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Idol Was A Tough “Ladies Night!”

By: Michael Tullberg Getty Images Entertainment

Unlike the men of the night before , the dozen women in the “American Idol” semifinals had a hard time standing out from the crowd.

With at least five spots there for the taking (and as many as eight, depending on how the judges spend those three wildcards), nerves and song choices helped keep anyone from separating from the pack early. But the show closed with three straight performances that allowed things to finish on a high note.

Thia Megia started off the run with “Out Here On My Own” from “Fame,” an interesting song choice for a 16-year-old. Not the peppiest song in the world, but the judges all loved it, though Steven Tyler’s “Sometimes your pitch can be so perfect that it doesn’t matter what song you sing” seemed to be a backhanded compliment. She’s very lucky that it was Tyler judging her and not Simon Cowell. The caustic former judge would have surely offered withering criticism on her sounding too old for her 16 years, but as he now offers his opinion only to those in his living room, Megia looks to be in great shape.

Immediately following her was fellow teen Lauren Alaina, who brought the crowd back to its feet with a little Reba McEntire. Alaina probably could have sung “Jingle Bells” and advanced, but she left no doubt with this performance.

“You don’t even have to try. The voice is just so effortless,” J.Lo told her. Meanwhile, Randy Jackson compared her to both Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, which is great company to be in.

And closing the show was Pia Toscano, who chose an old “Idol” standby in “I’ll Stand By You.” Not only did all the judges praise it and the audience offer up a standing ovation, but Tyler gave his best quote of the night: “After Monday and Tuesday even a week says WTF.” And yes, he said it just like that — there was no need for the bleep button.

As for the rest …
Apart from those three, everyone sounded pretty much the same, and since the judges offered positive feedback to almost everyone it’s hard to say who the favorites are.

Early in the show, Naima Adedapo stood out, both for her voice and for the yellow dress that she designed. “You’re like a new Ella Fitzgerald. This is what America needs right now,” Tyler said. But she sang so early that it was easy to forget about her by the end of the show, always a danger to those who draw the first timeslot.

Karen Rodriguez took a couple of huge risks. She picked a Mariah Carey song, which usually causes Randy to either slam the effort as not worthy or else spend hours waxing on about how he used to work with the songstress until host Ryan Seacrest interrupts or the audience falls asleep. Rodriguez switched between English and Spanish, which had the potential to have everyone scratching their heads instead of writing down the number. But it ultimately paid off, and she’s a safe bet to move on as well.

While the judges liked everyone, they really liked Ashthon Jones, who must have sounded better live than she did on my TV. Randy’s biggest criticism was that she picked a Monica song, then compared her to Diana Ross instead. He ironically told her to be less contemporary and more old school. Somewhere out there, Simon was rolling his eyes and comparing her to a lounge singer on a Portuguese cruise ship.

Rare good advice
J.Lo is the most frustrating of the judges to watch because every time I start referring to her as Paula 2.0, she comes up with feedback that’s both practical and useful.

She liked Haley Reinhart but told her she needed to get out of her head and let loose, which was exactly right. Reinhart sang well, but also seemed to be thinking through every step and every note before she sang it, as if she would be judged by a computer.

And for Lauren Turner, who sang Etta James’ “Seven Day Fool,” J.Lo wanted some more moxie. She advised Turner to turn it loose and get in the camera’s face, which was nitpicky but valid. All the judges liked that performance, though none made mention of the fact that the former maid was singing about scrubbing floors and washing dirty clothes. Turner should advance based on song choice alone for that one.

In trouble
OK, quick: Remember what Kendra Chantelle or Ta-Tynisa Wilson sang? Anyone?

Wilson covered Rihanna’s “Only Girl” and Chantelle went with Cristina Aguilera’s “Impossible.” Both were just all right, which is not where you want to be when you sing so early.

Julie Zorrilla seemed nothing but likable heading into Wednesday’s show, but was all nerves during her performance. Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” wasn’t a great choice, and Zorilla will need to hope she made a lot of fans based on her audition performances.

Rachel Zevita had great stage presence doing Fiona Apple’s “Criminal,” but none of the judges thought the song was right for her, and all thought she might be better on Broadway. It’s a case where her hometown may have hurt her. I wonder if the panel would have been so quick to go down that road if she were from Kansas City instead of New York City.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington. Follow him @craigberman, where he live tweets each “Idol” show. Want to get the latest Entertainment news?

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