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Round of 16: Women - March 8

The road to the Kodak continues, as we move one day closer to the final 12. Hard to believe that we'll have 12 in 48 hours, isn't it?

First, though, we have to cut four. And before we do THAT, we have to hear 16 different singers, eight XXers tonight, eight XYers tomorrow. You know how this works by now, so let's get right to tonight's hit parade.

By the way, did you know that unlike the past round of 24 shows, this one is live? Call it practice.

We say hi to the judges. Now we say hi to Paris Bennett. She'll bust out with Gloria Estefan in a bit, but first, it's Trivia Night.

Trivia: Paris, nicknamed Princess P, is a tomboy who loves wrestling and football.

Tonight, she'll sing "Conga".

What they say: Randy thought the song choice was interesting. "It wasn't my favorite, but you should keep challenging yourself." Paula prefers the up-tempo, calling the song "very difficult." She's also surprised by the vocal direction. Simon thinks that she's feeling the nerves. "Vocally, it was okay, but people like you, so we'll see you next week."

What we say: Awkward, and you flubbed a lyric. And that's only in the first 15 seconds. And as the energy progresses, it gets sharper in tune. Not good if you're trying to appease to the Gloria Estefan fan, me. And if you think that note-that-shook-the-heavens is going to save you? Think again.

Next up, Lisa Tucker sings "Here's Where I Stand" by Tiffany Taylor.

Trivia: Lisa loves Jimi, and because of that, she learned how to play the electric cherry axe.

What they say: Randy liked the Jimi Hendrix thing. He likes the song, but it was still a bit too old. "It was just alright." Paula sees a seasoned performer with poise and performance value. "I wish you would just sing a song that we could get into." Simon thinks she's talented, but her song choices "aren't believable." But still, he wants her in the next round.

What we say: It's a stage song... and this is a stage performance, in that this is polished to a tee. You can tell Lisa has been doing this for a while. A couple of flat places, but it doesn't take away from the performance. And again, for someone like her in her age range, it's very impressive. I guarantee you we'll see her next week.

Next, Melissa McGhee tries on Heart, "What About Love". Now, if you've been watching your local news, you may have heard that her main beef is that she's fighting for airtime, which she believes is influencing the vote. What do you think? E-mail me, IM me, we'll talk, no big whoop.

Trivia: she's a huge car freak.

What they say: Randy thought that it was a good song, saying that she sounded like Ann and Nancy. Paula calls her a "powerhouse." Simon totally disagrees. "I think that last note booked your plane ticket home, sweetheart. I think you've blown it."

What we say: I... agree... with... wait for it... wait for it.... Simon. She sang the entire song flat. As for tone... well, WHAT tone? This was simply too big a song for her, and this is a woman who likes big songs...

Turns out that when Melissa was good, she wasn't herself. And do you really want that? I think the voters will see through that and act accordingly....

Mmm... Tendercrisp.

Katharine talks with Ryan about having fun and not worrying about what everyone thinks. And here's something... Apparently there were rumors that Katharine was quitting the show because she was pregnant. To clear the air... no, she's not quitting, no, she's not pregnant with my love child (darn), and no she's not dry-humping Kevin Covais.

Okay, now to Kinnik Sky with Alicia Keys... "If I Ain't Got You", the song.

Trivia: She loves chitterlings (or as we say in the Dirty South.. chitlins).

What they say: Randy likes the song... Started amazing, and the rest of it was sharp. "It was a good choice, but I don't think you nailed it." Paula thought she found her style. "I don't know if you could hear yourself. You were off. I haven't heard you off all competition." Simon... "You just messed it up. It just went all over the place. Once again, I think you just booked your plane ticket home."

What we say: There is a lot of range involved in performing this song... It's range that Kinnik doesn't have. She also suffers from timing issues and singing flat. And she has only one emotion to apply to a performance... And unfortunately, it's a misfit here.

We're going to Katharine McPhee now... Still in the competition. Praise be for that.

Trivia: She went to the Boston Conservatory, the same school as Constantine Maroulis, who since getting voted off into media-ho-dom, has rejoined his band Pray for the Soul of Betty.

Her song: Aretha's "Think."

What they say: Randy: "McPheever? I love that..." He turns to the Dawg Pound... "First time tonight... We got a HOT ONE tonight!" Paula says it was fun to see her "well-oiled machine." Simon agrees with Randy. "That was a risk, and you pulled it off. You made it seem absolutely effortless."

What we say: Definitely had fun with the song, I enjoyed the stylistics, the performance, and it's clear that Katharine has the pipes to pull it off. We'll see her next week.

As an aside... My god, she's bouncy. Speaking of bouncy, up next is semi-professional baller Ayla Brown...

Trivia: She was convinced as a kid that her father was Elvis.

She tries Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten" this round...

What they say: Randy says that the song was "okay." It's not a great singer's song. Paula likes to give her credit for "working her butt off." She thought she handled it. Simon thought it was pretty good, but not exactly the person that matches the film clips.

What we say: When she belts out the power notes, she excels, but when she has to reach into that lower register... she underwhelms. And we have another vertical hold problem. But still, she's sassy enough to garner more than a few votes...

What a singer's song is: something you actually have to sing out to show off your vocal abilities. It's exactly what it infers.

Mandisa's next...

Trivia: "I sucked my thumbs until I was 24 years old."

It helped the vocals, I bet. She sings "I'm Every Woman" by Chaka Khan.

What they say: Randy gives her her props. "This to me is the best female vocal this season. She just set the benchmark, girls." Paula says she owned it. Simon: "Every one of these girls is going to hate your guts tonight. This is the only one I would rewind on my TiVo and watch again. It was utterly in a different league."

What we say: It's hard to listen to her sing while thinking about Chaka Khan and Whitney Houston. This is a dangerous place to be if you don't know what you're doing. Luckily for us, Mandisa knows EXACTLY what she's doing. She injects her famous soul self into the performance and as a result.. Magic.

One more performance, one more piece of trivia. Here's Kellie Pickler.

Trivia: She loves dogs, missing her dog Comet.

She tries to sail to the next round with "I'm the Only One" by Melissa Etheridge.

What they say: Randy loves her. Paula says that everyone's in love with her. Simon: "You are what's known as a naughty little minx" who is preferred to more than Carrie Underwood.

What we say: While I do agree with the horny Brit over there, she suffers from "hard act to follow" syndrome and a case of "I forgot the lyrics". And that note may have sealed her fate... If she does make it next week, and I have no doubt that, judging from her "cute" factor she will, it's going to be a short trip.

Let's go to the rundown...

Oscar: Lisa, Katharine, Mandisa
People's Choice: Paris, Ayla, Kellie
Razzie: Melissa, Kinnik

Kellie gets bumped up a notch because she sounds a little better in her playback. Still, it looks like Melissa and Kinnik need a prayer of judgment withheld, but will America answer it?

We'll find out... in 46 hours. Meanwhile, the guys take the stage at TV City next time.


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