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In the world's ultimate talent search - where the eyes of a nation are upon the best undiscovered singers in the country, where the audience has the power to make or break you, and where a million-dollar recording contract is on the line, there is only one rule: If you can sing it, bring it.

Is your favorite still in the running? Check out the Idol Set List!

Recaps by Chico Alexander & Gordon Pepper, GSNN


FACT FILE:

Host: Ryan Seacrest
Judges: Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson
Creator: Simon Fuller (based upon "Pop Idol")
EP: Nigel Lythgoe, Ken Warwick, Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Simon Fuller
Packager: 19 Entertainment, FremantleMedia North America
Airs: Tuesdays at 8pm ET and Wednesdays at 9pm ET on Fox


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"Round of 24" - February 21-23

After five weeks of separating the "hoorays" from the "oy veys", we move into the penultimate phase in the search for the next American Idol. This week begins the semi-final rounds, starting with 24 and ultimately ending up with 12. Your votes will separate those who make you say "BRAVO!" and those who make you say "NO MAS!"

First, a word about procedure. We're playing "Fame" voting rules with the guys performing tonight (I'll cover them) and the girls performing tomorrow (that's Pepper's territory) and the results being given with the return of GSNN's Roundtable Idol on Wednesday. But first, it's all about the guys. In case you've forgotten, they are... Nikko (related to Ozzie) Smith, Scott (proving daddy wrong) Savol, Anthony (tracheotomy) Fedorov, Bo (rocker from down south) Bice, Travis (make him sweat just a little more) Tucker, Constantine (rocker from up north) Maroulis, David (short dreads) Brown, Jared (insert nickname here) Yates, Anwar (longer dreads) Robinson, Judd (Judd Harris) Harris, Joseph (??) Murena, and Mario ("Sing sing!") Vazquez. And in case you've forgotten, here to throw in their two cents (or in the case of one, two pence) are Randy (music producer and one-time member of Journey) Jackson, Paula (choreographer and one-time pop star) Abdul, and Simon (BMG A&R head and one-time humanoid) Cowell. 

First up, Nikko Smith, who, since his audition, dropped his given name of Osbourne and added a fedora to the mix to make himself look more like Andre 3000 than anyone needs to be... but I digress. He sings a latter-day Stevie Wonder hit, "Part-Time Lover".

What they said: Randy called it an excellent start. Paula agreed. Simon thought it was OK, but lacking star quality.

What we said: A good start, as he performs the song on par with the original, not really any problems as far as pitch, presence, and song choice, probably the three determinants as to who will come out on top. Nikko's one to watch as he grows and matures through the rest of the competition.

Scott Savol, all of him, is next on the Idol floating mushroom with "You Are My Lady", made famous by Freddie Jackson. Freddie Jackson, he isn't, but he has a good voice, as he proved in his initial audition, basically a flipping of the bird to his father who didn't expect much from him.

What they said: Randy didn't think that it was his best performance. "It was aight, though." Paula calls his song choice "interesting". Simon once again gives Scott the hard truth: "You don't look like an American Idol, but you know that. It was good, but not fantastic."

What we said: This is basically what you would call "making the best of a bad song choice," but still, you make a bad call like that, people will know. I mean, we're not stupid. Will it get him enough votes to keep him out of the bottom 2? Certainly. But still, Scott knows he can do better than that. And he knows that he has to.

From the girth brother of the season to the skinny-geeky-white-boy of the season, we hear next from Anthony Fedorov, who, as you remember, was quoted as to sounding like Clay Aiken. Well, he's got the sound down, but needs work with the hair. He sings Richard Marx's "Hold On to the Night".

What they said: Randy puts it forthright: "It was good, but it was a little boring, and safe." Paula agrees, looking forward to him really stepping out on his own. Simon thought it was "as dull as dishwater. It left me absolutely, completely cold. You define the difference between having a very good voice and being a star, and that was not a star performance."

What we said: *sleeps, then abruptly wakes up* Oh, it's over? No doubt that Anthony has a nice voice, but he has to bring his pepper bar (for those unfamiliar with the Chico Lexicon or Quizno's Sub commercials, a "pepper bar" is a tricked-out extra that brings more flavor to the party and sets it apart from others of its kind). If he avoids the bottom, it'll be just barely. He's really going to have to raise up.

Next up, like Dobie Gray and Uncle Kracker before him, Bo Bice wants to be a Southern rocker with a soulful side. To that end, he delivers "Drift Away". He was one of the two rockers who made it to the final 24, as he gave it his all at boot camp.

What they said: Randy loved it. "That was hot!" Paula says, "Your voice feels good to the soul." It's a voice, Paula, not a new car. Simon echoes the sentiments of his partners in crime, saying that Bo did absolutely everything right.

What we said: This falls under the Joe Van Ginkel clause of "doing everything right but still falling through the damn trap door". I mean, he performs the song well, he has great stage presence, he's got the song choice down, but still, something was missing. Oh yeah. Mojo. Gotta have the mojo.

Travis Tucker is next, as he takes the stage for the first time since he was left to sweat it out after the final sudden death elimination. Stevie Wonder is on par to become the patron saint of Idolers everywhere as Travis sings his "My Cherie Amour."

What they said: Randy: "That was very safe. I was bored." Paula: "That was not the right song choice." Simon: "That was out of tune, boring, and not even good enough for a hotel lobby."

What we said: Ditto, ditto, ditto. Another bubble performance. Oh, and did we mention weakest so far?

But then again, we haven't heard from Constantine Maroulis, the rocker who quit his band so he can audition for Idol. Was the move worth it? He performs a Meatloaf take on what was one of my favorite songs of all time, Seal's "Kiss From a Rose". Notice I said "WAS". Listen in...

What they said: Randy says, "That was definitely out of tune, dude." Paula, being ever the optimist and harkening the soul of the World Idol appearance of British-born Deutschland sucht den Superstar judge Shona Fraser, says that he has his own style. Simon, rather than agree with Randy as he does 75% of the time, says that this was interesting, as Bo had the voice, but Constantine had the charisma.

What we said: Can't help but agree with all three judges, but still, in this race, you're only as good as your worst performance. And this ranks among one of the worst opening round performances I have ever seen, as he totally made nothing out of nothing. Infusing of your own style can be a good thing (see Stone, Joss), but for God's sake you have to know how to do it first while keeping the melody intact! You lose the melody, what do you have left? That's right. Ashlee Simpson... (sister Q: "Oh, no he didn't!") Oh yes I did. I did say that.

Now we go to one of the better songsters of the competition thus far, David Brown. His church is backing him at home, but would they be there as he sings "Never Can Say Goodbye", a classic pop go-to made famous by Thelma Houston and the Jackson 5ive?

What they said: Randy called it safe and pitchy. Paula said that he found it at the end. Simon says, "If that was the first time I saw you, I would be 50/50 about you."

What we said: He did find it at the end, but he should've had it to begin with. Very safe, very flat, very boring. We've heard David better than this. Come on, man. I had a lot riding on you. Where's the chutzpah we heard at the original audition? I mean, sure you can play up the crowd, but be in tone, man! He's going to have to go back to the reel to see where he went wrong if he makes it this week.

Up next is Jared Yates, who we didn't hear that much from. So applying the Idol Postulate, if you weren't profiled that much in the opening round, then you better have a boffo-socko performance. We'll see how he does with "How Could I" by Mr. J-Lo, Marc Anthony. He does some schmoozing... but that's it, really.

What they said: Randy called it "very average... It was actually slightly below average. It was weird." Pick a criticism and go with it, dawg. Paula wishes that Jared would've picked a song she'd heard before. Simon again lays the smack: "That was like some ghastly audition of a boy band, and the boy band didn't pick you."

What we said: It didn't engage me. You're suppose to engage. Fantasia did it. Ruben did it. Clay did it... eventually. Kelly did it. And you... didn't. It was, as we have heard it before, a "so what" performance (or as Quentin Tarantino calls it, a "who cares?" performance).

Now we don't have Ziggy Marley, but we do have Anwar Robinson, who, as a music teacher, seems the most equipped to do some serious damage in this competition. His song? Very interesting, he's going to "Moon River", originally done by Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's". So, to quote Bill Cullen, if anyone asks, you heard it here.

What they said: Randy says, "You brought it down, man. That was incredible!" Paula makes a declaration: "I want to buy that recording!" Simon might just be next to her in line. "You showed originality. That worked."

What we said: What did I tell you. Anwar knew exactly what to do and he done did it. He takes a song, plays around with it, and makes it his own. Definitely a contender and a force to be reckoned with.

All of a sudden, I can picture a Mario-Anwar-Carrie round of three... but then again, I haven't heard Carrie yet. That's tomorrow. Anyway, back to today. Now we come to Judd Harris, who gives what seems to be "(Playin' in a) Travelin' Band". That's... uh, different.

What they said: Randy calls the song choice odd, but definitely fun. Paula calls Judd a crowd pleaser. Simon calls Judd an entertainer, and says that a lot of girls will vote for him.

What we said: Better hope you were praying Judd, because you just made Constantine look good. I'm just... well, lost for words. What were you doing up there?!

Getting down to the wire here, as we see Joseph Murena. Another schmoozy performance so saccharine that four out of five dentists are against it in the eternal musical question first posed by Michael Bolton, "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?"

What they said: Randy called another safe performance, adding that it wasn't "one of his best." Paula disagrees. Simon agrees to disagree: "It gets you there, but it was not very exciting."

What we said: He sang the song, but he didn't tell the story. When you're dealing with a power ballad, you're dealing with pain, and I don't think he captured that pain. Sounds good, though.

And finally, our long and winding road ends at Mario Vazquez. His mother pushed him into the spotlight and from the sounds of things so far, he has not looked back. And for the third time this season, Stevie Wonder rears his head with "Do I Do".

What they said: Randy: "That was da bomb! You get the award. That was the best performance of the night!" Paula: "Touchdown! That was awesome!" Simon: "That was not the best of the night vocally, but as a performance, it was the best."

What we said: To channel Zach Selwyn, Rock-a-bye-baby in the treetop, that's how we Idol on the streets! Great tone, nice presence, engages, has the mojo, song choice was dead on. This is how to do it. The others should watch and learn.

That's all 12. By now you should've either voted for your favorite via simple 1-866 dialing (or redialing), or if you're a Cingular customer, send a text message. Who'll have the votes? Who'll be on the next plane out of California, hopes all but dashed? We'll find out, but first, here's Gordon with the ladies!

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