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Round of 16: The Women - March 7

If the judges had their way, only four of the guys would make it to the top 12. How many women will join up? What's the big secret that Idol is hiding? And also... Where's Paula? We'll answer ... at least one of these questions... tonight.

We finally get Paula back in the middle of the pack. And praise be for that. We're starting with Jordin Sparks doing Pat Benatar. Her secret: she's a fervent member of Cardinal nation. That's the Arizona Football Cardinals. She's singing "Heartbreaker".

What they say: Randy says it's like a different show, but she was better than any of the guys last night. Paula says she's exploding into her own artistry. Simon's not very enthused, but he does like personality.

What we say: Jordin has some breathing issues to work with, but other than that, she's putting the girls on notice.

Back in the Red Room, Gina and Sabrina are on the couches. Gina believes that the praise the girls are getting is a blessing. Sabrina says the best she can do is go out and sing well. First up, Sabrina Sloan, who is actually a skilled host and presenter... granted it was for a high school production, but hey... Kristin Holt had all of five episodes of American Idol before getting the "Cheat!" gig, so... She sings "Don't Let Go (Love)" by En Vogue.

What they say: Randy didn't really think the song suited her. Paula thinks it was gorgeous. It's lacking emotion, says Simon. "It actually reminded me of a hotel resort performance."

What we say: She was sharp during the chorus when she really needn't be. I guess that comes from powering the chorus through. But when she does her own thing, it's pretty good. She might've deviated from flightplan during that long note at the end. But yeah, it's time to get out of the whole Ayla Brown school of Idoling.

Up next, Antonella Barba... is actually a skilled violinist... sort of. She sings "Put Your Records On" by Corinne Bailey Rae.

What they say: Randy says it was a good song choice, but says she's a better singer than she's shown. Paula agrees. Simon puts it bluntly: "You've gone as far as you can go. The reality is you are surrounded by some pretty amazing girl singers, and I don't think your voice can get any better. I feel for you, because you've taken a lot of stick in the media. I think you handled it well throughout. I'm not gonna patronize you. It wasn't your worst, but I just wish you could sing better."

What we say: Two words about Simon's comments: Jasmine Trias. Giving substandard performances and then arguing about them. I'll echo further what the judges are trying to say... It's time for this farce to end.

Next, Haley Scarnato. She was a gymnast... until "her body gave out." She sings "If My Heart Had Wings" by Faith Hill.

What they say: Randy thought it was okay. "I need some 'Yo, here I am.'" Paula agrees. Simon thought it was horrible. The problem: "I don't know your name."

What we say: The same gremlins that kept Haley from advancing any further vocally have come home to roost. Breathing... vibrato... no real emotion.

Stephanie Edwards can sing Mary J from the cradle, seemingly. She used to be shy? Wha? She sings "Sweet Thing" by Chaka Khan.

What they say: Randy gives an A for effort. Compared to Chaka, though, it was subpar. Paula reminds her to stay on top of the beat. Simon says she's one of the best, but she has a tendency to go the copycat route.

What we say: She's got a big voice on her, and she's one to watch. It was infinitely better than last week, if only because she put some of herself into the performance.

Did we mention this was a live show? LaKisha Jones wants a hug first. Her dirty little secret: she's terrified of animals. She goes with "I Have Nothing".

What they say: Randy: "Another great performance by the great LaKisha." Paula: "You don't have to run anywhere." Simon: "What we haven't seen tonight... Passion... believability... and tonight you look beautiful."

What we say: What's going to end up hurting her, other than taking on Whitney on an oft-performed "Idol" without doing anything to stand out from it, is the fact that she's up against two more able-bodies like-genre singers. I don't think that's going to be a factor this week, but if she were to find herself on the danger zone, that'll more than likely be why. But this week, yeah, nothing to worry about.

Pillow fight in the red room. Gina Glocksen is in the middle of a nerve attack. Her lucky charms: a troll and a stuffed pickle. Tonight, she's playing up Evanescence's "Call Me When You're Sober."

What they say: Randy: "Finally the real Gina comes out! This is who I thought you really were." Paula says watch oversinging. Simon says she looked comfortable. "You tended to scream the song, but I really hope you make it through next week. You're a breath of fresh air."

What we say: first of all, say what you will... but Amy Lee is a hard act to follow. She's got pipes. That said... There's no one in the girls like Gina, so that's gonna help out immensely. But still, breathing, girl! Control it! I'm going to have a freaking fit here!

Last performance of the night comes from Melinda Doolittle. She has a spell of type A. Right now, she's got a spell of tonight's closer, "I'm a Woman" by Reba McEntire, a great Lieber & Stoller tune, that.

What they say: Randy: "The hottest one of the night." Paula calls it phenomenal. Simon... "You little tiger. I thought we had a pussycat. I LOVE THAT!"

What we say: of the three powerhouse voices, Melinda is the most versatile. That will help in the theme weeks IMMENSELY.

So who goes on and who goes home?

SNL circa 1982: Jordin, Stephanie, LaKisha, Gina, Melinda
SNL circa 1989: Sabrina
SNL circa 1995: Antonella, Haley

No doubt that the women outshone all the men, and they'll be a force to be reckoned with in the finals. But... who is in the top 12? Find out tomorrow!


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