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'American Idol' Recap: Top 40 Revealed

The Fox show gets down to business as judges Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Randy Jackson settle on the show's contenders.

American Idol Hollywood Round - P 2013
FOX

After Wednesday night’s disastrous episode of Don’t Forget The Lyrics, er, American Idol, the show insisted on reminding the audience how many years it has been (six) since a girl has won the Fox singing competition.

To which we say: all right already, we get it. There hasn’t been a female winner since Jordin Sparks took the crown in season six, but after the Hollywood group rounds debacle of vocalists badly botching lyrics even though they were written on the back of their hands, there is a reason viewers are skeptical.

Just when it seemed that this year’s winner is destined to be another guy, the girls magically redeemed themselves in a taut hour that revealed a few potential front-runners.

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The women that did make it through were memorable for a myriad of reasons.

For instance, Angela Miller, who judge Nicki Minaj said wasn’t even on the radar until Hollywood Week, impressed with an original composition, “You Set Me Free,”  which she described as a song about “being set free from baggage and the weight that you carry from hard times.” Miller was so poised, so calm and so professional. Is she this season’s Haley Reinhart?

Urban was impressed, and even said that he would buy the song if it were available now. It was an powerful moment, even more so than Candice Miller’s booming interpretation of “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys. Miller, however, cannot be denied. She has been pitch-perfect so far.

Returning auditioner Janelle Arthur also finally made it past Hollywood with Carrie Underwood’s “I Know You Won’t.” She’s not as strong as Underwood, but at least voters won’t forget her name yet, thanks to Minaj repeating it multiple times.

Another shockers: Zoanette Johnson sat at the drum kit, channeling her inner Sheila E. with a made up ditty, “Ba-Da-Bading.” It’s hard to tell if Johnson’s act is for real or the work of an entertainment genius, but Minaj was so taken with the improvisation -- did she really stop the band mid-song? -- that she was tickled pink as she ushered in the “Zoanette era.” "I think people are going to be looking at this for years," said Mariah Carey. She has a point. We’re still talking about season eight’s Nick Mitchell how many years later?

Melinda Ademi single-handedly rescued the girls from a maudlin pity-party, which irked Randy Jackson to no end.

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“Music is supposed to be fun,” he chided.

Ademi is certainly that. The girl has stage presence, and knows how to entertain, as she whipped her hair back and forth like she was in a shampoo commercial to the beats of Jessie J’s “Price Tag.” Her performance perked up Urban, who said her vibe was “effortless. It's clear. It's energetic.

Kree Harrison was certainly struggling in the competition after first being rejected by Jackson, then getting pummeled by Minaj in her group round. But she fought back, dedicating “Stars” by Grace Potter to the memory of her parents. Urban, who is revealing himself to be the kind of judge who wears his heart on his sleeve, talked of chill bumps. “I fought for you a few times, and now I know why,” he said. I am loving Urban more and more each episode.

My vote for best name in the competition goes to Shubha Vedula. Doesn’t that just sing? Vedula had the chutzpah to sing one of Carey’s songs, and nailed every note. Carey was touched by the choice, and there was no doubt that she was making it through.

Of the singer’s going home, the most disappointing cut was Kez Ban, who was entertaining and engaging with an original song in auditions. A part of me was hoping for a repeat tonight. Ban is so much more than an aspiring American Idol gopher. I really understood it when she said she was on the show because her mother loved it. Ban said she didn’t want to leave the Idol "family" so soon. Alas, she chose the absolutely wrong original.

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“I’m a square peg in a round hole around here,” she said.

Know this: Music embraces square pegs. She should continue to pursue her indie dream. People will respect her artistry, as Minaj stated in her farewell address.

Also going home were two women that received oodles of screen time in auditions: Ashley Feliciano and the bleach-blonde, Gwen Stefani-country hybrid Stephanie Schimel. Feliciano blew it big time with an over dramatized, oversung version of “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri. Schimel fared better channeling her inner Phillip Phillips on “Home,” but was still sent home after singing for her life against perky Rachel Hale, the happiest Idol contestant ever.

Normally, that would have been the conclusion of the show, but in a weird twist, the judges brought back all 28 of the final boys to the stage, after they had been kept in a mysterious Idol holding room all day.

The judges clearly needed more time to make a choice, but boy did Adam Sanders make it easy with his overwrought and entirely comical Celine Dion routine. Adam Lambert he is not. Josh Holliday saved himself when he split his pants (for real) and sang a sincere version of “Georgia on My Mind.”

When it was time to call the eight eliminated boys to center stage, it was sad to see David Leathers Jr. once again be cut. But he knew he was done the second Sanders’ name was called. Goners in that round included:  Peter Garrett, Marvin Calderon, Devin Jones, Kenny Harrison, Will White, and Tony Foster.

With the top 40 selected, the show will move on to the Las Vegas rounds.

The complete list:

TOP 20 GIRLS
Adriana Adriana
Amber Holcomb
Angela Miller
Aubrey Cleland
Brandy Hotard
Breanna Steer
Candice Glover
Cristabel Clack
Isabelle [Pasqualone]
Janelle Arthur
Jenny Beth Willis
Jett Hermano
Juliana Chahayed
Kamaria Ousley
Kree Harrison
Melinda Ademi
Rachel Hale
Shubha Vedula
Tenna Torre
Zoanette Johnson

TOP 20 BOYS
Bryant Tadeo
Burnell Taylor
Charlie Askew
Chris Watson
Cortez Shaw
Curtis Finch Jr.
David Willis
Devin Velez
Elijah Liu
Gurpreet "The Turbinator" Singh Sarin
Jimmy Smith
Johnny Keyser
Josh Holiday
Joshua "JDA" Davila
Kevin Harris
Lazaro Arbos
Mathenee Treco
Nick Boddington
Paul Jolley
Vincent Powell

Who was your favorite tonight, Idol Worshippers? Are you sad to see anyone go?

Twitter: @Idol_Worship; @MicheleAmabile