The season 12 agenda for a female winner is working! Ten guys sing, some abysmally. Top 20 are...

By Annie Barrett
Updated March 01, 2013 at 07:52 AM EST
Idol Lazaro Arbos
Credit: Michael Becker/Fox

Agh! Pretty blah episode for the big Top 20 announcement in Vegas. Here’s the 20-second recap: Most of Thursday’s guys were unmemorable and/or bad, and it was painfully obvious due to the judges’ scripted comments who’d been pre-selected to go through. Randy is still looking for “moments,” Nicki Minaj knows what everyone who “wants to make it out of the hood” FEELS LIKE, and Mariah Carey wants every contestant to know SHE has loved them from the very beginning.

And now for the longer version….


Bryant Tadeo — Why this stranger-’til-now, a Hawaiian department store employee, was shown the door is still a mystery. The crowd loved him, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and he lent a beautiful tone to “New York State of Mind.” Nicki Minaj graciously took some time off from her busy schedule of throwing grotesque side-eyes to tell Bryant “Babe. Ummmm. I loved that last note you did… I didn’t like anything else,” and Randy volunteered that the song “never quite went there for me.” Mariah attempted to explain the crowd’s enthusiasm: “I think what people responded to is the fact that you sounded professional — the tonality of your voice.” And?! Shouldn’t that be a good thing?

Sorry Bryant! Next time try living somewhere near a hurricane.

David Willis — The judges immediately ganged up on David for his song choice, a sped-up, bluesy rendition of Peggy Lee’s “Fever.” After Nicki learned David was married, she bleated an aggressively over-it “HI, WIFE” and suggested David sounded like a kid who’d just received a guitar for Christmas, playing poorly in front of his family. Just, no. Rude! I wasn’t blown away, but I hadn’t remembered David from any other point in the season, and I thought the uptempo cover was pretty cool considering we rarely see anything like it on Idol. The overall effect reminded me of the True Blood opening credits, jangly and dark but also fun. I was into it!

Farewell, David! How dare you even try. After all, a Black Guy With Guitar could be even more potentially deadly than the white version!

NEXT: ‘Honey Child. HELL NO.” Gurpreet Singh Sarin — Okay, this one was legitimately bad. I found nothing redeeming in his cover of James Morrison’s “Nothing Ever Hurt Like You” other than that once again, the Turbinator seems like a super nice, smart, guy. A little desperate, but who isn’t? The judges ripped on him for neglecting his trusty guitar. Apparently no one noticed that without an instrument and some physical activity to distract the beholder, the guy can’t really sing. Later, marigolden boy. Or as Nicki put it: “Honey child: HELL NO.”

Josh Holiday — He took a huge risk by singing and then over-performing an original tune called “Better With You.” The judges decided it’d be better if he’d stayed at the piano, so we’re back to that. Keith Urban said he wished vocal teacher Josh would have cut loose more — “I don’t give a rat’s about skillful; I want to see your rawwwwwrness and passion at the end.” Such an artful omission of ass, Keith!

Basically, Josh wasn’t that great but he was better than one or two of the guys who advanced, and it’s likely the producers feared his WGWG power.

Profound parting words from Nicki: “You ripped your pants off and we’ll never forget that.”

Mathenee Treco — His bombastic rendition of “A Little Less Conversation” might have made more sense as the headlining post-buffet event at the Bahamas resort where he works as a choreographer and entertainment specialist. His energy and one of the less-startling high notes amused me, but it was definitely more of a karaoke performance than what I prefer.

Nicki, Keith, and Randy demanded that age-old Idol question of Mathenee: “What kind of artist do you want to be? WHO ARE YOU?” Rumor has it the Elvis tune (which apparently Mariah Carey has never heard) was not Mathenee’s first, second, or third choice. I wish he’d done classic rock or hip-hop.

NEXT: The five guys to advance are…. MOVING ON

Burnell Taylor — Kid looks great. I’m very into this makeover — he’s lost 40 pounds and, at only 19, figured out what works in life: “Feel better, do better.” This is why I need to pay more attention to my own health. I can relate so much to Burnell’s struggle!!!! #BoxedWine #SpecialRecappingPastries… Oh sorry, segued into Minaj Mode for a minute there. “Just knowing that you can sing and wanting to take your family out of the hood — I KNOW WHAT THAT FEELS LIKE!” Nicki fake-wept to Burnell following his cover of John Legend’s “This Time.” Not to be outdone, Mariah reminded Burnell and America that Idol had made a commercial of her, crying, after his Baton Rouge audition.

I definitely liked Burnell’s performance and vocal — his method of movement, phrasing, and personal style (tight pants! thin now!) are indeed unique, at least in terms of reality television. I can see myself quickly growing tired of the way he “conjures up” notes in the song like magic, though. It’ll be like when Paul McDonald kept walking his imaginary pet turtle around the stage. Fun! Then absurd. Then annoying. Maybe.

Cortez Shaw — I’d define his “Titanium” cover as a legit hot mess, complete with crazy high notes, sweeping arm gestures, and enough facial acrobatics to rival Nicki Minaj’s series of eye rolls throughout the entire two hours. Many of his notes were off, so my initial reaction to his passing tonight’s test was “yikes,” but hopefully once he tones it down a little and restrains himself from throwing all of his tricks into the boiling vat of desperation stew, he’ll have a more aesthetically pleasing vocal in the future.

I understand why they want him — he’s got a great face, he’s willing to try anything, and he’s dynamic. Girls will like him. Hey, there’s Nicki Minaj, totally turned on, right now. Did not need to hear that. But Cortez is wild enough that his own over-processed antics could easily be his own undoing. Another male specimen down the drain!

Lazaro Arbos — “His heart and soul are in it!” announced Ryan as if this only applied to Lazaro. Look, I feel for this kid, this 21-year-old extreme stutterer who works as an ice cream scooper because “it’s the only job where I don’t have to do smart-people stuff, like talking.” (Oh my God.) But Lazaro’s cover of Keith Urban’s own “Tonight I Wanna Cry” was the worst of the night, for me. It’s a beautiful thing that he can sing at all. A lovely triumph over a lifetime of rejection and not fitting in. But I could barely understand the words in this song, and I’m not sure how much he can grow — remember how few songs he knew on group night? He’s going to need so much hand-holding (that will have nothing to do with the stutter). Maybe he’ll evolve and it’ll all be worth it.

Anyway, I wouldn’t have put Lazaro through, even though he is adorable and makes me feel things. I have to admit though, his “You have no idea how much I l-l-l-l-love you” embrace with Nicki and his sweat-gushing forehead during his performance did make for some compelling TV.

NEXT: Vincent Powell, finally! Nick Boddington — I was impressed by Nick’s piano-driven snippet during the Hollywood round, but tonight’s cover of James Morrison (again?!)’s “Say Something Now” was a total snoozefest. Nothing jumped out at me as something I’d want to see or hear more of. It just drove home the fact that these Vegas performances were 100 percent just for show and that the producers already had the Top 20 list engraved into a plaque above Nigel Lythgoe’s vanity mirror. I do think Nick will step it up next time, so I’m not mad about it. Just severely underwhelmed.

Vincent Powell — Ooh! Saved the best for last. This worship leader, vocal teacher, and former backup singer for Whitney Houston (!!!), is #inittowinit, which I honestly can’t believe Idol is pushing as a hashtag this season. Last season, maybe. Season 10, for sure. Right now it is making me rage.

Anyway, Vincent ran the full gamut of vocal antics throughout Lenny Williams’ “Cause I Love You,” and somehow did so without ever over-performing. He obviously knew exactly what he’d do — there were hundreds of tiny choices involved — but nothing about it seemed forced or choreographed. He was the definition of “a connection to the song” — Keith’s wish for many of the other guys.

I worry that Vincent’s sound won’t be current enough for many voters to care, but then again Nicki had a great, albeit hyper-trashy point when she told Vincent she could envision “a whole bunch of 50- and 40-year-old women throwing their panties at you.” And really, what has one’s professional singing career been leading up to if not that?

“GET IT, PAPA SMURF. WORK!” belched Zoanette during a special Seacrest check-in following Vincent’s soul-fest. That’s her boo. “That’s mah boo boo,” Zoanette clarified.

To channel Mariah this time: “All I can say is FINALLY. Period.” The recap is over. Am I right?

Your thoughts on tonight? Is “worship leader” the new “unemployed”?


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