American Idol: Week #3, Top 8 Girls

The girls are down to eight and looking to cut two more this week, merging with the boys for the Dirty Dozen. Michelle Delamor was cut last week, after failing to connect with audiences, perhaps because everyone hates Creed. Haeley Vaughn was also shown the door, to great relief, but not before delivering one of the most skin-crawlingly awful performances in Idol history. It’s one of the show’s most peculiar rituals—making the contestants sing immediately after voting them off the show. Such a tradition is simultaneously compassionate and cruel, leading to a flood of emotions that often leads to bizarre final performances like Haeley’s and to melodramatic tears from the remaining hopefuls. (Haeley was endorsed by Vote for the Worst, by the way, so so much for that group. If they can’t even concentrate enough votes to save a singer when there are ten to choose from, then VFTW has, without question, no real impact on results. But I’m sure it’s time well spent.)

Tuesday’s Ladies Night was a tight show—eight songs in an hour, which, by Idol standards, is flying. The judges still took up a majority of the airtime, and most of their commentary was typically redundant. They did, however, find plenty to admire as the girls, for the most part, continue to improve. After Tuesday, a clear favorite and a clear clunker had emerged among the women. The other six are all knotted up together, but one of them has to go, so we’ll be saying goodbye to a worthy singer no matter who gets sliced. I’m in a bad mood, so for these awards, let’s focus on the worsts.

Worst Song Irony : You already know that Paige Miles stunk up the joint with her morose version of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”. She looked and sounded completely petrified throughout the song, and her transition into the second verse appeared to baffle the band for a half-minute. If she survives this week, it’ll be a shock and a setback for the show.

Worst Can’t Win: Katie Stevens showed up in silver pumps and big-girl makeup, but she fooled no one. Her take on Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” was a snooze to start things off, so after caving to Ellen’s pestering about going younger, Stevens proved that she’s just a choir girl for now. Kudos to her, however, for holding up under the heavy fire of the judges’ haranguing over what a disappointment she is. Ouch.

Worst Orthodontia: Is Crystal Bowersox missing teeth, or does she have some sort of Jewel snaggletooth going on? Whatever it is, it goes with her whole homeless busker vibe, but she may need to see someone after this thing is over. After all, whether she wins the whole contest or not, she proved again that she is a powerhouse singer with teflon pipes and all kinds of soul and rhythmic instincts. Record contracts are already being drafted for this girl.

Worst Grooming: Lacey Brown looks like she tripped in the dressing room and fell face-first into a child’s birthday cake. Her Crayola-box fashion sense makes me yearn for running water, even if her version of Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” found Lacey rehabilitating her status among the hopefuls. She’s isolated a vocal niche, but that pretentious delivery—staring down the camera—will get old, as voters start to shy away from a singer who is so continually aware of her own lips.

Worst Animals Cover: Does anyone ever want to hear “The House of the Rising Sun” again? No. Even it’s sung by a vocal dynamo who is equal parts pretty, geeky, charming, and awkward. Have you caught Shioban Fever yet? There’s no known cure!

Worst Corn: Last week, cute little Katelyn Epperly, the Meg Ryan of American Idol, was lambasted for being too corny. This week she dialed it back to nothing, rendering her version of Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” pedestrian and flat. She wasn’t Lee Dwyze comatose, but she probably didn’t do herself any favors. If she survives the vote, let’s hope she goes back and gets her corny on. Go ahead, be gone with it.

Worst One-Trick-Pony: This is the year of the niche, but Didi Benami’s gangster’s moll, through-the-nose affectation is already played out. Her speakeasy vibe on “Rhiannon” was uniformly pleasant, sometimes quite lovely, but it was so much better toward the end when she actually opened her mouth. I like Didi, and the judges really liked her Tuesday, so we’ll probably get another shot at her next week.

Worst Faking It: Lilly Scott pretended to play the mandolin during her version of Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces”, using some highly suspicious mando-chord formations and chord-change timing. Whatever. It’s a singing competition, and Lilly continued to establish that she’s funky and fresh. I was, like you, expecting “Crazy” when they first announced that she was singing a Cline song, so Lilly likes to take chances even as she stakes a claim on her singular style. Her show-closing spot was no surprise, however; she’s hot on Crystal’s heels as the one to beat.

Next: The boys sing Wednesday, and four more contestants are cut loose Thursday. The strongest team of girls for the overall Top 12 would be, in order: Crystal, Lilly, Shioban, Didi, Katelyn, and Lacey. That means axing Paige and Katie. Stay tuned.

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