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Round of 24: The Women - February 21

You've heard the guys. Only two of them stood out. Hopefully the judges (and the host) are on their best behavior, because it's ladies' night.

First songstress is Stephanie Edwards of Savannah. The student had initial doubts in Memphis, and now look where she is. She knocked it out in Hollywood Week, and now comes back with "How Come You Don't Call Me" by Alicia Keys.

What they say: Randy: "America will see a huge difference tonight with the girls than yesterday. That said it all." Paula calls her a star. Simon called it a million times better than anything last night and by far the best she's done. "Unlike yesterday, you came out and said 'I want to win American Idol.'"

What we say: This is how the show SHOULD'VE started yesterday. Stephanie really put her own soulful spin on a song that is pretty difficult to sing to begin with. So yeah, welcome to the top 24... and it only took one show. Beat that.

Going to the Coke Red Room with Melinda Doolittle, who thought the guys were amazing and that the judges were challenging everyone to bring their A-game. Antonella Barba says she needs to calm down. Amy Krebs says she needs to calm down even more so... guess who's next... The Seattle optometry assistant suffered in the group round, where Paula said that she'd be remembered. We'll see if she's remembered for the right reasons with "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt.

What they say: Randy called it "middle of the road." Way too safe. Paula agrees with him. "It's very sentimental. But you push for it." Simon asks what that meant. Basically that she's better than the song she chose. Simon still can't remember her, save as only a "candle".

What we say: It was very twangy. That irritates me. Anyway, not only that, it's a bit bland and flat at points. Not the performance of an American Idol. And Amy picked the absolutely wrong time to go at it. As for Simon... a CANDLE?! 

Next up, someone we at the 'net call Doctor Who because of her lack of airtime, Chicagoan dogwalker Leslie Hunt. She got Paula to... uh... sit. Is she a "Natural Woman"? Let's find out.

What they say: Randy was hoping for greatness, but the song was too big for her. Paula thinks she did a great job, but... "watch the songs that you pick." Simon: "You look embarrassed and ungamely up there." Out of her comfort zone, as if she doesn't want to be there. Ryan understood that.

What we say: We needed some reason to remember her... It was a good vocal, but we're still in need of a reason for her to be remember. Part of it was the song. Kelly from season 1 spoiled us with her rendition (which she duplicated at World Idol)... I wonder what happened to her... hmmm... Right, okay.

Next, pro singer Sabrina Sloan, who wins the prize for shortest distance traveled: from Studio City. Simon thought she needed the best song in the world to make it to Hollywood. She delivered in Hollywood. But how will she do at TV City? The song is "I Never Loved a Man" by Aretha.

What they say: Randy: "America, we finally got a competition." Paula gives it a standing O. Simon calls it the best thus far, and Sabrina a competitor.

What we say: That would be the song that you're looking for. Congratulations. You found Waldo. But can you ride that into top 12 land? We'll see.

Next up, Antonella Barba of Point Pleasant, NJ. She of the best friend who also got through to Hollywood. But unlike Amanda whatsherface, she went to the final judgment. She validates herself tonight with "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith.

What they say: Randy shoots straight: "It wasn't good." Paula: "It may not have been great, but it wasn't bad." Simon. "The good news is you're attractive. The bad news is that it just didn't work. This has seriously damaged your chances of remaining her another week."

What we say: That performance was everything Sabrina's wasn't. Pitchy, out of tune, grandstanding, nasal, showboating, flat, et cetera, et cetera.

What can she do better? Don't choose a song that's too big for you.

Next, young Jordin Sparks, all of 17 from Glendale, AZ. She hopes to grow out of just being "sugary sweet" back in the auditions. She usually agrees with Simon. That'll play well. She goes from sweet to saucy with "Give Me One Reason" by Tracy Chapman.

What they say: Randy calls out her natural talent, but he follows, "Don't be afraid to challenge yourself." Paula says it's a good song selection. Simon sees a big change. "Push yourself and you may surprise a few people in this competition."

Yourself included.

What we say: Definitely not as saccharine as the previous tries. Definitely spicier. And the voice for a 17-year-old? For anyone, really... The tone matched up with the song, but she may want to be careful not to draw the weapon on all calls of "fire", lest she want to overdo it.

Next, Nicole Tranquillo, a voice major from Pennsylvania who thrives on getting no sleep. She was part of the best group in Hollywood Week. She sings "Stay" by Chaka Khan.

What they say: Randy doesn't think it was her vibe. "It went right over my head." Paula doesn't know of anyone who can hit the notes that Nicole hit. May not have been the right song, but out of this world. Simon called it unnatural and fake.

What we say: That was an indulgent performance, like, yeah, I'm here, who gives a crap about the audience. Well guess what, honey. You don't care about the audience... the audience will not care about you.

But Nicole likes the song. Good for you. But remember, it's no longer about you, so much as it is about the audience.

Next, Haley Scarnato, a San Antonio musician. She started as "a bit cabaret". She was ready to bring it. And bring it, she did. She tries to bring it again with "It's All Coming Back To Me" by Celine...

What they say: Randy thought it was just okay, albeit a good choice. Paula said it was a good job. Simon says 24-year-old Haley sounded 40.

What we say: she looks like she was preprogrammed to sing this sort of song. That said, she circled back to cabaret, and down the road, that can be downright scary. Oh yeah, and watch the vibrato. That can be your own worst enemy. We're looking for a pop star, not a Broadway diva. THAT... comes later.

Fantasia will return to the Idol stage tomorrow... Meanwhile, time for Melinda Doolittle, a background singer from Brentwood, TN, to step out in front. She actually wanted to be a background singer on American Idol. Now she's a background singer... on American Idol... singing in front "Since You've Been Gone" by Luther Vandross.

What they say: Randy: "If you got it, show it. You blew it out the box. That was the bomb." Paula calls her a firecracker and a frontrunner. Melinda, according to Simon, is simply fantastic.

What we say: We could have another case of Dreamgirls this season, like we did back in season 3, that fateful week that Jennifer Hudson was eliminated.

Next up, Alaina Alexander, who cries when she's happy... and when she's sad... The pizza maker from Redlands, CA was waiting for an insult from Simon when she made it... over the block to Hollywood. She sings "Brass in Pocket" by the Pretenders.

What they say: Randy thought the song was "okay", but she didn't really do anything with it. Paula wanted Alaina to go for it. Simon points out the irony in the lyric "I'm special."

What we say: How much does this has to really suck to say that Scarlett Johannson did a better version in "Lost in Translation"? Okay, perhaps I'm being too harsh, but there was nothing "special" about that performance.

Next up, Gina Glocksen, a dental assistant from Illinois who had to wait from LAST year to get to 7800. Goes to show you... remember your lyrics. "This is my time.... I'm TIRED of auditioning for American Idol." She's "All By Myself" by Eric Carmen.

What they say: Randy thought it was pretty cool, but he forgot about the big instrument she possesses. Paula notes that that was the right song. Simon is surprised pleasantly, but... "I don't think you hit the right note."

What we say: big girl, big voice. Great emotion. We'll see how far it goes.

And last but not least is LaKisha Jones, the good old-fashioned belter from Fort Meade, MD. The one-time banker is looking to close the "deal" with "And I'm Telling You (I'm Not Going)" by Jennifer Holliday

What they say: Randy gives her the "we're not worthy" motion. "I do love you. You laid it out onstage. Jennifer Hudson, watch out!" Paula says she has so much to be proud of. Simon... "Just to correct someone earlier on, THAT's the right note." He's got half the mind to book 23 flights out of LA.

What we say: aside from the fact that this song has been done quite literally to DEATH, and we're all sick and tired of it... she's in a class by herself.

So to sum up...

Queens of the night: Stephanie, Sabrina, Jordin, Melinda, LaKisha
Ladies of the evening: Leslie, Haley, Gina
Just plain hoo-res: Amy, Antonella, Nicole, Alaina

So ... given. LaKisha stays in another week. So who goes? Gordon and the live team have that and Fantasia on stage... right now.

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