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Round of 16: The Men - March 6

Well, we're down to 16, but at the end of the week, we'll have... the top 12. Exciting, isn't it? WE start with the final eight guys.

This week, we get a little up close in personal as we find out something interesting about each player. First, Blake Lewis loves improv and acting, and his favorite time of year is Halloween. Then comes Jimmy Walker Blue intro'ing 311's "All Mixed Up."

What they say: Randy believes he's current... whatever it was. Paula was interested in a song that she's never heard before. Simon agrees, saying that Blake stands out. "You will 100 percent be here next week."

What we say: Blake is nothing if not versatile. Kinda underwhelming considering the first two weeks of competition, but this is his lifeblood, and it's going to get him in the top 12.

Get your cola out for the red room. Sundance Head and Sanjaya Malakar are next. Sundance was really emotional with Chris R. losing it. It's not even artificial... So he says. Sanjaya was surprised to be here this week. Sanjaya's secret... he can hula, having lived in Hawaii for four years. He's "Waiting For The World To Change" a la John Mayer.

What they say: Randy: "To say that it was a little better than last week is funny." It hasn't returned to form. Paula doesn't agree completely. "The guys around you are trying to push you to be better." Simon says it wasn't as ghastly as last week. "At the end of the day... based on the fact that it's a singing competition, it wasn't a very good vocal."

What we say: Points to Sanjaya for leaping out of his comfort zone, but it's leaps and bounds behind the original version. He just doesn't have the husky voice to make this a believable performance. This is a bluesy song for a bluesy voice, and Sanjaya doesn't have it.

Next, we learn Sundance... is actually thin. He's wearing a fat suit... Yeah, whatever. Here's his version of Pearl Jam's "Jeremy."

What they say: Randy thought it was pitchy, but he liked the Southern Rock twist. Paula likes the "Sundance groove." Simon didn't like it as much last week, going from good to indulgent.

What we say: We now know that Sundance is an old rock salt. That's gonna get him into the top 12. But whether or not he's going to raise his game later on will live or die on his own ability to believe that he can, and we have no reason why he wouldn't. Oh yeah, and Simon dropped the "I" word. That might be a dealbreaker.

Travis Tritt is in the crowd. Why? Because Randy Jackson is producing his next album... "He's been known as a pretty darn good producer for some time." Next, Chris Richardson was a little chunky football player. Then he lost the weight. Now he's singing country. The song is "Tonight I Wanna Cry" by Keith Urban.

What they say: Randy says he's "putting the boys on blast." Paula says it was a good choice of song. Simon thought it was good, albeit cutesy and nasal.

What we say: That was for Gram, I bet. But seriously, it wasn't as country as it could be, almost country pop.  It's a good song for him and his range. The only beef is that yeah, he sang it through his nose. And Chris felt good about it and sold it. So that's a plus.

Jared is next. Will he break out the face mask this week? That's his move. His secret talent: he played division II college basketball. He quit to do music. He wants to have some fun with Stevie's "If You Really Love Me".

What they say: Randy thought it was a solid performance. Paula thinks he needs to work on "coloring up the way he sings." Simon didn't think it was very original. But he's popular. He's not hearing "the wow factor", though.

What we say: He didn't really do anything with the song, and toward the end, it's almost like he was powering his way needlessly, and it ended up flat because of it.

On deck are Brandon Rogers and Phil Stacey. They've noticed that the judges are a bit underwhelmed this week, so both agree that they should leave it all out there, come at it full force. And then take what they say and run with it. Brandon is first. His secret: he's a classical pianist. He sings Rare Earth's "I Just Want to Celebrate".

What they say: Randy thought it was a good choice with a rock edge. Paula thought it was pretty phenomenal. Simon doesn't think "Travis" represented himself well in his stage of the competition. He should've taken a tip from the girls.

What we say: Points for challenging yourself. And unlike your predecessor, you actually make it your own.

Next, Phil ... hasn't always been bald... He's had some long hair in the past. This week, he sings LeAnn Rimes' "I Need You".

What they say: Randy likes Phil's big voice, but his range was limited. Paula agrees, saying it was an odd choice. Simon: "I didn't get it at all."

What we say: Ouch. It was sharp... and completely the wrong song. And thinking about what Phil said about "liking the song"... That screams indulgent.

Finally, we're down to Chris Sligh. He had short hair like Phil (only "better looking"). It's all 100 percent him. He closes the show with "Wanna Be Loved" by DC Talk.

What they say: Randy didn't like song choice, but he gives him best vocal props. It wasn't Paula's favorite performance. "To me, it was like middle of the road." She liked last week better. Simon thought he struggled in the middle. "You have potential, Chris. A lot of potential."

What we say: A good closer. Chris S. chose an unknown song and ran with it. He's assured himself of top 12 easy. And the sentiment behind it may see him through yet.

Top 12: Blake, Sundance, Chris R., Chris S.
Top 12... Maybe: Brandon, Phil
Top Chef... at BEST: Sanjaya, Jared

Randy and Paula both say four deserve a shot at the big time. Simon... "Three and a half." Funny...

Which six guys will get the royal boot this week? Find out Thursday alongside a performance by Season 4 Idol Carrie Underwood.

 

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