Tonight the top 12 girls on season 9 of American Idol hit the stage, live and ready for your votes! Join me here tonight to see which prove that they’re worthy of moving on to the next round!

The girls performing tonight are (in no particular order):


1. Didi Benami
2. Katelyn Epperly
3. Lacey Brown
4. Ashley Rodrieguez
5. Crystal Bowersox
6.Paige Miles
7, Siobhan Mangus
8. Lilly Scott
9. Haeley Vaughn

10. Michelle Delamor
11.Katie Stevens
12. Janell Wheeler
As we get started, let me ask: what’s most important in your American Idol? Talent? Looks? Role model potential? Hometown connection?
Tonight’s also the first time we get to see Ellen live on the judges’ panel!
Simon tells us first that watching rehearsals he sees some are good and some are not so good. I have an inkling which might be in the latter category. Ellen says they’re looking for what’s going to keep people glued to the television.
Ryan brings up that Ellen is not sitting next to Simon. Ellen says they have a little problem, “Simon wants me” and says he has “wandering hands”. And in typical Ellen fashion, she brings some “video” of Simon grabbing her under the table. Oh yeah, Ellen is so funny!
Paige Miles is up first. We haven’t seen much of Paige, and that puts her at a bit of a disadvantage, so I’m eager to see what she brings to the table. Paige is singing “All Right Now.” I don’t know why. She has a good voice, but this song is just all wrong on so many levels. Bummer, that isn’t how I wanted to be introduced to her. Simon goes first; he says he thinks she has the best voice of the girls, but it was the wrong song, calling it a wedding singer, cheap type of song. Kara disagrees; he thought the song was brilliant (what??) because it had some rock to it. Randy agrees with both; thinks it’s a group sing along song, but that she blew the doors off of it. Ellen agrees and disagrees with all of them, saying Paige sounded fantastic and looks good. Ryan lets us all know that Paige has been sewn into her outfit, and she adds, “I’ve been waiting to pee for like 5 hours.”
Ryan reminds us that all of the performances are up at iTunes.com
Ashley Rodriguez is up next, singing Leona Lewis’ “Live Happy.” Ooo, it’s a shaky start. She’s beautiful but she’s not going to be around long. Kara says it’s a big song to take on and there were some nice moments, but there were “definitely moments that were not great.” Randy says it was a good job but she didn’t really make any statement with the song. Ellen agrees and would like to see her do something with a different vibe. Simon says it was clumsy, he didn’t like the arrangment and there was no originality. He adds that he thinks she’s in trouble.
Wine sales rep Janell Wheeler is up next, singing Heart’s “What About Love”. Kind of a big song, one that she should be able to pull off, but it sounds a little empty. Does that make sense? Randy says it wasn’t his favorite song choice for her because that kind of song is hard to bring something original to. Ellen loved the song choice, even though there were a few little problems, but she liked it. Simon says she gave it 100% effort and probably delivered 60%. He said she started well but when she got excited and thought it was going well she went off track. Kara said the song was way too big for her.
Ryan asks Randy what the contestants should be thinking about in song choice, and Randy says they should pick songs that let them bring something original and not let them be compared to the original artist.
Up next is Lilly Scott. She says that it was a gift that American Idol showed up in Denver; she’d been living on the streets and playing, trying to make it as an artist. Lilly is singing “Fixing A Hole” from The Beatles. She’s the first contestant to play an instrument; she’s strumming her guitar. Does anyone else think the sound is off or something? The singers sound empty and the backing music seems hollow, on all of the contestants. I like Lilly. Ellen does, too. She says it’s such a random song choice, she has a great presence and a unique voice. Simon says its the best so far, saying that he felt like she sang a song she liked and that portrayed her as an artist rather than singing a song just go get through. Kara says she’s believable and comfortable on the stage. Randy loved that she was more like an indie artist, not concerned with what people think about her. So props for Lilly Scott!
Good grief, while Ryan and Lilly are talking, Kara is bending Simon’s ear, deep in conversation. Is she taking over Paula’s role as Simon’s sidekick?
Katelyn Epperly takes the stage next, singing “Oh Darling.” She’s dressed a little like an 80s valley girl, feather in her hair, bright red lipstick, huge earrings. She has a great voice, and she’s pulled off a great performance, despite the strange get up. Simon says there were elements where she was beginning to scream the song and it was messy, but he likes her, calling her quirky and brave. He adds she’s going to need an awful lot of work but he likes her a lot. Kara says she knows her voice, and she switched it up in a good way, but doesn’t like the make over. Randy says it’s nice; he says she paid attention to the tone and melody of the song instead of the runs. He tells her not to box herself in because he thinks she can go places. Ellen says there was a lot of personality in her performance right away, and she has a great voice, but she thought it was pushed a little.
Ryan asks Katelyn what the word bubble was in her head when Kara commented on her look, and Kara says, “I probably know what it was … bitch.”
Haeley Vaughn is up next, singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” She looks like a nurse, all dressed in white and with that cap, and she’s playing her red guitar. It’s a nice arrangement, something different, but she’s screechy and there’s that lisp. Kara says that from a technical standpoint it was all over the place, but she had fun and everyone feels that. Randy says she’s unpredictable and that’s fun, but her sound isn’t as pleasing as it could be, which I think is a nice way to say she screeches. Ellen says she shines and has a great voice and as someone who enjoys music, she enjoyed. Simon says it was verging on terrible; she was like a wind up doll who never stopped smiling throughout the song, and it was a mess.
Ryan points out that Ellen and Simon were totally different in their opinions, and Ellen says, “If it was a mess, it was a hot mess.”
During the break, I checked some tweets and had a good laugh over two: @JesusNeedsNewPR (aka author Matt Turner) said, “Amazing style, artistry, and voice, especially for a 16 year old. Love Haeley.” Just seconds later, @gracehappens23 (aka publicist Tricia Whitehead) comments, “Is Haeley this year’s Sanjaya?”, thus proving that musical tastes are all in the ear of the listener … or beholder … or whatever …
Lacey Brown is up next, singing Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” Bummer, a shaky start. Is she off key? Or is the sound just off on my TV? I’m not sure what to think. I like her but not sure that song was a good one for her. Randy says it was the wrong song, that it was terrible and pitchy and didn’t suit her voice. Ellen agrees, saying she’s better than that. Simon thought it was quite depressing, and “worse than that, it was kind of indulgent” and boring. Kara says she usually hits those notes with ease, but not tonight. Kara suggests Sixpence or The Sundays for song choices next time.
Ryan is sitting with Katie and Michelle; Katie says it’s nerve wrecking watching everyone else go.
Michelle Delamor is up next, singing Alicia Keye’s “Falling”. She’s clearly comfortable on stage, a little pitchy here and there, but a very respectable performance. Ellen says it was fantastic and she made it seem easy to sing and will do even better. Simon says she’s a professional singer, not as good as the original, but it was good. No “wow” moments, but enough to go through. Kara says she’s very commercial-looking and she’s good but had some bad spots. She adds that Michelle lacks some believability. Randy says it was a pretty good job, but she has more in her and wants to see something no one’s showed them yet.
Didi Benami is up next; she says her Idol journey so far as been emotional and spiritual and she’s hoping not to get teary eyed. She’s singing “The Way I Am”. I think it’s the perfect song choice for her. A little raw, but still great. Simon says she’s a good singer, but tonight there are too many people trying to sound like Adele and Duffy. He said it was dreary and indulgent although he likes her and she has a good voice. Simon says he’s missing a spark. Kara says it was a good song, and she at least made some creative changes. Randy says he agrees with Simon that they haven’t seen any star factor yet; he calls it sleepy. Ellen says if it was one song in a set during a show, it was OK, but alone it was a little low key for a first impression. Is Ellen hitting it on the head or what? That’s the perfect way to describe Didi’s performance. I liked it though.
Simon likens it to your first kiss – the first one really has to be memorable.That’s another good analogy, LOL.
Siobhan Magnus is up next singing Chris Isaacs. This girl is a trip. Sometimes she looks like she’s the babysitter next door, and other times she’s the girl working at the tattoo parlor. Right now, she looks like the hostess in a dinner club. OK, this song bores me to tears on a normal day. I wish she had picked a song like her last audition in Hollywood. Kara says she wouldn’t have picked that song but she liked it, and she sees that Siobhan is really in the moment. Randy says it was a tough song; they saw her belt out that Stevie Wonder song in the clip, and then she came out with this song. Ellen says she was just entertained by her performance. Simon says, “You really are a funny little thing, aren’t you? We never know what you’re going to do.” Simon says that he liked the Stevie Wonder song better, that this was a dark song. Siobhan says she picked it to show she has a softer voice. I hope that she gets a few weeks in the competition so she can get her feet under her and show us what she’s really capable of.
Crystal Bowersox is up now. I love this girl, so I hope she knocks it out of the park. She’s singing “Hand In My Pocket” by Alanis Morrisette. This girl is just so good. She’s not just a singer; she’s really a performer. Randy says she’s one of his favorites; he loves her honesty and he likes her regardless of the song. Ellen is also a fan and says we’re lucky Crystal decided to audition because she adds something. Simon says it was good, like her, like the baby, like the story, but there are thousands of her doing the same thing outside subway stations every day. He said her singing Alanis Morrisette is a sing alike; she needs to do something new. They suggest David Bowie; ooo, that would be very interesting. Simon says he’s not trying to be critical, because he likes her and says she’ll do very well. Kara said she was good but she has greatness in her. She tells her not to be just a coffeehouse singer.
I like the advice they gave her: think outside the coffeehouse box. It’ll be interesting to see what Crystal does with theme weeks. I think she’ll surprise everyone, including herself.
Katie Stevens closes the show singing Michael Buble’s “Feeling Good.” She’s got a big voice that she’s still learning how to use, but she is very good. Ellen says it was good, and it felt a little conservative and old for her; she wants her to be 17 and current and fresh and modern. Simon totally agrees with her, that it was like her mom and dad dressed her and gave her the song and it got annoying. He called it pagenty; that’s a good way to explain it. Kara sais it was uncharacteristically pitchy, but that at the end of the day she had “ridiculous chops”. Randy says she was pushing so hard the notes were going sharp, but that she has a good talent, like Jordin Sparks,but that she needs to be 17. Katie says she completely agrees and knows what they’re saying.
So who’s going home on Thursday? In my opinion, it could be Paige, Ashley, Lacey, or Haeley. If Paige, goes, it’s not for lack of talent; more for lack of exposure.
Frontrunners so far? For me, it’s Didi, Crystal, Lilly and Katelyn. Katie Stevens has a great voice but there’s something about her that doesn’t scream “Idol”. I do like Janell and Michelle but we’ll see if they can pick better songs next time. And I do like Siobhan, but I get the feeling she’s still trying to figure out who she is. I think she’ll be around long enough for us to see her grow.
Tomorrow, the guys take the stage, and then on Thursday two from each group go home.
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