Or, Part Two of "Regression to the Mean" Week. After last night's terrific group of women, last night's show pretty much had to be a disappointment by comparison. Which, in fact, it turned out to be. (And I said, "Oh boy. Right again.") And by the same logic, after the disaster of last night's men, tonight almost has to be an improvement.
At least that's the optimistic view.
Mathenee, "A Little Less Conversation" -- Impressive range, and a fair amount of power in the lower register. Enunciation is weak. Smart song choice for him; it's largely a song about attitude and showmanship, and he's got plenty of those. Solid first impression.
Gurpreet, "Nothing Ever Hurt Like You" -- The finger wagging and the perpetual smile make the whole thing feel a bit cheesy and superficial. It's a harmless enough performance, and it's not painful to listen to, but there's no emotional force behind it, and nothing that'll stick in my mind for more than about ten seconds.
Vincent, "Cause I Love You" -- The runs and falsetto and frills and flourishes are all very impressive, but these things are meant to be ornaments; there has to be some underlying basic thing that is being ornamented, and Vincent's not giving us that. Vincent is all ornament; it's all Worcestershire and no steak, all tinsel and no tree. Love the Drew Carey glasses, though.
Nick, "Say Something Now" -- Very nice, with a well-tuned falsetto. Doesn't seem to have a lot of power, but that may just be a matter of song choice. And while he seems very comfortable on stage, there's not much personality being projected; there's something small about his presence, and it needs to get a lot bigger if he wants to last very long.
Josh, "Better With You" -- He's frequently flat; I can't understand most of what he's saying; and he's having to breathe every two or three syllables. It's the first really unpleasant performance of the night.
David, "Fever" -- Pleasant voice, but the arrangement fights against the sultriness and slow-burn passion of the song, and that's a problem. It's only emphasized by the fact that David's not projecting an ounce of sexy himself; he might as well be singing about labor contracts, he's projecting so little heat. It's also a song that doesn't show off much of a singer's range.
Bryant, "New York State of Mind" -- Quite lovely. Occasionally a bit too breathy in the quieter passages, but it's not as big a problem for him as it's been for a lot of other singers this year. I would point out that unless you are an ASL interpreter, you are not actually obliged to gesture on every single word of the song.
Burnell, "This Time" -- I like his voice very much, but there's something odd about his phrasing that I can't quite pin down. The musical lines are flowing nicely, but the words don't seem to connect properly somehow. It'll drive me nuts until I figure out what's off. I do think he deserves to move on, though.
Lazaro, "Tonight I Wanna Cry" -- Shades of Mel Tillis in the way his speech impediment disappears when he sings. Unfortunately, his singing enunciation is terribly mushy, and this loungy approach to the song is not a good idea. He misses the high note at the end by a long shot, though he eventually does slide up to it before it ends.
Cortez, "Titanium" -- The big notes are fine, and he has an impressive upper register; the rest is a big ol' pile of meh.
So, a big improvement over last week's men. Six or seven of these guys really deserve to be in the top ten men overall, but some deserving singers will be cut because they happened to fall into the more talented group.
Were I a judge tonight, I would certainly send Bryant, Burnell, and Mathenee on to the next round; and I would send Gurpreet, Josh, and Lazaro home. I don't have strong feelings about any of the four in the middle of the pack, but I would probably keep Vincent, hoping that there's a core in there somewhere on which to hang his lovely decorations; and Nick, hoping that he can develop some musical and personality oomph.
And the judges begin announcing their choices. David, no. Bryant, no. Vincent, yes. Mathenee, no. Lazaro, yes (inspirational story triumphs over mediocre talent, I fear). Cortez, yes. Josh, no. Burnell, yes. That leaves Nick and Gurpreet for the last spot, which shouldn't be a difficult choice. And, yes, Nick stays and Gurpreet goes home.
Next week, we get to start voting, choosing five men and five women, with competition shows on Tuesday and Wednesday, and results (and, I assume, some sort of wild card competition to bump the final field to 12 or 13) on Thursday night.