Last up, it's Alexis Grace, who talks about her musician dad and her daughter.
She goes for "Dirty Diana" and immediately I am psyched because this is the first -- and only song prediction of the night I got right. Alexis has kept the "bad girl" image she acquired during semifinals, and she floods this version with soul and big notes. Skeptics might call some of the notes too exaggerated, but Alexis has serious power to her voice and brings a consistent element of personality to the stage. One of my favorites of the night.
Kara: "You're a naughty girl and I liked it."
Paula: "Watch your over-singing."
Simon: "Very over-the-top and probably not as good as you thought it was."
Randy: "I like your attitude."
Time for Matt Giraud, who talks about how close he is with his family.
He plays the piano while singing "Human Nature." The song has its moments, but at times seems a little too driven by wailing than actual memorable vocal notes. Still, it's nice to see him at the piano and he seems to be showing at least some level of consistent improvement. This was pretty "meh" overall, though.
Randy: "That was a really good performance."
Kara: "You are a talented guy."
Paula: "I'm blown away."
Simon: "It was very good."
Next up, the divisive Adam Lambert, who talks about how he's grown in his years of performing.
He goes for "Black or White," maybe the most risky song choice of the night. But as viewing partner Jeff said, if anyone can pull it off, it's him. I'm a little unsure at first, but Adam proves his talent quickly, pulling out that amazing vocal range that separates him from the pack. You can't argue with his vocal quality...he's all over the place vocally on this one and he's on par at every point. Maybe his presence leaves a bit to be desired, but on talent alone, he's in a league of his own.
Paula: "Never in the history of American Idol...have we ever seen someone so comfortable, seasoned on that stage."
Kara: "I hope Michael Jackson is watching this tonight."
Randy: "You could make a record right now."
Simon: "That was to me in a totally different league than everything we've seen tonight."
Here's Megan Joy, who reminds us she never performed on a stage before AI. She also gets pretty personal about her son and divorce.
She goes for "Rockin' Robin," and starts off a little shaky. She redeems herself midway through, thanks to those token quirky vocals. Still, she doesn't showcase her uniqueness as much as she's done in the past and at parts, this seems like a karaoke performance.
No matter how good you are, it's not a song designed to showcase someone's chops. I wish she would have opted for a ballad. Please refer to my selection for her, "Childhood."
Kara: "You have a way of putting your signature on everything you touch."
Paula: "What I love about you is the quirky and unique tone to your voice."
Simon: "What a stupid song choice."
Randy: "It didn't allow you to really be Megan."
Time for Jorge Nunez, who talks about growing up in Puerto Rico.
He sings "Never Can Say Goodbye," and immediatly the performance reeks of cheese. Viewing partner Dawn accurately compares it to Loveboat. That's not flattering. Sadly for Jorge, you can tell he has some potential but this song choice is really going to hurt him. It's driven by corniness, and has the appeal of an average lounge singer. Surviving the first elimination is going to be an uphill battle.
Randy: "I just would have chosen something else that would have challenged you more."
Kara: "I could have seen you with something...that's a little more emotional."
Paula: "This was not the right song for you."
Simon: "I couldn't wait for it to be over."
Time for Anoop Desai, who tells us how he was spoiled growing up.
He goes for "Beat It," which I immediately predict will earn him some song choice criticisms. The performance is high energy, and obviously Anoop has a strong fan base. But he doesn't really do anything different with the song and if he didn't have the fan appeal, I'd say he'd be labeled boring. It's a fun performance, but on a night driven by big notes, Anoop probably picked the wrong song.
Paula: "I think that song is untouchable."
Randy: "It was just the wrong choice."
Simon: "I thought it was horrible."
Kara: "We didn't get to see you do any kind of variation on anything."
Then, just when you think the criticisms can't get any worse, Simon says he now regrets making Anoop finalist No. 13.
Allison Iraheta reminds us how she's been performing since childhood.
She goes for "Give in to Me," a song I've never heard before tonight. Allison's probably aware of that, but she immediately adds a contemporary edge to the song thanks to some vocals seriously reminiscent of Pink. Allison's right on bar with those power notes, and while some detractors still criticize her for screaming, I think she's in a league of her own. Not to mention some unrivaled confidence on stage.
You'd think she was on a reality TV show before. Oh wait, she was.
Paula: "You're a rock star up there."
Simon: "It's very clear you know what kind of artist you want to be."
Randy: "I think you can sing anything."
Kara: "You did a great job."
Here's Kris Allen, who breaks my viewing partner Dawn's heart by telling us he's married.
He sings a guitar-driven version of "Remember the Time," and I immediately flash back to Jason Castro. Something tells me faithful reader L. Murda is doing the same. Anyway, Kris definitely takes on a new element of coolness with guitar in hand. It's element that seems to break him out of the boring ballad guy mode.
The song isn't perfectly suited for the guitar, but Kris has a strong stage presence and boasts probably the most contemporary appeal of the night so far.
Kara: "When you play your guitar, it's a whole other side of you."
Paula: "You're engaging and...kind of adorable sexy."
Simon: "I don't know if that's a song that really suits the guitar...I'm not sure I would have brought the wife out so early." (Cue angry expression from his wife. Very angry.)
Randy: "It was very Jason Mraz-y."
Jasmine Murray shows us her really big family in Mississippi.
She opts for "I'll Be There," a performance that's driven by lots of big notes and belting. It seems flat for a little bit in the middle. Still, overall it's a fine choice, just maybe a little too safe for voters' tastes. Jasmine also seems to be a little nervous on stage, and she obviously exudes some of the inexperience we've seen out of teenage contestants in years past.
Randy: "You did a pretty good job on it."
Kara: "You sold it. You have great stage presence."
Paula: "You have tremendous composure and poise on that stage."
Simon: "I think you've got to start acting your age a little bit."
Michael Sarver shows us his oil rig job. His mom also talks about how he grew up without a father.
He goes for "You Are Not Alone," a song choice that I initially think screams train wreck. But actually, it's not that bad. My biggest criticism is that he lacks the risk that we get out of more experienced contenders.
Sure, he doesn't have the pipes -- or the producer hype -- of Danny Gokey, but he does have some serious stage charisma. And the performance gets significantly more solid toward the end. If nothing else, Michael shows us he's more than the karaoke knockoff we got out of him in semifinals.
I'm thinking my prediction that he'll be the first to go might be wrong.
Simon: "You gave it 110 percent."
Randy: "You're definitely one of the best in this right now."
Kara: "Tonight showed me that you really can sing."
Paula: "You're likeable, you're a regular guy who has extraordinary talent."
Danny Gokey makes it through his his pre-performance interview without mentioning his dead wife.
He sings "PYT," and at first I'm worried he's going to make a ballad version of it. Not true. After the first couple notes, he pumps things up. Believe it or not, this is the most I've liked Danny this season. He escapes inspiration mode, and brings lots of range and high energy to the stage. He kind of sounds like Michael Bolton at points. The performance verges on shouty at times, and the dance moves are a little shaky, but it's still really nice.
Paula: "I think you're on your way to the finals."
Danny: "I thought the vocals were brilliant. You are one heck of a singer."
Randy: "I loved it all."
Kara: "You have joy when you step on that stage."
Scott MacIntyre, who shows us how he performs music with his family. His sister is also visually impaired.
He sings "Keep the Faith," playing the piano. From the get-go, it's obvious that he's much more confident on stage with an instrument. It's a good ballad-ish effort, which I think has much more fan appeal than last week's take on "Mandolin Rain." That said, Scott will likely lose some votes for: a) choosing an unknown tune, and b) predictably serving up another slow inspirational song. They're both valid points.
Kara: "I am so glad that we are finally getting to see you with the piano."
Paula: "It was a lovely performance."
Simon: "I hated the song, I really did."
Randy: "It just felt all very safe for me."
Lil Rounds, who talks about her husband and three kids. Yes, they do remind us that a tornado destroyed their belongings.
She's singing "They Way You Make Me Feel."
She starts off kind of awkwardly -- blame it on that nervous "hey boy" at the beginning -- but eventually enters her token soulful belting mode. There's lots of good power notes, making for a surprisingly solid first song of the night. But I think Lil is a bit robotic in the personality department, and this performance doesn't do much to convince me otherwise. I still see her falling into the trap of Melinda Doolittle or LaToya London.
Randy: "You made the song new again."
Kara: "I hope we get to hear you on the radio."
Paula: "You are the force to be reckoned with."
Simon: "I thought it was a bit of a lazy song choice."