This is the week we've all been waiting for. Following Tuesday and Wednesday night's performances, we will be down to season nine's top 12, and the competition on "American Idol" will start to get serious.
After last week's surprise switcheroo due to Crystal Bowersox's illness, the remaining 12 ladies served up a mixed bag of good, bad and eh on Wednesday night. Lilly Scott and Siobhan Magnus proved to be suddenly strong competition for Bowersox, who stormed back from her undisclosed ailment to regain her spot as the woman to beat this year.
So what do the rest of the ladies need to do to win the hearts — and ears — of the nation? How can they get enough votes to avoid landing in the bottom two? Here's what we do (and don't) want to see from these "Idol" hopefuls, starting with those who need the most work.
It feels like this once-promising singer has seriously lost her way. After ditching the thing that got her to the big show (i.e., sensitive singer/songwriter material with a jazzy twist), Benami was undone by a hard-to-watch warble through the Bill Withers soul classic "Lean on Me." Didi would be wise to dig into the Lily Allen or Corinne Bailey Rae songbook to get back into the game.
The judges have told Miles she has the strongest voice in the competition this year, but so far, she's failed to make much of an impression personality-wise. Last week, Kara DioGuardi faulted her for smiling through a cover of Kelly Clarkson's "Walk Away," dissing Miles for not getting the angry mood of the song right. And she should know — she co-wrote it! She needs to put the coloring books away and bite off a meaty Alicia Keys song that will allow her to open up and show some serious emotion.
This teenager needs to find her inner child. After weeks of going too old, Stevens is in danger of losing her spot if she doesn't show the panel that she could be a youthful, contemporary artist. She tried to display her younger side by singing Bailey Rae's signature "Put Your Records On," but even that didn't work because the judges said it felt too unfocused and bland, with Simon Cowell suggesting she needed a bit more time to figure out what kind of artist she wants to be. Unless Stevens can smash it with a convincing tumble through a Katy Perry or Rihanna song, she might be back in her old classroom next week.
Proving you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, Brown followed the judges' advice and performed Sixpence None the Richer's "Kiss Me" — and they didn't like it. In order to stick around, she needs the kind of signature moment Magnus provided with her Aretha Franklin power note, so this week's selection should focus on displaying her range and originality.
Has one note ever meant so much? Magnus, this year's token quirky girl, could very well have stamped her ticket to the top 12 last week thanks to that massive wail at the end of her version of Franklin's "Think." Now, Magnus just has to keep surprising the judges and audience to stay in the running. Luckily, she hasn't painted herself into a genre corner so far and has displayed an indie-leaning sensibility, so she's free to try out anything on the charts, from Lady Gaga to Owl City.
The judges weren't crazy about Epperly's slow take on Coldplay's "The Scientist," but America gave it a thumbs-up and she made it to sing another day. She should strap the guitar back on this week and give us a new twist on a contemporary singer/songwriter, perhaps even putting some jazz into a Taylor Swift tune.
Scott is on a roll. She nailed her Beatles cover two weeks ago, gave another solid performance with Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" last week, again proving that while she may not have the best voice, she's got a unique stage presence and memorable delivery. It would be great to see her sit at a piano this week and rework a contemporary ballad, say something from Muse or Carrie Underwood.
At this point, it's Crystal's game to lose. She's proven she can kill it with classic-rock tunes, thanks to a very strong gospel-tinged rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Long as I Can See the Light," but this week might be her chance to tackle a newer artist and prove that she can be relevant now. A Jack Johnson song might do the trick.
What do you want to see from the girls on Tuesday night? Who do you hope steps up their game this week? Let us know below!
Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.