The first batch of the 12 of the "American Idol" top 36 performed live on Tuesday night, and the results? Well, they were mixed.
Given a seemingly bottomless song selection — the theme was "hits from the Billboard Hot 100," meaning everything from Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You" to Eminem's "Crack a Bottle" was fair game — the dozen hopefuls on display last night mostly chose to play it safe, and the results ran the gamut from "triumphant" to "utterly and completely disastrous."
In the former category, you can count pint-size Alexis Grace, who belted out a soulful rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Never Loved a Man" that earned her comparisons to a former "Idol" champ, Kelly Clarkson. Then Danny Gokey closed the night with a take on Mariah Carey's "Hero" that had the studio audience — and the judges — cheering wildly. Ricky Braddy and Michael Sarver also received high marks for their versions of Leon Russell's "A Song for You" and Gavin DeGraw's "I Don't Wanna Be."
You can file the performances by Casey Carlson, Stevie Wright and Stephen Fowler under "disastrous." Carlson, the button-cute former bikini model, winked her way through a karaoke-fied version of the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," a performance that left "Idol" judges agape. Wright, a 17-year-old with a husky set of pipes, decided to go "younger," taking on Taylor Swift's "You Belong to Me" and failing spectacularly. Fowler performed Michael Jackson's classic "Rock With You," a move that left judges questioning his song choice and his chances at survival.
Everyone else was somewhere in between. Normally dramatic Tatiana Del Toro unveiled her demure side with a controlled version of Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love for You," a decision that left judges praising her pipes but questioning her identity as an artist. Brent Keith tried to remain loyal to his country roots by singing James Aldean's "Hicktown," a performance the judges deemed "forgettable." Ann Marie Boskovich fell victim to the same criticism after her take on Carole King's "Natural Woman." Jackie Tohn was dubbed "entertaining" after a spastic performance of Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation" (judges were split on her Lycra pants). And Anoop Desai — Randy's favorite "Noop Dogg" — tackled Monica's "Angel of Mine" with mixed results, striking a balance between gawky crooner and smooth loverman.
The top male and female vote-getters — plus the next-highest vote-getter, regardless of gender — will be the first three to move on to the top 12.
Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.