By many accounts, it was a rough first week for the top 24 on "American Idol" last week. And while the guys had it a bit tougher than the girls when it came to harsh comments from the judges, it's not like the ladies got off scot-free.
From multiple slags about wrong song choices to the usual litany of complaints about young singers acting too old and pitchy performances, Simon, Ellen, Kara and Randy gave the dozen female contenders plenty to think about. The remaining 10 women got a rare one-day reprieve on Tuesday when leading contender Crystal Bowersox fell ill and caused a one-time-only switcheroo, forcing the boys to perform a day earlier than scheduled. At press time, there was no update on Bowersox's condition.
So what do the girls have to do Wednesday night (March 3) to make sure they're not in the bottom two come Thursday?
Last week's breakout performer moved near the front of the line with a quirky acoustic-guitar-driven take on the Beatles' "Fixing a Hole," which drew praise from the judges. As long as the 20-year-old platinum blonde keeps mixing it up and surprising the panel — but not too much — she should keep skating along.
The little-known singer took a chance tackling Alicia Keys' "Fallin'," throwing in some bluesy runs that made for a solid live debut. Ellen loved it, and Simon said it was solid, if predictable. Delamor needs to explain to America why they should care and stretch outside her comfort zone to keep the dream alive.
The early front-runner among the ladies stumbled a bit last week, landing accusations from Simon that her strummy, harmonica-assisted cover of Alanis Morissette's "Hand in My Pocket" was a bit too similar to the work of countless subway buskers. Then she fell ill on Monday and forced the postponement of ladies night. Will she pull a Megan Joy and rebound from sickness stronger than ever? She can't bust out an original, but Bowersox might want to consider showing off something other than her folky credentials to remind the judges why they chose her to begin with.
Another virtual stranger to viewers did pretty well in her live debut, kicking off the show with a growling take on Free's classic-rock staple "All Right Now." Cowell praised her for having the best voice of all the girls but said her song choice was hacky and cheap. The preschool teacher does indeed have a strong voice, and she, too, needs to use the new "personality snapshot" section unveiled on Tuesday night to give us some clue as to why she should get our vote. Maybe she juggles flaming knives or helped raise a baby seal as a child or speaks Esperanto. Mostly, though, she should really focus on picking the right song to prove it this week.
Magnus, 19, went a bit dark with her brooding take on Chris Isaak's hard-to-sing "Wicked Game," and Cowell lamented that the glassblowing apprentice didn't live up to her previous fire. Kara liked the oddball song choice, and Ellen said she was so blown away that she forgot she was watching a reality show for a moment. We didn't, so for Magnus to keep her spot, she should keep driving the oddball lane even harder and focus on showing the judges some hidden commercial appeal.
The high-schooler nearly blew it with her old-fashioned-sounding Michael Bublé ditty "Feeling Good." Ellen dinged her for being too conservative, and Cowell agreed, calling the performance pageanty and annoying. Katie has to show her age this week, and if she's smart, she'll pick an uptempo Katy Perry tune or a Ke$ha track, if it's available. "Tik Tok" would kill it and bring her all the way back. (But perhaps she could skip the verse that talks about brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack.)
Benami has a great, emotional backstory and some serious chops, and her cover of Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am" was totally in her wheelhouse. Simon said she was sounding like yet another Duffy/Adele wannabe and said it was good but a bit dreary. Randy wasn't feeling the star power, so if Didi wants to be here next week, she needs to crank up the stagecraft and surprise the judges with an unexpected sound/look, à la Adam Lambert. Might we suggest a bit of Aimee Mann? Perhaps "Driving Sideways" done in a reggae style?
The teen country wannabe tried to go jazzy with the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand," which was high on energy but kind of a vocal train wreck. The judges agreed that it was all over the place and messy. Cuteness will only get you so far, so if Haeley wants to keep on chuggin', she should consider picking a Carrie Underwood song that would show off her vocal skills and make us recall what was charming about her back in Hollywood.
Lacey's "Landslide" was more like a mudslide of poor song choice. She tried to give the Fleetwood Mac classic a jazzy makeover, and nobody bought it. Brown needs to figure out who she is in a hurry, or this could be her last week on "Idol."
The judges razzed her about her glam makeover, but Epperly did just fine with her Beatles cover of "Oh! Darling." The Iowa college student wisely chose a song that is not the usual Beatles fodder, and while Simon said some of it was a bit screamy, he winked at her quirky sensibility and said the song choice was a nice touch. If she just stays the course, picks the right song and tones down the 1980s Madonna hairstyles and fire-engine lipstick, Katelyn should be around for a while.
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!
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