I'd be lying if I said I'm not feeling a little antsy after last night's show. Season 9's 12 female semifinalists, by and large, colored inside the lines. Bold statements they did not make. Siobhan Magnus came the closest to bucking the conservative trend; the quirky glassblower's artful renditon of Chris Isaak's Wicked Game certainly made a splash around the Idolsphere. Serious contenders stayed within their comfort zones, however, further casting the judges' visions of a woman winning the title as presumptuous if not pollyannaish.
It's up to the guys' side of the Top 24 to deliver a desperately that needed charge of charisma tonight. Andrew Garcia, the early front-runner, is the most likely source. John Park, Casey James and Lee Dewyze also show promise. As for those final two slots, well, all it takes is one powerhouse performance to shake up the race. Exhibit A: Jason Castro paylayed his inspired rendtion of Hallelujah into a Top 4 finish two years ago.
8:01 p.m.: Time to separate the men from the boys, Ryan says. Looks like Andrew going last tonight. As if he needed another advantage.
8:03 p.m.: Randy offers some "advice" to the guys. He says the girls blew it out last night. Really?
8:05 p.m.: Simon warns the contestants not to forget their words, or their career will be over. That's what happened to David Archuleta, right?
8:06 p.m.: Todrick Hall is first up. He's tackling Kelly Clarkson! Song choice: Since U Been Gone. I am not digging this version.
8:09 p.m.: OK, that was different. But it wasn't singing. And there wasn't much singing. Ellen thinks he's an amazing singer. "I liked everything, except when you hit the chorus." Randy and Kara thinks he did too much. Simon says he came over as dancer trying to sing, not a singer who can dance. "What you did is completely murder the original song." Ouch.
8:11 p.m.: Dear Kara: There's a big difference between being creative and comitting a crime. That is all.
8:13 p.m.: Well, people definitely will be talking about Todrick's performance tomorrow morning. That's more than most of the girls can say.
8:16 p.m.: Aaron Kelly is one of the youngest contestants in Idol history. He calls the ride so far "fantastic." Song choice: Rascal Flatts' Here Comes Goodbye. (Co-written by Idol alum Chris Sligh, by the way.)
8:20 p.m.: He pulled it off. Kinda. It was a big song, and Aaron looks awfully small on that stage. "You have to take control of the song," Simon says. "With you it's all about self-belief and confidence." Kara says the compeition is going to make him better. Randy and Ellen both agree, saying he'll be around for a while.
8:26 p.m.: Jermaine Sellers has to look like the bad guy again, as we relive his throwing-the-band-under-the-bus incident from Hollywood Week. Song choice: Oleta Adams' Get Here.
8:29 p.m.: That was rough. Really rough. Especially that last note. Ellen thinks he was pushing a little too much. But he still likes him! It was an odd song for him, Randy says. He needed to pull it back. Kara says he should have made the runs more memorable. "I think you've totally blown your opportunity with that," Simon adds. The other judges think he'll be back, though. We'll see ...
8:33 p.m.: Ryan brings up Jermaine's drama again. Man, now Jermaine is getting thrown under the bus. But he does get the chance to make up with Michael Orland, from the band. How nice of them.
8:35 p.m.: Tim Urban is holding the now-famous Coke cup. He apparently has a cruel sense of humor, too.
8:38 p.m.: "It's an incredible feeling," Tim says of being a last-second replacement in the Top 24. He didn't even tell his family he made it until they found out on TV. Song choice: OneRepublic's Apologize.
8:41 p.m.: Awful. The falsetto was awful. Everything about it was awful. A popular song, sure, but Kris slayed it during Top 3 week last year. "There was just nothing, nothing to take from that," Simon says. His voice just isn't good enough. Kara says the music swallowed him up -- he would have been better with his guitar. The only positive Randy and Ellen can take from that mess was Tim's good looks.
8:45 p.m.: This has been brutal, folks. When Little Aaron had the best showing so far, you're in trouble.
8:48 p.m.: Let's pray Joe Munoz can turn things around. His amatuer guitar skills aren't giving me much hope. He's going with Jason Mraz's You and I Both.
8:52 p.m.: Is anyone seeing the next American Idol here? Yeah, I didn't think so. Ellen thinks he had great stage presence but didn't say anything about his singing. Randy says he worked it out. Kara likes the song choice, and she says he's been the most consistent of the night. "It was all a bit limp, forgetable," Simon says. Tell me about it.
8:55 p.m.: Everybody's favoriet retro rocker, Mr. Tyler Grady, takes us back to the 70s. Song choice: American Woman.
8:59 p.m.: Solid, serviceable, that's about it. "People are going to remember that performance," Simon says before adding it didn't feel natural. Kara says he didn't add anthing original to it. Style over substance, Randy adds. Well ... what did they expect? Ellen piles on, saying he lacks charisma and excitement. "If this is who you are and they want you to change it up a little bit, what will wear next week?" Ryan asks. "I guess I'll have to go to the mall." Heh.
9:02 p.m.: The first hour's winner? No one. OK, maybe Aaron Kelly. But Tyler Grady had the best post-performance interview.
9:04 p.m.: One of my early favorites, Lee Dewyze, kicks off the second hour. I think he's got loads of potential. Song choice: Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol.
9:09 p.m.: There was so much to say about what I just heard. Pitchy, yes. Nothing like the original, yeah. Timid, no. The guy's got too much talent to ignore. Ellen, Randy and Kara are pretty tough on him. "I thought this was the best performance, by a mile," Simon counters. "This guy is a naturally good singer." He says he fought for him, brings up David Cook (!) and thinks he's gonna do really well.
9:13 p.m.: I'm trying to figure out what Randy was rambling on about ... nope, still don't get it.
9:16 p.m.: Shania Twain's main man, John Park, takes the stage. Song choice: Good Bless the Child.
9:19 p.m.: The beginning was a hot mess, but he brought it home at the end. Simon didn't get it. Kara agrees. "There was no connection. It got a bit lounge-y, a little sleepy, almost indulgent." She can't figure out where he fits in. Randy says it was a mixed bag. Ellen just wanted him to sing a different song because she likes him a lot. John tells Ryan he chose it because it means a lot to him and his family.
9:22 p.m.: Time for Big Mike. Michael Lynche missed the birth of his daughter. In case you missed his backstory the first 100 times. Song choice: Maroon 5's This Love.
9:26 p.m.: Big Mike butchered that one. I'm trying to be nice. But Ellen and Randy just love his personality. Because that's what really counts in this competition! Kara comes through with the back-handed compliment of the night: "It wasn't outrageously great." Simon gets real with everyone. "I've heard performances like that 10-, 20,000 times."
9:32 p.m.: Alex Lambert worked with Mary Powers (on Group Night) and lived to tell about it. He deserves an award for that alone. Song choice: James Morrison's Wonderful World.
9:37 p.m.: The voice is there -- he's got a one-of-a-kind tone -- but he doesn't look ready for the big stage. At all. Simon calls it the most uncomfortable performance of the night. Kara: "It's all there, it's just not completely together." The other judges think he needs more time to develop. Alex admits to Ryan he hasn't performed in front of people all that much. "I'll be fine, though. It was a lot of fun. I love playing with the band. It's sweet. Rickey Minor -- man, that's awesome." The girls are gonna love him.
9:40 p.m.: Casey James gets to relive his infamous audition from Denver. Good news (or bad, if you're Kara): He's fully clothed. Song choice: Bryan Adams' Heaven.
9:46 p.m.: Casey's got some game. Finally. Someone knows what they're doing up there. Simon and Randy insist Kara start the critique. And she can't keep her composure. Get it together, girl! This is just sad. Casey's probably going to make a deep run, but if he has to endure all the jokes and sexual innuendo for three months, he might just want to quit now. For a little bit of sanity -- and a "cougar" jab at Kara -- Simon thinks it's the high point in the competition for Simon.
9:50 p.m.: No question the second half of tonight's show has been much stronger than the first.
9:53 p.m.: To close the show, Andrew Garcia gets the honor. He says he's ready to work ... really hard. Song choice: We're Goin' Down by Fall Out Boy.
9:57 p.m.: Somewhat of a letdown, that was. Andrew has nothing to worry about, though. had to battle the weight of great expectations, and he lost. Simon feels the same way. He's disappointed. Kara calls it a "strange rendition." Randy thinks he was trying too hard. Ellen: "I think you're gonna stick around. We like ya."
10:00 p.m.: Who's on the hot seat? Todrick, Jermaine and Tim should be really worried.
10:04 p.m.: There were some bright spots -- Casey, Lee and Andrew -- none too surprising. Joe also had nice night. Who was your favorite?
10:13 p.m.: Ranking the night's performances, from top to bottom:
1. Lee Dewyze, Chasing Cars
2. Casey James, Heaven
3. Andrew Garcia, Sugar, We're Goin' Down
4. Joe Munoz, You And I Both
5. Alex Lambert, Wonderful World
6. John Park, God Bless the Child
7. Aaron Kelly, Here Comes Goodbye
8. Tyler Grady, American Woman
9. Michael Lynche, This Love
10. Jermaine Sellers, Get Here
11. Tim Urban, Apologize
12. Todrick Hall, Since U Been Gone
Final thoughts: Maybe the girls won't have to worry much after all. They really do have an edge. The talent level drops off in major way after the top three guys. The youngsters -- Joe Munoz, Alex Lambert and John Park -- lacked polish in their performances, but they made solid cases for sticking around another week. Andrew Garcia remains in a league of his own, even if he failed to meet some sky-high expectations. He'll have plenty of time to recover. Lee Dewyze broke through with hints of something special. There's something about his raspy sound that draws me in, and I want to hear more of it. Casey James' Heaven cover also stood out -- let's not revisit this judges' ridiculous antics -- and will go far. The disaster that was Todrick Hall's version of Since U Been Gone, on the other hand, will go down as one of the worst performances in American Idol history.