American Idol, Girl Power!

After less-than-fabulous performances by the guys this week, the girls had nowhere to go but up, and holy cow did they soar!

For contestants hoping to make it into the top 12 on American Idol, this week is make or break. Do or die. Fourth and goal with no time left on the clock. Sing big or go home.

That's because the top 16 are being whittled down to the top 12. Two guys and two girls will get their walking papers tonight (Thursday). Then, as they say, the competition really begins.

But you wouldn't necessarily know that based on the guys' performances Tuesday night. The lads were lackluster to say the least. The ladies, on the other hand, came to sing Wednesday night and set a whole new bar.

Crooning songs from the '80s, the gals all picked nearly perfect songs, and did not fail to impress. How'd they do? Here's my take.

TOP TWO:

Brooke White: Some might disagree with me here, but I think that for the second week in a row Brooke White wins hands down. Brooke sang an unplugged version of "Love is a Battlefield" with no backing instruments except an acoustic guitar. I loved it! It was as pure as it gets with no bull spit or frills. I would buy this cover in a heartbeat. What a great interpretation. Randy thought it was interesting. Paula said it was a wise song choice. Simon thought it worked and called it a great performance. You and me both, Simon.

Amanda Overmyer: Amanda rocked the house with Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself for Loving You." First, let me say that her hair was a gazillion times better than last week. Second, let me say that the song was really fitting. Third, let me say that I thought her performance started a little weak, but quickly picked up and really finished strong. Amanda's voice is definitely an acquired taste. You either love it or hate it. I don't love it, but I appreciate that she has talent out the wazoo. Randy said well done. Paula said she found her niche. Simon said it was fantastic and that she nailed it.

(A quick side note: After her song, the judges kind of accused Amanda of not looking so happy. And she didn't. In fact, she looked genuinely upset. There's something going on they're not telling us about. Maybe we'll find out next week.)

THE OTHER TOP TWO:

This week's top two can't really be boiled down to just two. So here are two more.

Carly Smithson: Sang "I Drove All Night" by Cyndi Lauper. Carly looked great and sounded greater. She hit the high notes, the low notes, and all the notes in between. Man, she killed it! Randy called it "another great performance." Paula said there aren't enough adjectives to describe it. Simon thought it wasn't the right song because she's a million times better and could have found something from the '80s that suited her.

Asia'h Epperson: Asia'h knocked out a pretty dang good rendition of "I Wanna Dance with Somebody." It was a solid song choice. Her performance was upbeat and the tune fit her well. About the worst thing you could say about Asia'h was her outfit, which I thought was unflattering. Randy said singing Whitney Houston was a tall order but that Asia'h was hot. Paula said she nailed it. Simon said it was second-rate Whitney, but good enough to make the top 12.

MIDDLE OF THE PACK, BUT STILL REALLY GOOD:

Kady Malloy: Our favorite Britney impersonator gave us a version of Queen's "Who Wants to Live Forever." She put such a new spin on it, I hardly recognized the song at first. Maybe I'm a sucker for the blondes, but I think Kady is as cute as a bug in a rug, and I'm guessing that will help her stick around for a while. But after this performance, she showed that she deserves to be around for a while longer just for her singing. Randy said it was pretty good. Paula thought it was her best performance to date. You and me both, Paula. Simon said it was better than last week, but still thinks Kady is a bit robotic.

Kristy Lee Cook: I give Kristy points for taking on one of the quintessential '80s bands, Journey. Kristy sang "Faithfully" with a little bit of a country lilt. I wasn't a huge fan of the vibrato effect, but I liked it overall. Not sure she truly nailed the high notes at the end. Randy liked the country-ish take on the song. Paula agreed. Simon did too but worried that overall Kristy is "forgettable."

Ramiele Malubay: Ramiele sang one of my favorite '80s songs, "Against All Odds." She started out with a conventional approach, but really belted out the second half. Once again, this little girl showed off her ginormous voice. I wasn't totally blown away, but my hair is definitely messed up from the wind. Randy thought Ramiele lacked confidence. Paula babbled

incoherently for a long, long, long, long time, then finally said she deserved to be in the top 12. Simon liked it, but thought it was predictable and said he wasn't jumping out of his chair.

Syesha Mercado: If Ramiele is the "little girl with a big voice," then Syesha is the "skinny little girl with just as big a voice." Syesha hit us with "Saving All My Love for You." And while she didn't add much new to it, she really nailed the high notes. Randy called it good. Ditto for Paula. Simon said it was predictable but good. I think the producers must have been telling the judges they were running out of time, because they kept their comments unusually short. Not fair to Syesha, but I guess that's the reality of live TV.

BOTTOM TWO:

I refuse to put any of the ladies in the bottom two this week. They were all THAT GOOD. If I could change the rules of Idol, I would send four of the boys home and let all eight of the girls stay.

The judges don't agree with me. At least Simon doesn't. At the end of the show he said the girls didn't do as well as the boys did the night before. I don't know what show he was watching Tuesday night, but in my opinion the ladies kicked butt and took names.

Unfortunately, two girls will be going home. We find out who, along with which two (deserving) guys will join them on Thursday night.

One quick correction before I go. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that Patsy Cline sang "Where the Boys Are." As a few readers pointed out, that is incorrect. Connie Francis sang it. My bad. I erroneously listened to Randy Jackson who said it was Patsy Cline right after the performance, and didn't double-check it myself. From now on, I know better than to blindly trust Randy. On Tuesday he thought INXS sang "Don't You Forget About Me," when

everyone knows it was Simple Minds.

Ethan Morris: "Not always right, but never in doubt." Go ahead and write me.