The women kick in the men's teeth, after the jump ...
Starting a little late but will catch up in the commercial breaks. So far, I've seen the recap of last night's men's performances, which I would just as soon forget. And the first introduction of the women. Looks as if LaKisha Jones will close the show. Introduction of the judges. Ryan busts Randy for saying to take a risk, then saying singers were too risky. Randy disagrees. Paula struggles once again to be the Thumper of the judges. Simon pleasant. Ryan brings up the Chris Sligh argument; Simon says he likes it when a contestant shows a bit of spirit. Ryan presses the point, with a picture. Simon calls him obnoxious.
Recaps of the women leading into the break.
And we're back, feeling almost as smart as a 5th grader.
First up, Stephanie Edwards. Going old-school, which is the way the judges liked her. "How Come You Don't Call Me," almost jazzy. Shaky voice at first. Gets much stronger as she goes. Double-knee drop. C plus, although the last half was more like a B, and it feels better than last night already. Judges rave.
Another break, then we're on the couch. Ryan asks how the guys did. Discussion does not include criticism. Ryan presses, but no luck.
Amy Krebs. Makeover in progress -- better makeup/skin now than in the audition footage. "I Can't Make You Love Me." So-so at the beginning. Closeups in HD show there's still a skin problem. She's picking up but not kicking it out. Too slow. C. Randy calls it "kind of a medium, middle-of-the-road performance." Paula agrees at some length. Simon asks for a translation. Randy provides it. Simon then says she "has the personality of a candle ... there's nothing to remember." Paula acts offended. Didn't she just agree that she wasn't that good? Amy admits the judges have a point. Simon piles on more criticism. Ryan calls Simon "the fashion disaster."
Leslie Hunt. I think we're seeing more of her than we did through all the previous telecasts. Oh, no, she's going Aretha: "Natural Woman." Uh, oh, she's good. Well, not that good. Well, maybe. She works the camera like mad. C plus, and she could be very dangerous in this competition. Randy thought the song was a little big for her. Paula thought she did a great job but warned her about song choice. Simon says it wasn't great; thinks she looked embarrassed and ungainly. Snarking among the judges about Simon's dog-walker imagery. Ryan translates. Can no one speak clearly? Randy brings up the Dawg Pound -- meaning the guys. Who in the real Dawg Pound would be chewed up, the marrow sucked from their bones, and the remains thrown onto a pile of empty beer cups.
And the recording has caught up with real time. No more fast-forwarding, alas.
Sabrina Sloan. Relishing a standing O from Paula in Hollywood. Has she not seen how many standing-O's Paula gives? More Aretha: "I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You." Holy crap. For the first time this week, I'm hearing someone I really really want to hear again. B plus. Randy says we finally have a season six competition; "yo, that's the one to beat right there." Paula gives her another standing O. Simon says she proved the point between taking part and genuinely having a desire to win, calls it the best performance so far.
Antonella Barba. Shouldn't be here. She was not as good as the woman she was paired with for the final pick. "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing." Another wobbly start. Bad on the chorus, too, but getting cover from backup singers and the band. After Sloan, she sounds even worse. Some improvement in the later stages but not enough. And yet, still better than the worst of the guys. C minus. Randy is suffering but has "to keep it real." Says it wasn't good. But Paula insists "it wasn't bad" and calls her "an amazingly beautiful girl." But the one she aced out in Hollywood wasn't bad looking. Simon says the song was "way way way too big for you." With Ryan's urging, she asks for advice. They say pick a better song. Simon says the performance was "like Ryan doing the news." Ryan says she was better than him doing the news.
Break, including another promo for the "O.C." series finale. Gee, remember when it was a good show? First season. But in the second, it was no longer DVR-worthy.
Oh, show's back. Jordin Sparks. They're working Simon's saying she was too sweet. "Give Me One Reason." Let me say it this way: THE GUYS ARE SO SCREWED. Grade: A. Could I order her CD now, please? Randy positive but tells her to challenge herself. "I don't know if there's any song too big for you." Paula says great song selection. Simon notes a big change, brings up the "sweet" thing.
Into the second hour. Nicole Tranquillo. Chaka's "Stay." Not good. Attitude is not supported by the voice. Good attitude, though. And the voice gets better. C veering toward a C plus late. Randy says "it wasn't really working for me." Paula asks the guys what they think. "What you expect them to say, that that was bad?" Randy asks. Paula praises the notes she hit. Does not acknowledge the ones she missed. Says it was "out of this world." Simon tweaks Paula, calls the performance "indulgent ... aggressive" and fake. Randy adds "wrong kind of vibe." Randy later adds "too urban." Ryan tries to use her to pick a fight. Nicole's not playing, but Ryan still wants one.
Haley Scarnato. She's going for a ballad plus cleavage. "It's All Coming Back To Me Now." She's impressive, but this is a tough night. B minus. Randy labors again, then says it was just all right -- nothing special with it. Paula thinks "you did a nice job" but hoped for a different song. Simon says she sounded 40. "A bit like being at a reasonably good hotel and that's the last song of the evening." He's forgetting that a lot of people over 40 watch the show -- and vote often. Haley says she'll be true to herself.
Coming: Melinda Doolittle, backup singer. Third Aretha of the night, after the break.
And here we are. Ryan touts the Fantasia Barrino performance tomorrow. Doolittle recap. "Since You've Been Gone." Good start but she begins to lose me. Very capable, only there's a charisma gap here, I think. It's one of those things where Aretha transcends the song, and Doolittle is just singing it. C plus. Judges love it. Simon brings up that she has a good story -- and that may sell her as much or more as her singing.
Alaina Alexander; Ryan reminds everyone that she's the crying one. Recap underscores that. "Brass in Pocket." HORRIBLE start. She is degrading Akron's sacred Chrissie Hynde. Send her home now. Worst woman of the night. She'd have to sing with the guys to seem good. D. Randy not pleased. Paula tries to soften the blow in translating Randy, but is also unthrilled. Simon notes the song is very difficult to make your own. BECAUSE IT BELONGS TO CHRISSIE HYNDE. Ryan brings up her passion; Simon says she can go to "Passion Idol." Ryan keeps trying to rescue her; Simon asks if he's trying to date her.
Gina Glocksen. "All By Myself." Good presence. Not overwhelmed by the voice yet. OK, there it is. I'm not entirely sold, but she ends OK. C plus. Randy loves it. Paula calls it "right song." Simon didn't think she hit the big note -- especially in comparison to Celine Dion. Could we get some love for Cleveland's Eric Carmen, please?
LaKisha Jones -- being touted in local news promos as having a Cleveland connection -- and going with "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." Talk about raising the bar. Could I have that "holy crap" with cheese? It's not Hudson or Holliday, but she doesn't get to do the whole song, either. A. Judges exult. Simon says he's tempted to tell the other 23 singers to book their plane tickets home.
I said the guys are screwed. I was wrong. Unless they change the elimination rules, some really good women may go home while sub-mediocre guys get by.
Hey, Ryan brings up the quotas. Randy says he'd keep four guys and eight women. Could we hope even a little for a rules twist? Simon says three or four tonight were in a different league from the rest, and Jones has thrown down the gauntlet.
Final ranking: Sparks/Jones, Sloan (and I'd happily give them all a bye to the finals right now), Scarnato, Glocksen, Krebs, Hunt, Tranquillo, Barba, Alexander.