‘American Idol’: Lazaro Arbos & Charlie Askew Survive Hollywood, Papa Peachez & Micah Johnson Don’t

For this second episode of the first week of Hollywood auditions, the men are once again facing the music. Those who managed to survive the group auditions are performing for the judges in a back-to-back competition that truly separates the men from the boys. And said men from their dreams.

Nicki Minaj has proven to be the driving force behind the judging panel, and I’m not just saying that because she dresses like a military captain every other episode. I agree with her take-charge attitude about auditions and look forward to her slashing and burning more male contestants. She’s the first judge to fill the “brutal honesty void” since Simon Cowell‘s departure.

It’s the last round for the guys before the men and women meet to compete, so the stakes are high and the contestants are sweating bullets as they prep for the solo round. Each male contestant has twelve hours to practice a selection and work with a vocal coach. Half the remaining men will be going home. I love this pressure!

Paul Jolley and his beautiful brown eyes are freaking out. He is the human version of Disney’s Bambi. In a nearly all-white ensemble, he comes out pleading. Mariah Carey is empathetic in a gold sparkly dress and a stone-faced Nicki commands attention with her fur coat, patchwork captain’s hat and dark sunglasses.

Although he starts out terrified, Paul manages to collect his nerves and deliver a solid performance. That said, Nicki scares the living shit out of him by basically telling him to get his act together on stage and stop with the whining. She’s right, though.

Lazaro Arbos sings “Edge of Glory” by Lady Gaga. He’s followed by 24-year-old Curtis Finch Jr., who is so poised on stage it’s like he knows with the 1-2 punch of his voice, he’s one of the contestants to beat this season. “Absolutely beautiful, as always,” a radiant Mariah tells him and his white tuxedo jacket with black satin lapels. But don’t be too flattered, guy, because this is turning into her signature phrase.

Lazaro, Curtis and Paul Jolley all continue on. Paul should invest in a fainting couch and some smelling salts, the poor dear.

Devin Velez is calm, cool and collected as he comes to the stage. Mariah likes his complex runs right off the bat, as he handily croons “What a Wonderful World.” Keith Urban, the man who was born to be the object of my affection, informs Devin, “You were born to sing.”

Gurpreet (AKA The Turbinator) sings “Georgia on my Mind” with a guitar in hand, trying to channel some of that strummer’s magic that works so well on Idol. The judges appear mesmerized. Cortez Shaw has also redeemed himself again, helping the judges forget his questionable “I Will Always Love You” performance from the prior episode.

Matheus Fernandes gives an opening speech, once again joking about his small stature, and it’s clear he’s working Nicki’s last nerve. His selection is “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson, which starts off very down-tempo and gets kind of weird, frankly. I think his timing might be his undoing. Nicki cautions Matheus not to “milk” his issues about his height. I’m with her on that. She also makes reference to possible strife continuing behind the scenes, but I’m sure we’ll see more on that later.

Devin, Gurpreet, Cortez and Adam all make it through. A guy with long hair and a Hypercolor tank top, whom we never got to know, has to go home. If we were to take a close look, we could probably see where his tear drops changed the color of his shirt. Awww.

Nicolas Mattis won me over last episode for being so sweet to his fellow group member, Charlie Askew. We learn he carries a picture of his daughter with him for inspiration. He takes on Bruno Mars‘ “Locked Out of Heaven” and doesn’t quite pull it off. Keith gives him some good advice about the life of a professional musician and tells Nicolas he feels he was “chasing the song.” Nicolas takes it hard and breaks down afterwards.

Papa Peachez chooses “You and I” by Lady Gaga and his biggest supporter, Nicki, is not pleased by the selection from the start. I’m not really sold either. Nicki starts by telling Papa his “flame has completely burned out.” Burn!

Curly-haired Jimmy Smith sings “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac. Mimi informs him that he’s one of her favorites and she gives us a little insight into the voting process and that the judges are still very split behind the scenes. Nicki is about thisclose to saying, “Off with their heads!” before we cut to commercial as sweaty contestants await their fate.

Returning to the show, Nicki is in full-on executioner mode, and Papa Peachez and Nicholas Mathis get the ax.

Nick Boddington was sent home last season in Las Vegas and tonight chooses to play keyboard as he sings. It’s a risk, he admits, but it appears to pay off as the judges lean in close to listen to his version of “Stars” by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals.

I love Charlie Askew, who does jumping jacks to get ready. He comes out in an oversized Saturday Night Fever suit and blue sneakers, and proceeds to tell the judges about his recent heartbreak leading up to his version of Gotye‘s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” It’s a complete, charismatic performance with his quirky personality and strong voice. You go, you sweet little weirdo! Nicki and her mermaid hair totally dug it, as did the other judges, and Minaj informs him that she’s obsessed with him. He retorts with a flirty zinger that has Nicki throwing her hands in the air with delight as he blushes. I am loving this kid’s style. “I’m gonna eat him,” Nicki confesses. Ha!

The men return to the chopping block and it’s Mariah announcing that Nick, JDA, Matthany and Charlie are continuing on. “Migrate forward, please,” Mariah tells Charlie because he truly is a species all his own.

A contestant favorite is Christina Perri‘s “Jar of Hearts,” and I smell a multiple singer montage. Burnell kicks it off. Marvin Calderon is next and I can’t tell if Mariah is bored or entranced. I wonder if hubby Nick Cannon ever experiences that. Both contestants go through.

Big voice Micah Johnson sings “I Told You So” by Randy Travis. I thought he did well and Mariah says she loves him, but she sighs and … commercial break!

We return to learn that it’s a no, and I’m genuinely surprised! He takes it with grace. Nick with the dimples from Oklahoma City and the curly-haired rocker guy both go home, too.

The fellas who survived are all called out to the stage and they’re not sure why. They receive a congratulations and the news that the girls return next week, and find out that eight more guys will be cut next Thursday. Looks of sheer terror appear on their faces except for, you guessed it, cool Curtis Finch Jr.

Curtis ain’t scared, y’all. He’s playing to win.

Remember the crazy ladies? Because they have arrived and it looks like the dudes had nothing on the gals in terms of belting, tears and over-the-top reactions from the judges.

Who will make the top 40? We don’t know yet, but everyone is losing their minds.

See y’all next week!