"American Idol" 2013: Sudden Death, Round 4 (Top 10 guys revealed)


Between the awful group of girls we had last night, and the equally terrible group of guys we had last week, I was totally dreading tonight’s show. Thankfully it turned out better than expected. There were some pretty good performances in the mix, and some well-intentioned ones that backfired. But it was markedly less painful than the previous two episodes.

MatheneeTreco, 26, from Colorado got the Death Spot. Mathenee has impressed me for the past two seasons. He did “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley and ceased to impress me. First of all, that is a terrible, terrible song to sing on this show. The verses are monotone and rapid-fire fast, and the range required for the song means that you’re in the cellar for the first part and crazy high toward the end. That was the case here and Mathenee just shouted and squeaked through the whole thing after the first chorus. It was aggressively annoying, another case of these contestants putting performance over vocals. Keith Urban likes Mathenee’s huge range and his entertainer background, but said that he was so focused on “assaulting” us (Keith’s words) that the emotional connection was totally lost. Nikki Minaj basically said that Mathenee was trying too hard, and it was cheesy and karaoke. Randy Jackson said the song was wrong, and pulled out the old “what kind of an artist are you?” card. Mariah Carey and her gigantic breasts thought that there was a huge disconnect between what they’ve seen from Mathenee in the past and what he did here.

Gurpreet Singh Sarin, 22, from Maryland, a.k.a. The Turbanator is so likable. But holy crap was this performance bad. I have no idea what the song was, but I liked it (anybody know the song/artist?). We throw around the term karaoke regarding this show a lot, but this was sincerely a karaoke-bar performance. I think Gurpreet can sing fine, but his voice is so low-key and unassuming that it fails to make any impression. He simply doesn’t shine, especially in a song like this. Keith said that he really likes Gurpreet’s voice, but wishes that he had played his guitar. Nikki said that Gurpreet has a really intimate quality to his voice normally, and he blew it with this song choice. She actually said, “Hell no.” Randy just said straight up that it was terrible. Mariah was also disappointed that Gurpreet shunned the softer side of his voice. Gurpreet was basically begging the judges to send his through, and promised to do what they wanted if he advanced. That was a bit desperate.

Vincent Powell, 29, from Austin, Texas, is also a worship leader -- at least two of those this week. Have we ever seen him before? Vincent sang ar’n’b song I’ve never heard of, but it was really good. Vincent can sing, has great control, and his voice has that fishhook quality -- it catches you. As they say in the business, he took that song to church. My favorite moment was Zoanette ecstatically jumping up and down in the audience. He slayed that, and delivered the first good performance of the night, possibly of the week. Nikki said that Vincent has a tendency to come off old-fashioned, but tonight it was a good old-fashioned, a sexy old-fashioned. Randy called Vincent the complete package, a singer AND entertainer who knows how to work an audience. Mariah simply said, “Finally.” I wonder if she is as underwhelmed on the whole as we are with this season.

Nick Boddington, 27, from Memphis has not been a favorite of mine the past few seasons, but he really turned me around with the last Hollywood Week performance they showed. Again, I have no idea what song he was singing -- apparently it was James Morrison -- but I thought overall it was a really nice vocal. Prior to this I would have described Nick’s voice as “delicate,” but there was a lot of power here and some really fantastic moments. His weakness is clearly his upper register, which weirdly he seems to favor. I think he’s really good when he stays in the middle-register sweet spot. There’s almost a Daryl Hall thing going on there. Keith loves the timbre of Nick’s voice, but he didn’t feel connected to Nick as a person. I can see that. I think Nick is a bit awkward naturally.Nikki also likes the warmth in his voice, but said that the performance was not Nick’s best. Randy again brought up the “no moments” critique. Mariah felt that she did get at least one solid moment, and has enjoyed Nick in general.

Josh Holliday, 24, from Texas/Nashville is so cute when he smiles. Josh sat at the piano and accompanied himself on what I believe was an original song. The lyrics were pretty clichéd and borderline insipid, but the melody wasn’t bad. Josh’s diction was really problematic, and after he got up from the piano and attacked the song his pitch went way off. I have no idea what happened there -- the performance just fell off a cliff. Keith said that Josh has a really great voice, and is a vocal coach himself -- really?! -- and he wishes Josh would cut loose. I thought his falsetto was pretty dreadful more often than it was not. Nikki wanted Josh to stay at the piano, because when he got up he kind of broke the spell he was weaving. Randy appreciated the risk of doing an original, but he wasn’t wowed by any of it.

David Willis, ANOTHER worship leader, came out and played guitar in his rendition of “Fever.” An “Idol” favorite, but rarely performed by guys. I wasn’t sure about this at first, but I thought he sounded pretty good on the chorus. He struggled a bit on the verses, though. David seemed uncomfortable on the stage; he almost looked scared at points. His mother was standing the entire time the judges gave their comments. I felt like she was ready to bum rush the stage if they savaged her son. I think that’s awesome. Keith said that David had a moment toward the end, but that the song didn’t showcase his full potential. Nikki seemed disappointed that David was married (his wife is GORGEOUS, by the way), but she felt the performance was a little too family gathering and not enough superstar-in-the-making. She just didn’t think anything about it was current. I think that’s fair.

Bryant Tadeo, 23, from Hawaii is another Who? Contestant. He did “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel and I thought the vocal was absolutely lovely in the beginning. I don’t know what he was doing with his hands, but it was super distracting. After the first verse the vocal quality unfortunately dropped off substantially. That’s becoming a theme this year, and I don’t get it. Are these children that inconsistent? The beginning had a great intensity that just evaporated a third of the way through. Keith said that he wasn’t sure how it would work on TV, but it sounded great live. I believe that’s true. Nikki loved the final note, the falsetto and the riff, but she didn’t like anything else. Nikki is brutal! Like me, Randy loved the beginning, but thought the rest of it never went anywhere. Mariah said that Bryant has a sense of professionalism, and that he has fantastic tone, but did get lost a bit in the song.

Burnell Taylor, 19, from Louisiana is a Katrina survivor, and apparently lost 40 lbs. because of this show. I don’t know. He did “This Time” by John Legend. The arm flapping was really distracting, and honestly, the singing was not great. It was basically competent but often verged into flat. And there was just no energy. Even as the song was building I felt like Burnell stayed in first gear the whole time. Keith loved the performance, and finds Burnell’s cadence, movements, and singing style original. I found them offputting. Nikki said that after that, she would pay to see him sing. That had to have sounded much, much different in the studio than it did over the TV. She talked at length about how amazing his weight loss is and…sorry. I don’t give a shit about that, darling. This is not “The Biggest Loser.” She also said that Burnell was the best by far of the night. Really? Better than Vincent? Give me a break, Nikki. Randy blathered about “Louisiana proud,” and said that he feels Burnell’s emotions. What emotions? Burnell comes across as almost comatose to me.

LazaroArbo, 21, from Florida is the now-legendary stuttering contestant. Lazaro is incredibly handsome and seems very sweet. He sang a song by Keith Urban that I don’t know. It started out way, way too low for Lazaro, and his diction is a serious problem. He can indeed sing, and there were some very sweet moments in that song. But there were also quite a few bum notes, and again, it felt karaoke in parts. But boy, do people love Lazaro. Keith thanked Lazaro for singing his song, but felt it wasn’t a good fit for him, because he constantly wrestled with the tempo. Nikki said that Lazaro played it safe but in a good way, and that Lazaro delivers every time. Mariah picked up on Lazaro’s emotions going into the performance, and finds him very pure and inspiring. Lazaro’s obvious nervousness is going to be a real problem for him if he continues in this competition, especially if/when the judges give him negative feedback. It will crush him. But seriously, this boy is so adorable. How is he not a model?!

Cortez Shaw, 22, from Texas did “Titanium” by Sia & David Guetta. This is the second time Cortez has sung a song made famous by a woman. That’s not really here or there, I just find it interesting. I thought it started out a little rough but quickly got on track, and Cortez has a gigantic voice with a spectacular upper register. I liked that he played with dynamics, and I didn’t find his performance -- though a bit dramatic -- at all cheesy. He also clearly picked up on when he fell off pitch and corrected himself quickly. Keith thought it was bold and brave to turn that into a ballad, because there is “nowhere to hide.” True. He thought it was inconsistent, but that Cortez redeemed himself at the end. Nikki put on three different accents to say that she liked it, good song choice, and that Cortez is sexy. Seriously, anything with a penis, she goes to the moon. Randy thinks that Cortez is very current, and an interesting artist for today. Mariah took credit for championing him from Day 1, and she didn’t have any issues with what he did tonight.

Results: David Willis was first, and he got cut. Bryant came right after, and somewhat surprisingly he also got the axe. I thought he was one of the better vocals of the evening. The crowd audibly booed over that decision. Vincent was up third, and that was an easy pass because he delivered the best vocal of the night, the only real competition coming from Cortez.

Mathanee was next and Randy gave him the bad news: he was cut. Mathanee has nobody to blame but himself for that, because he has the talent, no question. I would point out that last night the judges pushed through Janelle Arthur based on the strength of her overall performances on the show, and she bombed harder than Mathanee did. Mariah couldn’t even toy with Lazaro and she told him quickly that he was through to the next round. I really like Lazaro, but again, I do not think he is even close to being ready for this competition. And Bryant definitely turned in a better performance tonight.

Cortez was another easy thumbs up, and at this point he’s one of my frontrunners. He’s actually exciting to watch, which is more than I can say for about 3/4 of the contestants in the Top 20. Next up was poor, misguided Josh, who was cut. I think Josh has talent, but he needs some serious seasoning. He’s just not ready at this point. Burnell sounded even worse in the playback, but still was pushed through to the Top 20. I don’t get him at all. I seriously cannot for the life of explain the judges’ love affair with this kid.

That left Gurpreet and Nick as the final two, and again, this should have been an easy choice. Gurpreet was joke-audition bad and Nick turned in a pretty fantastic vocal. And thankfully the judges saw reason and put Nick through. I can’t believe I’m actually rooting for Nick Boddington this year…

Next week we get to live voting. Allegedly we’re going from Top 20 to Top 10 in one week. Will we have 20 singers on Tuesday? I am so confused as to how this is going to work. It’s going to be a goddamned bloodbath, but at this point, I think that’s the only thing that’ll help turn this ship around. There’s still a lot of chaff to be separated from the wheat…