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'American Idol' Season 12: Burnell Taylor leads Top 10 guys power rankings

"American Idol" - Burnell Taylor is in the

"American Idol" - Burnell Taylor is in the second group of boys to advance to the Top 20. (Feb. 28, 2013) (Credit: Fox)

So much of “American Idol” has become predictable over the past 11 seasons that producers often orchestrate “surprises.”

However, as Season 12's Top 10 guys performed Wednesday night, there was a true unexpected moment, as Charlie Askew, one of the season's front-runners, was clearly upset and seemed on the verge of a breakdown after judges criticized his unusual performance of Genesis' “Mama.”

The 17-year-old seemed to be holding back tears as Keith Urban told him he seemed “not truly genuine” and Nicki Minaj said, “I feel like someone stole my kid.”

PHOTOS: Finals Semifinals | Auditions | 'Idol' judges past and present | Winners and finalists | Where are they now?

Charlie explained that his dramatic, screaming take was a result of feeling that he “needed to vent a little bit” and show people that he wasn't happy all the time. He then ran off the stage before his segment was over.

It was a rare real “Idol” moment on a live broadcast that will lead to another one tonight, as the finalists are announced. Will Charlie's breakdown erase his chances to move forward in the competition? Probably not, especially when it will likely be a Top 12 instead of a Top 10. However, it does call into question whether he's emotionally ready for the struggles of being on “American Idol.” Following his meltdown, Twitter was full of criticism for him, some of it extraordinarily personal and hurtful as #Charlie became a trending topic.

Burnell Taylor had his best performance of the season so far with “I'm Here” from “The Color Purple,” showing a deep connection to the song that made it seem like he had lived the lyrics, a feeling similar to Charlie's performance of “Rocket Man” last week.

Devin Velez also stood out, though more because of multilingual smoothness on “It's Impossible.” While so many of his competitors have stronger voices and tend to go far over-the-top – yes, Curtis Finch Jr. and Vincent Powell, I'm talking about you – Velez instead relies on a more effortless approach.

Both Finch and Powell have great voices, but their performances were so obviously intent on showing off rather than delivering and connecting with their songs that they became hard to take seriously. They both deserve to move forward, but it seems unlikely that “Idol” voters will take two very similar singers – three, if you throw in Taylor – into the next round.

On the other hand, Velez and Lazaro Arbos are also similar in style and they will both likely make the next round, after Arbos' charming version of “Feeling Good.” Like Charlie, Arbos gets nervous, but his personality carries him through.

Voter demographics will likely play a major part in who, if any, of the second-tier guys will move forward. Paul Jolley should appeal to the country-loving audience and he showed great instincts picking Christina Aguilera's duet with Blake Shelton “Just a Fool,” though he couldn't quite hold on for all the song's swooping vocal turns. Elijah Liu and Cortez Shaw are both likable young men whose wobbly voices don't quite match their strong personalities. And Nick Boddington, who had the unfortunate position of following Charlie's meltdown and seemed unnerved by it, delivered a truly unlikable version of “Iris,” where he monkeyed with the melody from the first line.

Take Minaj's advice, Nick, at least let the first line of a classic go unchanged.

THE RANKINGS

Burnell Taylor, “I'm Here”
Devin Velez, “It's Impossible”
Curtis Finch Jr., “I Believe I Can Fly”
Vincent Powell, “End of the Road”
Lazaro Arbus, “Feeling Good”
Paul Jolley, “Just a Fool”
Charlie Askew, “Mama”
Cortez Shaw, “Locked Out of Heaven”
Elijah Liu, “Stay”
Nick Boddington, “Iris”

SHOULD ADVANCE: Burnell, Devin, Curtis, Vincent, Lazaro
WILL ADVANCE: Devin, Charlie, Curtis, Lazaro, Paul (wild card will be tough choice between Burnell and Vincent, with judges going with Burnell)
ACTUALLY ADVANCED: Burnell, Devin, Curtis, Lazaro, Paul

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