It was do or die time (well, not quite as drastic as death) for the Top 8 girls performing for a spot in the finals. Ellen DeGeneres is sitting on Simon's lap and kissing his cheek. Now THIS...is American Idol! You could tell it was going to be a good night because Simon gave two thumbs up rather than the usual finger pressed against his cheek. However, Simon then called this the worst night to go because the stakes are so high. He's not helping the girls' nerves. We have eight contestants singing in one hour, so no clips packages this week! You'll have to wait another week to learn about coloring books and how to shave a mohawk.
Katie Stevens kicked off the show with a younger song choice this week -- Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway." Every week of the Season 9 live shows, someone performed a Kelly song, and you know my cardinal rule about performing an Idol winner's song! Randy agrees, and said Kelly Clarkson is one of the best contestants ever so it's hard to live up to her. The judges still like Katie's voice and Kara called it a "great radio voice." Simon noticed improvement and effort from Katie this week, but he still doesn't believe she's worked out what kind of an artist she is.
The "Funny Little Thing," Siobhan Magnus, was up next and she sang "House Of The Rising Sun" by The Animals, which is one of her dad's favorite songs. She calls him the best singer she knows, so it's a shame he's over the 28 year old age limit for Idol. Siobhan starts off a capella and then the band joins in. She manages to make old songs seem younger. Randy likes that Siobhan takes risks and Kara thought the a capella moment was brilliant. However, Simon thought it lacked the "wow" moment from last week.
As Siobhan was escorted off the stage, Lacey Brown began singing "The Story" by Brandi Carlile while sitting on the stairs at the opposite end of the stage. This was Lacey's best performance and a great song choice. The whole performance seemed intimate, but she kept it funky with her green nail polish and orange pumps. The judges were glad to have the Lacey they loved in Hollywood back. Ellen thought the song sounded like it was written for Lacey, and Simon noticed that Lacey knows where the cameras are as if she's been doing this whole live TV singing thing for a long time.
Katelyn Epperly wore denim overall shorts and boogied and played the keyboard as she sang Carole King's "I Feel The Earth Move." Her hair is even bigger and curlier than Carole's. The judges used, "I like your hair," as their pro, which is never a good way to start. They think Katelyn has a great voice, but they missed the connection between Katelyn and the song this week. Simon called it "kind of like request night on a Friday night in a restaurant." Because those are totally the types of restaurants Simon hangs out in...
Didi Benami listened to the judges and went back to her singer/songwriter/guitar playing roots when she took out her acoustic guitar and played Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon." She started off the song with just the guitar and her voice. I loved the stripped down nature of it all. Kara called this "one of my favorite moments of the show so far this season." Simon thought she was "head and shoulders above anything else we heard tonight." The judges commended her on coming back from harsh criticism last week and working it out, which of course made Didi cry, but this time it was happy tears. Now we can ask the question "Rhiannon" poses, "Will you ever win?" If she does, imagine the tears that will flow then!
Paige Miles usually performs energetic songs, but this week she went with "Smile" by Nat King Cole/Tony Bennett. Did you know that if you take the first letter of "smile" and move it to the end of the word you get Paige's last name, "Miles?" You're welcome. During the song it seemed like the music got ahead of Paige or that Paige was ahead of the music, or like Randy said, the bossa nova music just didn't work at all. Ellen missed Paige's personality, and Simon came up with a very detailed comparison of something you'd hear at a Holiday Inn during 1974 as people were eating peanuts at the bar. I'm surprised Ryan didn't use that opportunity to say "In 1974, Simon was only 30."
Crystal Bowersox brought out the electric guitar this week and jammed to Tracy Chapman's "Give Me One Reason." It started off with just Crystal and the electric guitar. She sounded great and Randy used the word "love" four times before calling it "hot." Simon threw out a number from the Randy Jackson School of Arithmetic saying, "You are one million billion percent going to be in the Top 12 next week." He likes her confidence and said she's now the one to beat! No pressure!
Lilly Scott ended the night with "I Fall To Pieces" by Patsy Cline. She put a little country spin on the song and played the mandolin! That's three different string instruments in the first three weeks of live shows. The judges liked the performance, and Kara said, "I don't know how you did it, but you kind of made Patsy Cline feel current." Simon thought it lacked the "wow" factor but he called it cute, quirky, and said it plays into what Lilly's all about. If Lilly advances, I'm curious to see what instrument she whips out next.
The Top 8 girls seemed to have their strongest night yet, for the most part. Will the guys be able to match it?