Season 12

A rising star and a baffling cut as the guys go solo

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And then there were just 28 guys on American Idol.

Down from more than 100. But soon to be just 20.

American Idol aired the guys’ solo performances in Hollywood Thursday night in an episode marked by mediocrity, one truly baffling elimination, a couple of standouts and one rising star.

Nick Boddington sparkled on American Idol Thursday night. (FOX Photo)The rising star would be Nicki Minaj.

I keep reminding myself that these are heavily edited episodes. Not to put too much stock into the judges’ performances.

But in an age where judges on all the singing shows seem to resemble cheerleaders more than critics, she’s starting to sound like … dare I say it, the Simon Cowell of Idol’s golden days.

When Paul Jolley stepped on stage apologizing for being nervous, he got a tongue lashing from Ms. Minaj for acting so defeated. “It really irritated me,” she said.

When Papa Peachez turned in an uninspired version of “You and I,” Nicki bluntly told him his “flame is now completely burned out.”

And she delivered some tough love to Matheus Fernandes, pretty much telling him to stop making references to the fact that he stands just 4-foot-9, that a story that’s initially inspiring can turn into “a pity party” if repeated too often.

“You don’t have to milk it,” she advised. “Be you. Be great. Just rest on your talent.”

When Idol announced she’d be joining the judges’ panel, Nicki haters swore she’d ruin the show.

So far, she’s been the most refreshing thing about Season 12.

Gurpreet Singh Sarin advanced on American Idol Thursday night. (FOX Photo)Now, back to the guys. Here’s how I’d score Thursday night, keeping in mind that in some cases we saw only very brief snippets of already brief performances.

Nick Boddington: He worried about whether he should play the keys himself. About whether it would be too risky. Who cares, if he keeps singing like that? Easily the night’s best vocal. Grade: A

Curtis Finch Jr.: He took some nice liberties with “Jar of Hearts” and sounded solid on all three of his Hollywood Week performances. He might want to rein in the facial expressions: Grade: B+

Charles Askew: This is the guy who’s a loner? He sure seemed confident on stage. And if his version of “Somebody I Used to Know” didn’t demonstrate great range, it certainly demonstrated his ability to connect with a song. Grade: B+

Devyn Velez: I wasn’t thrilled with the song choice (“What a Wonderful World”), but the vocal was one of the night’s finest. Grade: B

Cortez Shaw: Rank him among the frontrunners to make the semifinals based on the great range he showed throughout Hollywood Week. Grade: B

Micah Johnson deserved to advance, but didn't on American Idol. (FOX Photo)Micah Johnson (eliminated): The night’s only mind-boggling elimination from my viewpoint. There was nothing flashy about his version of “I Told You So,” but it was an unexpected song choice performed quite well. Yet he went home while Lazaros and Gupreet are still around? Go figure. Grade: B

Marvin Calderon: We saw just the smallest snippet of his version of “Stars,” but what we saw showed range and great potential. Grade: B-

Paul Jolley: He might have been nervous, but he sure had the glory note routine down pat when he belted out Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away.” Grade: C+

Burnell Taylor: He had the misfortune of singing the same song Curtis Finch did better. One big note sold it, though. Grade: C+

Jimmy Smith: I love “Landslide.” Jimmy’s version was just so-so. Grade: C.

Lazaro Arbos: I still think the back-story is a heck of a lot better than the singing. But he seemed much more confident singing “Edge of Glory” solo than he did on group day. Grade: C

Papa Peachez earned the scorn of Nicki Minaj on American Idol Thursday night. (FOX Photo)Gupreet Singh Sarin: OK, I’m baffled again. He’s got a great nickname — Turbanator. But what else? I didn’t hear anything special in the few seconds of “Georgia” we heard. Grade: C

Nicholas Mathis (eliminated): He walked off sobbing and swearing he’s a better singer than many of those remaining but didn’t show it on a rendition of “Locked Out of Heaven” that was shaky from start to finish. Grade: D+

Matheus Fernandes (eliminated): He wasn’t done in by references to his height. He was done in by a horrid arrangement of “Stronger” that made Kelly Clarkson’s triumphant smash hit sound downright angry. Grade: D

Papa Peachez (eliminated): He turned in a lackluster version of “You and I.” Then, in his exit interview, he declared Idol isn’t the show for him, that he doesn’t like singing other people’s songs.

I’ve listened to his originals, folks. They aren’t for me. Grade: D-

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