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'American Idol': Looking for 20 good men

9:51 PM, Feb 7, 2013   |    comments
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(Usa Today)-- The American Idol Hollywood Round moves on to the solo section tonight for the guys. The 43 who survived Wednesday's slice 'n' dice eliminations get one more chance to impress the judges - and to make the semifinals. By the time the show's over, we should have our Top 20 guys for Season 12. Post your thoughts here in the live Idol Chatter blog! -- Brian Mansfield

Rotten Peachez: Nicholas Mathis made a big impression last night with Curtis Finch Jr. and Charlie Askew - their group was called the Couch Potatoes. But now he's on his own. I'm guessing he doesn't have much experience singing with a live band, either, because he's consistently just under the pitch. The voice is there, but his intonation is shot.

Mathis says he's chasing the dream, but Keith Urban says he felt like Mathis was chasing the song instead (and never quite catching up with it).

Mathis has been strong so far, but Jimmy Smith and Papa Peachez have had their problems. Peachez also has an attitude problem: "A lot of people who try out for American Idol are more or less puppets, and I've got my own thing going on."

Unfortunately, his thing seems to be singing dirge-y versions of Lady Gaga song. HisYou and I is just atrocious.

"Remember what I told you yesterday?" Nicki Minaj asks him. The part about being complacent? "I'm pretty sure that flame is now completely burned out. I'm so disappointed. I don't know why you would choose that song."

Smith, however, does much better with his version of Fleetwood Mac's Landslide. It's not great, but it'll do for now. Mariah Carey, at least, likes it.

So who's in? We'll find out after the break. But you can bet it won't be Mathis or Peachez.

***

What doesn't kill you may get you eliminated: Everybody else may be nervous, but not 18-year-old Devin Velez, who got a standing ovation from Randy Jackson for singing an Andrea Bocelli song, isn't - he's too busy trying to stay focused. For his solo-round performance, he gives What a Wonderful World a lot of creative melisma. Backstage, his family can barely contain its excitement. Nice stuff, with a sweet falsetto ending.

"You are born to sing; it's what you do," Keith Urban tells him.

Gurprett Singh Sarin throws the judges another curve, singing Georgia on My Mind. So not only does he have a voice, he's got a sense of humor, too. And he can scat like a mother.

Cortez Shaw updates Bobby Hebb's '60s classic Sunny, particularly impressing Keith Urban.

Backstage, though, Matheus Fernandes is feeling the pressure - and acknowledging that he has little stage-performing experience. He goes with Kelly Clarkson's Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You), but he and the song don't quite connect. It's too slow, and when he hits the chorus, it's dragging like a heavy chain.

"That's my first time playing with a live band like that," he says, by way of excuse, when he finishes.

"We really see you as a genuinely good person," Mariah Carey, which isn't a good sign. Nicki Minaj thinks he's been picking his material to reference his height, and she says he doesn't have to do that. Fernandes doesn't even have to hear the results to know his fate. He's got a good voice, but he doesn't yet have the experience it takes to be great.

From the line of eight, Velez, Sarin and Shaw and Adam Sanders are asked to step forward. "Congratulations, you're through to the next round," Randy Jackson says.

***

Who do you think you are? So far, this year's American Idol has been ruled by drama, both from the contestants and the judges. Maybe tonight, some singing will finally cut through the noise. The guys singers have been in Hollywood for three days as this show starts, and only 43 are left. An hour from now, that number will have been reduced to 20.

'I'm so nervous," says a clearly nervous Paul Jolley. "It so hard to keep my mind clear. ... Everything feels like it's going to fall apart. I don't want to go back home."

Unfortunately, he lets the judges see him sweat. But he takes a few deep breaths, then launches into Carrie Underwood's Blown Away. From a song choice perspective, it's a nice twist, but it's also a little out of his range.

"You walked out so defeated, and that really irritated me," Nicki Minaj tells him. "Just give us one minute of professionalism." Still nervous, Jolley begins to argue with her - the sort of thing that could get him sent home, if he's not careful.

Jolley will have to wait for a bit to learn his fate: The judges will announce cuts after every eight singers.

Lazaros Arbos is up next, with a solid, if unspectacular, Lady Gaga's The Edge of Glory. Then Curtis Finch Jr., who gave a strong group performance last night, scales back for a gospel-infused rendition of Jar of Hearts.

"I'm a fan of yours, I think you know that by now," Mariah Carey tells him. "I'm blessed to hear you sing today."

By the way, telling each eight performers their fate means that the whole rooms scenario from past seasons is gone this year.

Arbos, Finch and Jolley all survive the cuts - they'll be the first three of the 20 semifinalists.

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