American Idol Season 12 Review “Semifinalist Round, Part 4”

It was the final round in Vegas for “American Idol,” and the question was, would the guys be as fairly split as the ladies? The answer was, more or less, the same: yes. If anything, even more so than the ladies, you had to wonder, how had some of these guys gotten through in the first place? True, even the judges acknowledged as much, with many contestants getting a variation of: “what you did tonight wasn’t as good as what we’ve seen from you in the past,” but the problem was, with a few exceptions, I wasn’t even sure what they’d done in the past in the first place to get them here.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like many of the new rules, as I’ve said in my previous reviews. That doesn’t mean there still isn’t room for improvement. Indeed, given the internet fall-out over the last few rounds, I’ve got a suggestion of my own. Why not let the viewers in on it in a more concrete way than a Twitter poll to see if they agree with the judges or not?

If anything, it was pretty clear that the viewers didn’t agree with a lot of the judges. How about the judges narrowing it down to four instead of five for each show of the semifinalist round, and then allowing the viewers to pick the fifth? That way, we have a say-so earlier on, as well as a chance to save some worthy people that slipped through the cracks, like Wednesday’s Rachel Hale? That seems fair, and what’s more, my reasons are wholly verifiable, given the reactions “Idol” themselves provided.

Okay, off my soapbox. (Ryan, you, too.) Moving on to the final round of the fellas, we saw a frankly dreary line-up of folks, joining the ones shown above from last week, that couldn’t help but make you wonder: Is American running out of talent from the dearth of shows like this? I mean, seriously, is this the best we’ve got? I get that people have a bad night on occasion, but this was bordering on ridiculous, and not helped by some of the dubious choices made by the judges. Even Nicki, such a strong presence early on, seemed at a loss as to what had happened. Lackluster would be giving a lot of them too much credit, but the fact that some of them made it, anyway…ugh.

First up was Mathenee Treco, a choreographer that tackled the most Vegas of subjects: Elvis. I like “A Little Less Conversation,” and I’d even go so far as to say it was one of my favorite Elvis songs, what with the remix of it having been released in my lifetime and serving as a bit of an introduction to me to Elvis in the first place. It made Elvis seem hip again when it first came out, instead of hopelessly dated, at least to my generation. But this song does no favors to singers, ever. It just doesn’t have the necessary range in it to show people what you’ve got as a vocalist. And yet, people keep covering it, time and again. I don’t get it.

Nicki rightfully called Treco’s take on it cheesy and karaoke, but everyone agreed it was more the song choice than the singer. I thought it was a little of both, judging from the brief glimpse of Treco’s background. You recruit a resort singer, you get a resort singer. Maybe he should stay in Vegas- he might actually do okay there. Whatever the case, he didn’t make the team, nor should he have, based on that performance.

Gurpreet Singh Sarin was next, and I liked him. Always have. Yes, his choice in song, “Nothing Ever Hurt like You” by James Morrison, was a snooze- I have never gotten the appeal of this maudlin performer, who had two songs featured in tonight’s performances. And the judges were absolutely right in that he should have stuck with what worked this early on, but I also thought that if they were handing out second chances to iffy performers, I would have liked to see him get one. Ultimately he was cut, and while I don’t disagree, based on this performance, I did at least have a sense of the guy and I liked him. I will miss the “Turbanator.”

Next up was Vincent Powell, my favorite of the night. He did a super-soulful take on Lenny Williams’ “’Cause I Love You” that was equal parts Prince and someone like D’Angelo. Everyone loved it, but I’m not sure that Nicki’s comment about how there was “gonna be a lot of women in their 40-50s throwing their panties his way” was a compliment. The guy’s in his late 20s- who is he, Tom Jones? Regardless, it was fantastic and Powell was the one performer who undeniably nailed it. He made the team, and rightfully so.

Nick Boddington was next, and the other contestant to do a James Morrison song. It was a very one- note performance, and Keith was right in that Boddington had no connection to the song whatsoever, even though he claimed otherwise. In fact, no one really liked it and felt the same way, save maybe Mariah who thought it was nice enough. Naturally, he made the team. WTF?

After an oddly straight-guy moment from Ryan, who made a wry comment on Mariah’s bungee-cord like necklace that was diving into her cavernous boobs, we carried on. (Yes, I know he’s straight and his girlfriend’s crazy hot- but it was still an atypical comment from him and one I thought worth noting because I was thinking the exact same thing and it’s rare that me & Ryan are ever on the same page, to say the least.)

Another Texas boy was next, Josh Holiday. I like the name, and I admired his bravery in doing an original, much less an original he’d written in Hollywood during the competition. It was all but him declaring he had talent to burn and weren’t they impressed? Everyone seemed to like the first part with Holiday on piano and the song as a whole. And his desire to set himself apart from the pack and show that he had the right stuff was likewise admirable, even if the song was a bit half-baked. It was precisely the sort of move of someone who’s, in the parlance of Randy, “in it to win it” (Randy’s equivalent to “YOLO”). Naturally, he was cut. Again, I say WTF?

Next up was my second favorite performer of the night, David Willis. This 22-year-old foster kid had a great background story, played an instrument- the guitar- and did his own arrangement, a nifty take on, of all things, Peggy Lee’s “Fever.” (Okay, a lot of people have covered that one, but that was the one that came to mind.) Though I’ll allow it never went anywhere, really, I liked that he turned it into a slow burner in the vein of something like the “True Blood” theme, “Bad Things.”

Everyone seemed to like his old-soul vibe, save maybe Nicki, who thought it sounded like a “family performance,” but not enough to send him through apparently. I happen to like people that at least try and do something unique, so I’ll miss him. I guess “Idol” doesn’t, because he was cut.

Bryant Tadeo did a solid if unspectacular take on Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” next. It was not my cup of tea at all, and like Nicki, I didn’t care for it. Randy likewise thought it didn’t go anywhere. Mariah thought it was “professional,” but he got lost in the song. Naturally, he made the team. Is tonight opposite night? Is this Bizarro World “Idol”? Ugh, I say. Ugh!

19-year old Burnell Taylor was next and I did remember him and liked him. He did a staid take on John Legend’s “This Time” that was okay but sort of snoozy. Everyone liked him, with even Nicki saying she’d pay to see him tomorrow, whatever that means. Are we watching the same show? I thought it was okay, but not really his best. However, I have no problem with him making the team. I think he has more to offer than what we saw on the show tonight.

Lazaro Arbos tackled one of Keith’s songs, thus ensuring his acceptance by one of the judges under the new regime. In the past, this would have been an iffy move, but these days it seems to get you an instant pass, at least from whoever you cover. Oddly, though, even Keith acknowledged this, saying it was a tricky song to do.

Given Lazaro’s much-covered background as a chronic stutterer- note how “Idol” took pains to avoid it in their intro package- his acceptance was a near-given, and that proved to be the case. I have no problem with this choice: he seems like a genuinely nice guy and his voice is clear as a bell. He definitely played it safe a bit, but this early on, I guess that’s understandable. Some learned that the hard way tonight, obviously.

Last up was Cortez Shaw, who did a pretty solid take on a song that I actually like, “Titanium,” by David Guetta and Sia. As this is a techno-driven tune, the arrangement was radically different, as he slowed the song down and turned it into a bit of a soul ballad, which I liked a lot. It was a bit pitchy here and there, but those big notes he hit were something and for once, and the last time, me and the judges were on the same page. Cortez made the team.

So, an admittedly mixed bag, to be sure. Not just tonight, but on the whole within the top 20. Were the choices as solid as they could have been? Not even. But they were decent, and the good choices were solid. The voting process should take care of the iffy choices in short order, one hopes. We shall see.

What did you think of “American Idol” this week? Did they get it right? Or were they way off? Do you like the top 20, or did some of your faves fall by the wayside? Is there anyone you would pay to see tomorrow? Looking forward to the return to Hollywood? Let me know what you think in the comments!