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Round of 20: Women - February 28

You know how this works by now... You watch... You vote... Four go home. First two first, though... Tonight, the top 10 ladies. Back to gauge their opinions as always are Randy, Paula, and Simon...

But first, a moment of self-congratulatory priggism courtesy of Ryan. Last Thursday was indeed a big night on TV with the Olympics, Dancing with the Stars, and Survivor... and Idol ruling uber alle... Ryan: *stroke stroke*...

After the usual love-in with the judges, Katharine McPhee shares her defining Idol moment. For her, it's her and Kellie (which you'll hear later). "We're just like silly and dumb together!" Well, if she sounds silly and dumb tonight, Kellie'll get the bed by herself. Tonight, she'll sing Stevie Wonder's "All in Love is Fair."

What they say: Randy calls it safe, but it wasn't a good song choice. Paula agrees with Randy. "It wasn't a song choice that just connected with me," she says, calling her brilliant. Simon reminds us that it's about more than just singing. "You can't come up tonight, be in your own world, and hope that you'll interest the American audience, because they're going to forget that performance. Not your best night by a mile."

What we say:  Deer... in ... headlights. Didn't start out as well as it should, but the intonation literally falls into place by the middle. Unfortunately, I have to give last week's performance the nod, as this one could've been better than it actually was. Still a performer to be reckoned with... but the performance gets a 6.

Next up, Kinnik Sky, who'll sing out of Gretchen Wilson's book today. She is overwhelmed by the American Idol stage. "You can't possibly imagine how it really feels to be on that stage." The song: "Here for the Party".

What they say: Randy enjoyed the energy, but it isn't a song that Randy would've chosen for her. Paula likes to see her having fun, but again she rakes a singer on the coals with song choice. Simon gave her points for standing out, but... "That's the sort of thing I'd expect to see coming off of Magic Mountain at Disneyland."

What we say: I don't know, Simon... We've been to Magic Mountain, and it ain't all that there, either. She's got the moves... She's got the energy... She's got the Jon Peter Lewis playbook on hand, as the voice suffers for all the energy and moves she expends. The kicker is... she's actually the girl to beat right now, although with that performance and Katharine's... it isn't saying much.

Up next, Lisa Tucker, former Star Search contender... She oughta be the one to beat tonight, right? Right?! Her defining moment: being in "The Lion King" when she was 10... "It's just my routine." She thought it was going to be a walk in the Kodak... not so. She sings "Who's Loving You" by the Jackson 5ive

What they say: Randy again calls on song choices, saying "it didn't show for me tonight." Paula disagrees. "You're an amazing performer. Regardless of this show, you are a star." Simon is on the fence. She's gonna get a lot of votes, but she doesn't want to sing a lot of old songs. She has to play it smart.

What we say: the song is too old and too big for her small frame to take... but points for effort. Maybe next week we'll see some range from this little powerhouse. Bonus points for the run at the end. Taking nothing and turning it into something... or something.

"Why Haven't I Heard From You" by Reba McEntire courtesy of Miss "I don't know what to wear" Melissa McGhee. She packs flip flops, because they're comfortable. Then again, everyone is focused on them. But what about the song?

What they say: Randy thought it was perfect for Melissa. "That was hot!" Paula sees Melissa coming out of her shell. "No one has a voice like yours. You're doing a great job." Simon doesn't think that was the right song, because he's waiting for a connection with the audience. "I think you've got to do something that has the wow factor."

What we say: I know I'm sounding like a broken record here, but I would've picked a different song. I mean, I could hear Melissa fighting... something... It didn't affect the performance aspect, but it didn't stand out as it should've. Gosh, I'm crabby tonight.

What Melissa says: "My personality was being overshadowed."

What Paula says: "I want to change seats." She and Randy do... Never at a loss for words, that Paula.

I want Heather Cox to make it to top 12 if only for the Carolina connection here... Tonight, she chose Mariah Carey's "Hero", which has NEVER been done in the five years that this show was on. Heather says she's been practicing in the offseason. During this year, she just walked on the Hollywood strip... holding a snake.

What they say: Paula says that she improved from last week, but can't escape being compared to Mariah. "It's a big risk to take on that song. You did a good job, but it wasn't GREAT." Randy agrees. "They hate when I say it, but it's hard for me, because I work with Mariah.." Yeah, yeah... Simon compared it to a ghastly pageant. "It did come over pointless if you're not going to be as good as the original."

What we say: On pitch, yes, but she performs the song a bit too much. Emoting is a good thing, don't get me wrong, but this ain't the song for it... It's even worse when your money note is performed nasally... And the judges are right, and I've said it before... You sing a song like that, you better sing it AS GOOD, if not BETTER, than the person who sang it. Otherwise... why bother.

Last week, Brenna Gethers was playing it safe. This week... Donna Summer's "The Last Dance"... We're hoping for claws to come out, as promised. She loves the red carpet, as that was her Idol moment... "Nothing could compare me for 'Brenna! Look this way!'"

What they say: Paula: "I dont see that magic happening from you." Randy... "You know what's funny? You and Simon think alike." Heh. I like that. Basically, vocals werent' there, and the attitude is still missing. "Not really inspired." Simon calls it a bad lounge performance. "Everything from the performance was exactly what I've seen 1000 times at a bar."

What we say: What kind of night is this when you say that even with all her faults, Brenna is better than most of the ladies who sang tonight? This is the Brenna we missed last week! This is the Brenna I was waiting to hear!

Nah, I'm lying. She's outtie. That was so hokey.

Will Paris Bennett please the judges tonight? Her defining Idol moment... "I actually get to be me! I had so many outfits, they call me 'Show'." She likes change. Will we see change tonight with Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings"?

What they say: Paula likes the wardrobe, but doesn't really enjoy the performance. "Celebrate the youth you bring to the competition." Randy thinks that she's a young Lauryn Hill, and that she doesn't need to be safe or sing old songs. "You're still hot." Simon tells Paris the same thing he told Lisa, to avoid "17-going-on-50" mentality.

What we say: That was the perfect song to show off your non-range. The good news: the ending salvaged the song. And we actually saw an emotional connection. Unfortunately, it was about the only thing that we'll remember it for.

Next is Ayla Brown, who'll sing Celine Dion's "I Want You To Need Me". This was a complete change from her usual... err, sweaty lifestyle... what with the tanktops and makeup and all...

What they say: Paula: "I think you want this really bad!" She's pleasantly surprised with the correct song choice! Randy agrees. "You picked a very good song for you and your voice, and it came off as nice. I liked it." Simon thinks that she's working harder than anyone in the contest, but she'll be remember for being good. "It's still a little bit mechanical. But within your own comfort zone, you'll do better than you could've hoped for."

What we say: Oh my god, she has more than one face... Amazing that she can go from "Hi, I sing power ballads" to "I can barely hear myself!" She has the power control on full force, and this is the song for her... but it needed to be less sharp in a few places. Sounds almost a bit TOO rehearsed, but still better than some of the crap that we've heard thus far.

Now to Kellie Pickler, who had her first calamari and first spinach salad in Hollywood. She's also never seen dogs with clothes. "I am NOT in North Carolina anymore!" She talks about "Something To Talk About" by Bonnie Raitt.

What they say: Paula wants to squish adorable Kellie, saying she finally enjoyed a performance. Randy... "WE GOT A HOT ONE TONIGHT!" Simon calls her likable... "It wasn't the best vocal I've heard, BUT the cow-la-mar-ri was worth a LOT of votes!"

What we say: This is different... I actually disagree with the judges... Pitchy. Nasally... Not as emotionally charged as Fantasia's version was back in season 3. Can't hit the money notes... Owned. But likable. You can only get so far on THAT, though.

Finally, we've arrived as Mandisa. She sings "Cry" by Faith Hill, holding it down for Nashville. She loves playing practical jokes, so she played one on Ryan. She has "dog jaw". Heh. Nice one...

What they say: Paula:... "You are one of a kind! You have unbelievable vocal range!" She makes other songs her own, taking risks in the right direction. Randy... "The verse was a little rough for me, but you can definitely sing. I wasn't thrilled with the song choice for you, because I want to see you do everything you do." He didn't hear it all tonight. Simon thinks America'll keep her another week, but still, he agrees with Randy. "However, when you're on it, I don't think there's a better female singer in the competition."

What we say: FINALLY! Everything that that performance could be, it was! Mandisa, you just put the other contestants on notice... Especially the guys, who're going like "You mean we have to beat THAT?!"

Beat this, here's the rundown....

Encore!: Lisa, Ayla, Mandisa
Bravo!: Katharine, Kinnik, Melissa, Paris, Kellie
Comedy Central: Heather, Brenna

The Dawg Pound takes the stage next... and I hope to Bob that they're better than this lot...



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