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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Naples-raised stuttering singer Lazaro Arbos makes American Idol's Top 20

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March

When we watched American Idol's first episode of the 2013 season together, former contestant and Valrico resident Jeremy Rosado advised fans to keep an eye on which singer gets featured at the end of the first episode. That singer, he noted, is usually the producers' pick to go far.

And that singer, this year, was Naples, Fla.-raised Lazaro Arbos, now among the vocalists selected as Idol's Top 20 contestants in Tursday's episode.

Arbos, who was profiled by the Tampa Bay Times in this poignant feature story about stuttering years ago, has prospered in the contest despite a severe stutter which keeps him from finishing the simplest of sentences. But when he sings, the stutter vanishes, exposing one of the competition's strongest voices. (Check out this update from Kelley Benham on how those who knew him from the original Times story reacted to his Idol fame.)

His appeal on the show was obvious in the Sudden Death episode aired Thursday, where the show's male singers performed before a cheering crowd of thousands in Las Vegas. Singing a song written by judge Keith Urban, Tonight I Want to Cry, Arbos avoided the typical criticisms launched at contestants who try doing the judges' material, earning points for his poignant story, puppy dog eyes and strong voice.

Much as the show likes Arbos, Idol seems determined to crown a female winner this time around -- five straight male winners are making the contest look a little lopsided -- and the roster of male singers this year seems so far behind the ladies, a female winner appears more likely than ever.

We'll see how that all pans out next Wednesday, when live episodes begin and America gets to vote on who stays or goes (My prediction: Lazaro better get over his nerves and pick stronger songs, or his poignant story will wear thin quickly).

Of course, since the show is notching some of its lowest ratings in a decade, there may be few left watching who care. See the rest of Idol's Top 20 by clicking here.

Check out Arbos' performance below and feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts:

 

 

[Last modified: Friday, March 1, 2013 2:03pm]

    

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