‘American Idol’ Report Card: How Did The Top 12 Do?

Siobhan Magnus, Crystal Bowersox shine, while the guys do their best to keep up during Rolling Stones week.

Epperly, Katelyn? Lambert, Alex? Scott, Lilly?!

Oh, that’s right. We almost forgot. Those three promising “American Idol” students were expelled from the show last week. Let’s skip attendance and jump right into Tuesday night’s “Idol” report card. We have a feeling Siobhan Magnus and Crystal Bowersox will be graduating with honors, while Andrew Garcia and Paige Miles are in danger of flunking out. Let’s see how they all fared with the Rolling Stones week. (And don’t miss Jim Cantiello’s recap of their performances in the MTV Newsroom.)

Excellent

Didi Benami: Her captivating rendition of “Play With Fire” makes it two straight weeks at the top of the class for this 23-year-old old soul. It was a gutsy choice to go all slow and brooding, and it paid off. Yet her future remains cloudy: Didi just couldn’t rise up to hit that final high note, and her lack of vocal power will become ever more evident when the field narrows. For now, though, we offer Benami a slew of gold stars and our assurance that she’ll stick around the competition for a while longer.

Siobhan Magnus: Her take on “Paint It Black” was some sinister, “Alice in Wonderland”-infused glory. That’s not to say it didn’t have its fair share of problems, from those shrieky high notes to the fact that going so upbeat may not showcase her true strengths. But her vocal chops, combined with her charmingly goofy personality, have us certain Magnus is a serious contender.

Crystal Bowersox: Close your eyes during Sox’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and you might have thought a ’70s-era Bonnie Raitt was up on the stage busting out some countrified power blues. Crystal can wail. From here on out, “Idol” season nine seems to be a competition between the ladies, with the guys doing their best to keep up.

Good

Lee Dewyze: We’re starting to remember why we thought he was a dark horse at the start of the live shows. There were flashes of John Mayer in his performance of “Beast of Burden.” Is he still a pedestrian musical talent? Can we find a Lee Dewyze in every corner bar in every city in America? Yes and yes. Taking into account this season’s overall talent, though, Dewyze really does have the potential to keep chugging along.

Paige Miles: Would it be cruel to suggest Miles acquire a permanent case of laryngitis? Because belting out “Honky Tonk Woman” despite her illness was the best she’s sounded in weeks. We’d like to hear the same stuff in the future. Only problem is that she’s in serious danger of going home.

Aaron Kelly: The tender “Angie” was the perfect choice for the season’s youngest contestant. And it really was his best performance of the live shows thus far, which is not saying much at all. The 16-year-old still should have been sent packing last month, but there’s clearly a dedicated Kelly fanbase out there — one that votes for him no matter what. Kelly will live to sing another week.

Satisfactory

Michael Lynche: No one will ever fault Big Mike for his failure to communicate a confident stage presence. He commands the stage like no other contestant, and that’s no easy feat to pull off week after week. However! The promise of Tuesday’s soul-powered intro to “Miss You” failed to deliver when the band kicked in. And we’ll just pretend those odd little side kicks weren’t actually Mike’s idea of a dance routine.

Casey James: What’s going on, Casey? We suggested you bring some country twang to this performance. You did bring a slide guitar-style honky tonk to “It’s All Over Now,” but left the gritty rock and roll the song required at your hotel room. We’re certain you and your over-moussed locks will be voted through to the next round, so when you get there, please revert back to the acoustic-guitar-and-stool set-up that worked so well during your take on Bryan Adams’ “Heaven.”

Katie Stevens: “Wild Horses”? Why? Why?! It’s never a good thing when you don’t come out on the winning end of a comparison with Susan Boyle. Stevens may have thought she had no choice but to be old when performing a Rolling Stones tune, but did she have to channel a 40-something-year-old Scottish songstress? In all fairness, it was a vast improvement from the pitch-plagued performances of weeks’ past, and that pop quiz from Ryan Seacrest was deeply unfair. Truth be told, people love them some SuBo and some of that affection will certainly rub off on Katie. Expect her to continue to sneak through the competition.

Tim Urban: The judges were downright angry that Urban would dare bring a reggae vibe to “Under My Thumb.” Funny thing is, while we’ve been railing against this kid for weeks, we didn’t totally hate this reworking. Sure, it was bizarre. So too was it some island-y fun. Mind you, Urban should have been booted from “Idol” long ago. But we applaud him for taking a risk and shall plop him right in the meaty part of our grading curve.

Unsatisfactory

Lacey Brown: Her stripped-down, string-backed reworking of “Ruby Tuesday” was brilliant in conception and flawed in execution. Lacey just didn’t seem to have the vocal fortitude to soar over the lovely instrumentation. Following her strongest performance to date (Brandi Carlile’s “The Story”), this week marked a step down for the 24-year-old Texan. Still, we’re betting her taped segment — with the revelation that she comes from a family of pastors and grew up singing in church — was endearing enough to curry favor with voters. She’ll be around next week. We’re just not sure she deserves to be.

Andrew Garcia: It’s not that we’re mad, Andrew. We’re just disappointed. We’ve been hoping he’d somehow revert to the Hollywood Week form that made us believe he was a front-runner. But hoo boy! His Sting-like version of “Gimme Shelter,” with its clunky arrangement and his warbling middle register, has us ready to say goodbye. We love his story, his family, him. We’ve just been hurt too many times. Goodnight and good luck!

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