neither could Zoanette Johnson who was inciting a riot by yelling, "Get it, Papa Smurf!" At the end of the song, Mariah Carey, Randy and Keith Urban were on their feet to applaud the singer. "It was a good old-fashioned, it was a sexy old-fashioned," Nicki Minaj said. She didn't hesitate to tell him that he was going through to the next round.
By the end of the evening, Idol had five men ready to go to Hollywood, sending home several guys in the process who would have advanced had they been part of last Thursday's group. Was it luck of the draw or a more nefarious plot to have a female champion? Only Nigel Lythgoe knows for sure.
Here's what else happened on last night's American Idol:
After giving a Sikh 101 lesson to America, Gurpreet Singh launched into a strangely poppy rendition of "Nothing Ever Hurt Like You," which the judges did not like at all. "Today was not the day to take that kind of risk," said Nicki. "Honey child, hell no." Randy thought it was "honestly, terrible." Despite Gurpreet's terrible reviews, the producers attempted to build tension as to whether he or Nick Boddington would be continuing in the competition. Obviously Nick made it, although his version of "Say Something Now" "wasn't a 10," according to Nicki.
Mathenee Treco's pumped up version of "A Little Less Conversation" had more energy than all of the women's performances last night combined, but the judges immediately started complimenting his "amazing talent," which is always a bad sign. Sure enough, he was sent home. On the plus side, Mariah announced on national television that Mathenee was someone she would want to come to her house to talk. Not that he should wait by the phone or anything.
Josh Holliday opted to sing an original song, accompanying himself on the piano before taking center stage to deliver the last few soaring notes. It was a solid enough performance, but when Mariah started telling him that songwriters are very successful, the writing was on the wall. Sure enough, Josh did not make it through, but he may want to look into that songwriting thing.
David Oliver Willis delivered an understated but solid performance on a bluesy arrangement of "Fever." While Nicki was underwhelmed by the song, the other judges were far more optimistic about his potential talent. Even so, he'll have to explore that elsewhere, because he was sent home.
Nicki didn't like anything but the last note that Bryant Tadeo sang in Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind." Mariah appreciated his "raw talent" and Randy liked parts of the beginning, middle and end of the solid but snooze-y performance. He was sent home, but the silver lining is that he lives in Hawaii.
Burnell Taylor made Mariah cry during his audition and almost did it again during his version of John Legend's "This Time." Even the night's big naysayer, Nicki, was on her feet to applaud his effort and tell him she would pay money to see him perform right now.
For some reason, Lazaro Arbos opted to sing a Keith Urban song, specifically "Tonight I Wanna Cry." While Keith hilariously didn't like the song choice, the other judges admired Lazaro's purity of voice and vision. He likes ballads, the judges like when he sings ballads, so he delivers ballads. There was no doubt that he was going through to the next round, where America can decide whether to judge him on his talent or his backstory.
Cortez Shaw chose to sing David Guetta's "Titanium," which Keith considered a big risk that mostly paid off. There were some pitch issues, but Randy was impressed with the range he showed. Nicki was too hot and bothered to critique his actual singing.
Most Nicki Moment: When the audience booed her during her critique of Josh Holliday, Nicki turned around and told them she would come back there if they didn't pipe down. Mariah just sat there shaking her head.
Best Reason to Come Back Next Week: The top 20 heads back to Hollywood for three nights of singing.