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'American Idol' Recap: Nicki Minaj Possessed by Soul of Simon Cowell

All hail the Queen of Sharply Observed Insults.

Nicki Minaj american idol TCA 2013 P
Frank Micelotta / PictureGroup / Fox

Nicki Minaj's transformation into the New Simon Cowell is now complete, and it is a magnificent thing to behold.

While she was wild and warm during season 12's auditions, Minaj became cold as ice during the men's solo round of Hollywood Week on Thursday, crushing contestant's hopes and dreams with a show-no-mercy, Cowell-like honesty. 

"This was the one time to fight for your life," the rapper-singer-provocateur intoned as one set of singers were shown the door. "For the rest of you who have made it, fight for your life."

What hyperbole! But to many of these hopefuls (see: Big Nick Mathis, destroyed by his elimination), American Idol isn't just a reality TV competition: it's a shortcut to success. So when Minaj exploits their single-minded desperation to win, to join the ranks of Kelly Clarkson rather than experiencing fame for a hot second, it cuts straight to the core. The pressure is on.

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"I'm pretty sure that flame is now completely burnt out. I'm so disappointed. I don't know why you would choose this song," quoth Minaj, directing her ire toward Papa Peachez, a San Antonio standout who lost his luster once he made it to La-La Land. ("I'm really just a big black woman trapped inside a little boy's body," he explained at the time, launching into a so-bad-it's-good, musical theater-y original song that had Minaj practically jumping up and down in her seat.)

Cut to this week, when Peachez kept his freak flag at half-mast, bland-ifying his performance style with the Lady Gaga song "You and I," the notes of which caused Minaj to roll her eyes.

"I'm pretty sure that flame is now completely burnt out. I'm so disappointed. I don't know why you would choose this song," she sniped, adding that he allowed the contest to suck the personality right out of him.

Another dude who bit the dust: Matheus Fernandes, who received a tongue-lashing from Minaj after his cover of Clarkson's "Stronger." While musically talented, Fernandes' sob story -- he's extremely short -- was starting to wear thin, especially when he remarked that he never thought he'd be lucky enough to perform on stage. (Really, Matheus? Remember the time, not too long ago, when you were a finalist on The Glee Project? STOP CRYING. We're on to you.)

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We'll let Minaj take it from here: "You were sort of making reference to your height. Sometimes things can go from inspiring to being ... a pity party."

And with that, Fernandes (following Peachez) was cut loose following a unanimous vote from Minaj and co-panelists Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey and Keith Urban, whose lack of a poker face is consistently endearing. (If he likes you, he claps like Paula Abdul; if he's not sold, he furrows his brow disapprovingly like your favorite teacher after handing you your first "D.")

When Minaj likes you, she really, really likes you. Take, for example, her giddy response to Charlie Askew, an improbably charming 17-year-old misfit with a sharp-witted sense of humor. He also happens to have a strong, distinctively eerie pop voice, further enhanced by his take on Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know." Behold the Nick-Charlie banter:

Nicki: "Charlie, I am obsessed with you."

Charlie: "Baby, I could stay the same thing."

Two weeks ago, in an on-camera confession, this kid said he was socially awkward. Indeed: if Minaj has been possessed by the soul if Cowell, then Askew is channeling Constantine Maroulis.

Also wowing the panel: Devin Velez, bringing the house down on "Wonderful World"; repeat Idol auditioner Nick Boddington on keyboard with "Stars"; Gurpreet Singh Sarin, crooning "Georgia on My Mind"; and Burnell Taylor, who can do no wrong.

Hanging on by a very thin thread: sweet, sweaty-nerved Paul Jolley, who managed to make the cut despite a screechingly painful (IMHO) rendition of Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away." Poor Jolley, paralyzed with anxiety, remarked before belting the song that he was "so nervous."

Afterward, Minaj said she felt "really irritated" by his public semi-meltdown. 

"Just give us one minute of professionalism," she observed, stone-faced and sporting sunglasses. "It's one minute for you to come onstage and take that off of your face."

And so 28 guy singers remain with eight to get the boot next week. 

Tell us, Idol Worshippers: Is Minaj being too mean, or do these wannabes need to hear the truth? What's with her shades? Is she hung-over? Who's your favorite man-testant?

Twitter: @ErinLCarlson

Email: erin.carlson@thr.com

Check out Askew and Boddington's performances here, via MJ's Big Blog: