In the end, it all came down to soul. A little old school, a little new school. Thursday night on American Idol, worship leader Vincent Powell had it, singing a version of Lenny Williams' 1978 hit 'Cause I Love You that Nicki Minaj called "a sexy old-fashioned."
Burnell Taylor, a favorite of this season since he auditioned weighing 40 pounds more than he does now, had it, too, showing off his new, sleekly classic look as he sang John Legend's This Time. Minaj praised that one, too, calling it "the best by far tonight." And that was after Powell performed.
Cortez Shaw took the night's biggest risk, taking EDM producer David Guetta's Titanium and molding it into a ballad of molten soul. "That was a really bold and brave move," Keith Urban told him. And it paid off big.
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The rest of the night's performances paled against those three, though Lazaro Arbos connected in a big way singing Keith Urban's Tonight I Wanna Cry and looking like he really did. The country ballad never sounded more like Wind Beneath My Wings, with which it shares a distinct melodic similarity anyway, and the combination of the stuttering Cuban-born singer's backstory and his intensely conveyed emotions got him a spot in the semifinals, too.
The last spot went to Nick Boddington, who got mixed reviews for his version of James Morrison's Say Something Now.
Had any of the other singers -- Gurpreet Singh Sarin, Josh Holiday, Bryant Tadeo, Methenee Treco or David Oliver Willis -- made better song choices, they could easily have had that final spot.
But they didn't, so now American Idol Season 12 has its Top 20 semifinalists.
Curtis Finch, Jr.