The 12 women from "American Idol"'s Top 24 took to the "Idol" stage for the first time Tuesday night to sing Top 10 hits from the Hot 100 chart. Then America voted, and two of the ladies will be sent home on Thursday night's results show.
Paige Miles launched the ninth season of "American Idol" with Free's "All Right Now." Simon Cowell said, "I think out of all the girls, you have the best voice. I genuinely do think that. Having said that, I wouldn't have chosen that song, because it is a wedding-singer song. You could have come out with something more original and really made an impression. I think you are going to be fine, but be more careful in your song selection." Kara DioGuardi disagreed, saying, "The song was brilliant because it is a rock song and you got to put your soul into it and you have a lot of soul. My only criticism was the chorus. You could have done more with it. You have a ridiculous voice." Randy Jackson pointed out, "The song is a group song, which is why you had trouble with the chorus, but you showed with that song that you have this powerful voice. You blew the doors off with that big voice." Ellen DeGeneres added, "I feel to come on first, you have to be so nervous, but you were so there. You were so present. I think you have a great look and you sounded fantastic. I thought you pulled it off."
Ashley Rodriguez took on Leona Lewis's "Happy." Kara told her, "It was a big song to take on -- from the Mariah Carey of this generation. There were some nice moments where you went up and hit notes, but there were definitely moments that weren't great. I want to see you take on songs that you wouldn't sing and do something different with them." Randy said, "Kara is correct. Simon's girl Leona … you are always going to be compared to those big singers. I couldn't really see you in there. You did a pretty good job of her." Ellen pointed out, "I love Leona and it is a good song. I would like to see you step out and do something that has a different vibe. Try to step out and take a risk. Do something that is not safe." And Simon made it unanimous, stating, "I thought it was clumsy. I didn't like the arrangement. I think you are going backwards from the first time we met you. [This was] just somebody who sings other people's songs not very well. I think you could be in trouble tonight after that."
Janell Wheeler performed "What About Love?" from Heart. Randy commented, "It wasn't my favorite song choice for you. I like your voice. It is different. Interesting. The song choice didn't work for you. I still got vibes for you." Ellen added, "I actually loved the song choice. I liked it and thought you sang it well, but a few notes were off. I liked it and I like you." Simon told her, "You gave it 100 percent effort and delivered 65 percent. It started off okay. Then, when you got excited because you thought it was going well, you started to go off key. There were moments in the song when I did like your voice. I think you will survive." Kara said, "I like you, but I have to agree that that song is too big for you. Ann Wilson has one of the biggest voices in rock."
Lilly Scott, guitar in hand, entertained with The Beatles' "Fixing a Hole." Ellen complimented her: "I think that is what we are talking about. We are talking about that kind of thing. It is a random song choice and you stood out. You have a great presence. You have a unique voice. I love that." Simon said, "I would say that definitely was the best we have had so far. I actually felt that you sang this song because you liked it and it portrayed you as an artist, rather than singing it to get you through to the next round. I still am not feeling much star power, but that could be because of nerves. Well done." Kara added, "You are believable. You come from your heart. You are at ease. You are comfortable on stage. Everyone is going to remember you tonight." Randy added, "You know what I love. You are like an indie artist. You don't care what everybody is thinking. Last time, we had people who sounded like that, but it is who you really are."
Katelyn Epperly flashed back to 1969 for The Beatles' "Oh, Darling." Simon said, "Even though there were elements of that song [that had problems], I actually like you. There is something about you. You are quirky. Good choice of song. Brave. You are going to need an awful lot of work, but I like you a lot." Kara added, "You know your voice very well. You know exactly what you are doing -- switching up your register and all that stuff. I can tell you have been singing a long time. I wouldn't have picked that song for you, but you did it in a unique way. I liked you more natural. [Without the red lipstick.] You are a beautiful girl." Randy told her, "Here is the thing I really love about you. All the singers are concerned about runs, but you pay attention to tone. You delivered. You switched it up from when we last saw you. I like the makeup thing." Ellen said, "I couldn't tell at first if you were pushing too hard, or if it was natural for you. What ever it was, it was interesting to me and it made me want to pay attention to you. I liked it a lot, but I felt it was pushed."
Haeley Vaughn performed the third Beatles song of the night, "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Kara commented, "From a technical standpoint, there were some issues with that performance. It went all over the place. What I can say? When you take that stage, you come and have fun. That is why people want to hear you. You make up for what you can't do with your vocals." Randy agreed with Kara, adding, "What I love about you is that unpredictability. I love all that. You being 16 and being that bold. At the top of the vocals, the sound is not as pleasing as it could be." Ellen told her, "The fact that you are 16 and have so much presence on stage, you just shine. I enjoyed it. As someone who just likes music, I think you have a great voice." Simon was harsher, saying, "I thought it was verging on terrible. You were like a windup doll and didn't stop smiling. For me, it was a complete and utter mess."
Lacey Brown took to the "Idol" stage with Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide." Randy said, "It is a great song by Stevie Nicks and the Dixie Chicks had a great version. I thought that was terrible. It wasn't the right song for you. It didn't suit your voice." Ellen agreed, saying, "I think you are better than that. If you are back next week, I know you are better than that. I love that song, too, but I felt myself pulling for you." Simon commented, "I thought it was quite depressing. After 15 seconds, [I was wondering how long it would go]. It was also indulgent. I get the feeling with you, you are trying to be an artist, but you haven't worked it out yet. It was just boring." Kara pointed out, "You usually hit those notes with such ease. I think it was the song. I do hope that America gives you one more shot."
Michelle Delamor gave it her all on Alicia Keys' "Falling." Ellen praised, "That was fantastic. I feel the only thing I would say to you is it was safe, because it seemed so easy for you. It is a hard song to sing. I felt like you have more in you. You were great, but I know you can do better. But it was still amazing." Simon agreed that she did well, adding, "You are a professional singer. It sounded close to the original, but not as good. There wasn't one moment where I felt, 'Wow.' This sounds like a broken record, but do something that makes you different. I think you have done enough to get through to the next round." Kara commented, "You are very commercial looking. There were moments that weren't great. You are going for that diva spot. Every time you step on stage, you have to be immaculate. Become more unique. You have a lot of good things about you and you can get there." Randy agreed, "It was a tough song to do …Alicia. But you did a pretty good job. You have more in you. You have a good voice and a good look, but take a risk. Show me something that no one has shown me yet."
Didi Benami sang Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am." Simon told her, "I think you are a good singer. My problem tonight is too many people try to sound like Adele or Duffy. The song was dreary. What I am missing is a spark -- something that excites me. In the real world, that was quite dull. Take that to one side. I do like you and think you have a good voice." Kara said, "I think the song is a good song because it is a singer/songwriter thing. You at least made some changes to the original recording that shows you are creative. You are showing another level than just trying to sound like someone else." Randy asked, "Where is the star factor? I see no outward oomph. The song is cool. I love the song. You sounded great, but it was so sleepy." Ellen stated, "I think if you were doing a show and it was one song in a set, but for the first night to reach out to a million people, for that first impression it was low key."
Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" was Siobhan Magnus' song choice. Kara admitted, "I wouldn't have picked it, but I kind of liked you. You are a quirky girl. It gets a little nasal at times. What I like about you is you are really in the moment. It feels real and I can feel that connection. That is what sets you apart tonight. For me, it was pretty good." Randy agreed it was definitely a tough song, adding. "When we saw that clip of you singing Stevie Wonder, it was, 'Wow.' Then you come and do this serious song. When you opened up [your vocals on the second verse], that is the girl I loved. I would reach for bigger things than small songs like this." Ellen said, "I forgot for a moment it was a show. I loved how mysterious you were. I thought it was a great song choice." Simon said, "You are a funny little thing. We don't know what you are going to do. I didn't think it was as good as Stevie Wonder. You looked more enthusiastic and memorable [singing Stevie]. It is a dark song. It may be because you are a dark person."
Crystal Bowersox played guitar and harmonica for her rendition of Alanis Morissette's "Hand in My Pocket." Randy stated, "You are one of my favorites. I love your originality. You are wearing the harp. It puts me in mind of Springsteen and Etheridge. I am not sure it was the right song, but I like you. I like that honesty. I am a fan." Ellen also declared herself a fan, saying, "I think we are lucky you decided to audition and be here. You add something fresh to the show. If I am home, I am voting for you because I want to see more." Simon said, "It was good that we like you. We love your baby and your story. The truth is there are thousands [of musicians] doing this outside of subway stations. I wouldn't stop in my tracks and say you are the most original. You have to do something that is you. Not sound like everyone else. Pick a song and make it your version. Having said that, I am trying not to be overly critical, because you are refreshing and are going to do well." Kara told her, "I think you have greatness in you. I have seen moments when you build that performance. I didn't see it tonight. Try to not be just a coffee house performance, but bring it out. There is no doubt in my mind you will be here next week."
Katie Stevens wrapped up the night's performances belting out Michael Buble's "Feeling Good." Ellen commented, "It was good. It was great. You are 17. I felt it was very conservative. It is an intense song. I want you to be 17, fresh, current and modern." Simon agreed, adding, "It was like your mom and dad had dressed you and given you the song for this audition. I have heard this kind of performance so many times. You are 17, become like a young recording artist. That is the problem." Kara pointed out, "I think if you killed the song, they wouldn't be saying that. I think you couldn't hear yourself because you were pitchy. That is not like you. You have a gift. You have ridiculous chops. I hope America gives you another shot." Randy wrapped up the night's critiques, saying, "To pick up on what Kara said, you were pushing so hard all the notes were going sharp. You remind me of Jordin Sparks. It was just too old for you. You can only be 17 once."
"American Idol" returns Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on FOX when the 12 guys from the Top 24 perform.