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Today is

Round of 20: The Men - February 27

The men didn't do so well last week, but this week, they're back... with a vengeance. First, though, a quick congratulatory butter-up to Oscar-winning Idol alum Jennifer Hudson. Good on ya.

Tonight, the men will dedicate their performances to the people who inspire them. Phil Stacey is first, dedicating his performance to the men and women of our military, whom he joined after September 11. This week, he sings John Waite's "Missing You."

What they say: Randy says Phil picks up where he left off. Paula loves the tone to his voice. Simon isn't jumping out of his chair, thinking he's a popular, nice guy, albeit with an unoriginal voice.

What we say: The men are back. Phil's spin on a classic captures the feel of the original while delivering a good (not great, mind you) performance.

Probably wondering what's up with all the cuts to Jeff Foxworthy in the audience. Well, he's got something on after this. Anyway, the folks backing Sundance tell him not to be so crappy. AJ believes last week's assessment is fair. Jared Cotter wants to be more adventurous, dedicating Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" to his mom and dad.

What they say: Randy thought it was pitchy, but he likes the charisma of the performance (more importantly, "the face move"). Paula calls him "good looking". Simon's good with the attempt, but says that reminds him of "a cabaret singer on The Love Boat."

What we say: Way to schmooze to the camera. Almost makes up for the fact that you didn't deliver like Phil did. That, and it was flat most of the time.

AJ Tabaldo is next, dedicating his performance to his parents, always supportive. He sings Michael Buble's "Feeling Good."

What they say: Randy says it was so much better than last week. Paula says he's got a real real real real real good voice. Simon called it "nearly very good." "You made yourself stand out. You look strangely comfortable."

What we say: He was outsung by Phil and outstyled by Jared. It's definitely AJ's best vocal effort, but he needs to work on stage presence before he finds himself forced to sing for his life.

Next up, Sanjaya Malakar with a dedication to Grandfather Joseph. He sings Tony Bennett's standard "Steppin' Out With My Baby."

What they say: Randy called it "a bad high school talent show" act. Paula did say it was in pitch, and that he's an old soul. Simon agrees with Randy.

What we say: Everything about this performance screamed "meek."

The secret to Chris Sligh's volume is... conditioner. He hopes he's got the right song here with "Trouble" by Ray LaMontagne, dedicated to his surprisingly hot wife.

What they say: Randy says that it's good to see him return. He likes the choice. Paula agrees, while Simon calls him a good singer.

What we say: Pure Chris here. He's got a nice little raspy tone and it fits the song he picked. My only worry is that he's just standing and singing. Granted, it's to his wife who's sitting RIGHT THERE, but still, he needs to be adventurous. But great job. Now stop getting ahead of the music.

Next, Nick Pedro, who dedicates his performance to his girlfriend, who he didn't see during Valentine's. He hopes this makes up for it. It's "Fever" by Peggy Lee.

What they say: Randy thinks the guys have come back, while Nick has returned to his vibe. But it was pitchy and rushed. Paula loves the tone. Simon thought it was good, but lacking charisma. And the drummer was pretty good.

What we say: Seems a bit disjointed and it's not just because he's gone ahead of the music. The tone is there, but the song is a bit too spicy for him. But hey, you got Simon snapping, so that's a plus.

Blake Lewis is next. He saw the women and thought to step up his game. Tonight's performance of Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity" is dedicated to the 'rents.

What they say: Randy... likes him. And he wonders why Jamiroquai isn't big in the US. That was ten years ago. Paula calls him smart. Simon thought the only thing original about the performance was the middle. A definite stepdown.

What we say: I don't know, Simon, that was Jamiroquai Blake-Lewis-flavored. Now he could've worked out some pitch and breathing issues, but the money ticket was the ad-lib in the middle.

Next, Rosa Mae Williams' favorite grandson Brandon is singing "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper.

What they say: Randy likes the sentiment, but the song didn't do enough for him vocally. Brandon was trying to feel the song, so it didn't need "a whole lot of extra." Paula felt his heart in that. Simon agrees with Randy, saying that he's got to bring it every week.

What we say: Points to singing for your grandmother, but this was totally the wrong song for you. But to make the best of a bad situation, you did have a good arrangement.

"Geek in the Pink" by Jason Mraz gets the Chris Richardson treatment. Chris dedicates this song to his "big mama", who wanted to hear a country song... but at the same time, wanted something with a beat.

What they say: Randy says he's in it to win it. He thinks it's hotter than the original. Paula likes it. Simon calls it the best tonight by a mile.

What we say: Welcome to the competition, Chris. Enjoy the ride. Keep performing like that, and it's bound to be a long one.

And last song of the night is Buddy Guy and Wilson Pickett's magnum opus "Mustang Sally." Last singer is Sundance Head. Last dedication... his son Levi.

What they say: Randy says that he drops the bomb. "That's the reason you're here." Paula says he's gotta bring it like that every week. Simon's glad to see Sundance back in form. "I actually still think you can do a lot better."

What we say: This is more of a Sundance performance. Loud, rambunctious, and larger than life.

So to sum up...

The Empire Strikes Back: Phil, Chris S, Chris R., Sundance
Attack of the Clones: AJ, Jared, Blake, Brandon
The Phantom Menace: Sanjaya, Nick 

So as the guys applaud themselves on a job well done and Ryan pimps "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?", we take a look to the ladies...



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