A week after seeing nine of their compatriots felled by bad song choices and fickle phone-in voting habits, another dozen American Idol hopefuls trotted out tonight to sing for a spot in the Top 12.
One would think they had learned from the mistakes of their predecessors—from those who sang before them just last week, let alone of seasons past.
But while some took the opportunity to separate themselves from the pack, the rest plucked one ill-conceived single from the Billboard Hot 100 (past and present) after another.
Until the fourth number of the night or so, it seemed as if the only people reading fan blogs were the show's producers, who nixed last week's squirmy gimmick of having Ryan Seacrest interview the contestants and their families right after each performance, most of whom had just been given the seal of disapproval by the judges.
Not that there weren't some killer moments. Read on for tonight's rundown (and don't forget to weigh in after the fact)...
• Jasmine Murray: Why is it when these great-seeming singers finally end up in front of a full band, so many of them fall flat? The 16-year-old from Mississippi eased into the spotlight as her performance of Sara Bereilles' "Love Song" wore on, but these recent Top 40 hits remain beyond the female semifinalists' grasp. Randy Jackson thought she was going to come out "singing some Rihanna or something" (an unintentionally loaded reference these days) and Kara DioGuardi agreed it was all over the place. Paula Abdul wanted to disagree…but couldn't.
• Matt Giraud: No one needs this version of "Viva La Vida." The 23-year-old dueling piano player, a big favorite (up till now?) decided to jazz up Coldplay's latest Grammy-winning single, and it just wasn't necessary. "You turned from someone very cool at the piano, singing Ray Charles, into sort of a wannabe pop star in a very kind of jerky, uncomfortable way," Simon Cowell said.
• Jeanine Vailes: Even Paula went "out on a limb" and said the 27-year-old SoCal native didn't deserve another shot after butchering Maroon 5's "This Love." From the bad outfit (nice legs, but still) to the awkward fist pumps toward the end (the best part, according to Randy), Jeanine may have overcompensated in the worst way for not getting a lot of face time in prior weeks.
• Nick Mitchell: It was a rough way for Norman Gentle to go. Despite some curiously strong high points, Mitchell's Dreamgirls-inspired assertion that he's not going probably guaranteed that he's on his way out. The alter-ego-utilizing crooner dressed for the occasion—shiny shirt and white tails—but unless everyone tanks tonight, he's done.
• Allison Iraheta: Not caring that "How Do I Get You Alone" wasn't exactly an inspired choice, the 16-year-old broke way out of the pack tonight by ignoring the bloggers who think the song should have been retired after Carrie Underwood had it and singing the crap out of the Heart classic.
• Kris Allen The very personable 23-year-old sounded perfectly fine singing "Man in the Mirror," but Michael Jackson's hit is just so loaded with meaning and pedigree it was going to take more than a proficient run at the end to make it pop. "Completely wrong song," Kara said. But Paula disagreed completely…and so did Simon, who thinks the fact that "the chicks" will like Kris might be enough to pull him through.
• Megan Corkrey: We weren't in love with the baby-doll dress and ballet flats, but her treatment of Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On" was way more interesting than most of what we heard tonight. The judges keep calling her a "packaged artist," but it's her differences that are going to get Megan into the Top 12.
• Matt Breitzke: Maybe Tonic just wasn't rough-and-tumble enough for the burly welder. Parts of his take on "If You Could Only See" sounded really nice, while other parts seemed…wussy. "It didn't show us any side of you," Kara lamented, while Simon said flat out, "It was boring."
• Jesse Langseth: Sultry and, most importantly, pleasing to the ear, the 26-year-old single mom had her way with "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes. She theoretically did enough to deserve a spot in the next round, but whether she has mass appeal remains to be seen. Randy generalized hers as "just another cool kind of a performance," but it was cooler than most tonight.
• Kai Kalama: Finally, a male contestant who seemed to be enjoying himself onstage. Too bad the judges thought his enthusiasm was misplaced. Kai, who at least has some of the best hair in this competition, might be done after throwing himself on the mercy of the Fried Green Tomatoes theme, "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" (which was originally a Motown hit by Jimmy Ruffin), and getting the "hotel or wedding singer" response from Simon.
• MIshavonna Henson: Unusual. Her version of Train's "Drops of Jupiter" sounded good from note one. The 18-year-old beauty would do well to assume a less menacing expression while performing…but vocally it was delightful. Unfortunately, it still left Simon cold. "You act like a 50-year-old," he informed the barely legal singer.
• Adam Lambert It took until the final seven minutes, but at last someone came roaring out of the gate trying to put his stamp on a classic. Lambert, a 26-year-old professional theater kid, rocked the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction." Quirky, entertaining, sexy and "a bit manic," as Randy said, but it was on a whole other level.
Find out what America thought of all that on Thursday's live results show. The top guy and girl and then the next-highest vote-getter will advance.
(Originally published Feb. 25, 2009 at 7:05 p.m. PT)