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Image: Ramiele Malubay, American Idol contestant
Frank MIcelotta / FOX
Ramiele Malubay impressed with her performance of Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" on another night of '60s songs on "American Idol."
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 2/20/2008 11:46:22 PM ET 2008-02-21T04:46:22
COMMENTARY

Even “Idol” girls get the flu.

The sickness that’s been ravaging workplaces across the country hit “American Idol” this week, apparently leaving several of the top 12 women feeling the blues. If they were looking for sympathy from Simon Cowell, however, they were out of luck. The British judge was so cranky, it seemed like he was feeling sick himself.

Sick or healthy, two of the women will be heading home on Thursday. The younger contestants fared well, as did those who sang later in the program. But several women picked a bad night to let nerves and a little virus get the best of them.

Younger is better
Ramiele Malubay impressed in auditions by being the little girl with the big voice. Her rendition of Dusty Springfield’s “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” allowed her the opportunity to build up to a resounding crescendo at the finish, but it also marked the first time the music seemed to overpower her.

Fortunately for her, the judges all enjoyed her performance. Paula Abdul called her a voice to be reckoned with; Randy Jackson called her “very classy, almost like a pro, dude.”

More importantly for her long-term success, Simon admitted to originally being a nonbeliever, but said that “tonight, you out sung every single person.”

Of course, Simon also had nice things to say about Asia’h Epperson after she looked far more confident than the average 19-year-old singing “(Take a Little) Piece of My Heart.”

“For me, it was my favorite of the night. You let go,” Simon said.

Slideshow: 'Idol' season 7 hopefuls

Alaina Whitaker is the youngest singer in the competition, celebrating her 17th birthday on Thursday. “The one thing I want is I want to stay here for my birthday — I don’t want to go home,” she said.

Odds are good that she’ll get her wish, as her version of “More Today Than Yesterday” was more than good enough to place her among the top performers of the night. She even received praise despite picking a song that Simon hated. “I think you’re very good. I hated the song — if you can make a song as awful as that sound OK, when you get a decent song, you’re going to be great,” he said.

Syesha Mercado also revealed herself to be a woman to watch, which isn’t a bad position to be in for someone who lost her voice during the Hollywood round.

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Her rendition of “Tobacco Road” was strong. “You definitely can sing. Not my favorite performance, but I liked it,” Randy said. Simon went so far as to call her one of the most talented women in the competition.

Lone rocker stands out
Amanda Overmyer
has her own niche as the only female rocker. She’ll last as long as there are fans of that style of music, which should at least buy her another week.

If the judges have anything to say about it, she’ll be fine. Her performance of Van Morrison’s “Baby Please Don’t Go” had all three agreeing that she was authentic. When she has to sing Broadway tunes or Barry Manilow, all bets are off, but so far she’s doing a fine job of staying within her comfort zone.

Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings Brooke White has a nice little routine going as the goody-two-shoes nanny who Simon is hoping to bring over to the dark side. He’ll probably get at least another week to work on that, and judging by the banter that followed her performance, he’ll need it.

White sang “So Happy Together,” which as Randy noted began a little rough. However, she did well enough that she’s probably safe, and also helped herself by acting poised and polished with the judges.

That got Simon to ask, “I assume you’re just going to be nice throughout the competition?”

“Is that OK with you?” White responded.

“Not really, no,” Simon said.

Oh well.

Split decision
Two singers about whom the judges could not agree were Carly Smithson and Alexandrea Lushington.

Simon saysSmithson came into the competition with arguably the highest name recognition of any of the women. She has a distinctive sound because of her Irish accent, and a distinctive look brought about in part by her taking advantage of the perks of owning a tattoo shop.

She fought through her bronchitis to sing “Shadow of Your Smile,” and Randy and Paula loved it. “The best vocal of the top 24, right there!” Randy said.

Simon, on the other hand, has apparently been spending time reading the Internet chatter about her, because she didn’t meet his expectations.

“Everything about it, to me, was a letdown. I was genuinely expecting something fantastic.”

Smithson is probably safe, but Lushington has a little more to worry about. She gave an uneven performance of “Spinning Wheel,” but Randy was ready to sign her up right there.

“She’s relevant, she’s ready to make records, Cowell,” Randy said.

“I didn’t get it,” Simon responded.

However, Lushington helped herself by showing her personality, mocking Ryan’s boilerplate recitation of the voting procedures in the manner of a little sister teasing her big brother. That spark may be enough to propel her onward.

Singers in trouble
Kady Malloy
may not be a rock star yet, but she is a recording studio assistant so at least she’s seen how the process works. She also does a mean Britney Spears impression, and her pre-taped footage was witty and engaging.

That might have been bad for her, since her rendition of “Groovy Kind of Love” didn’t elicit that same kind of spark. “That was like ‘Night of the Living Dead,’” Simon said. “When you do Britney, you’re brilliant. And then when you do you, the light goes off.”

Kristy Lee Cook was the first to sing, and said she hopes to buy back her barrel horse if she wins “Idol.” She’ll have to do better than she did Wednesday, as her version of “Rescue Me” dragged down the stretch.

Randy called it “a little rough around the edges,” which was an understatement. Paula cited the flu excuse, and hopefully for Cook the audience will send her some sympathy votes, or at least some cough medicine.

Joanne Borgella talked about how part of the expectations about being a plus-size woman is that people think she should belt out soul tunes, and she’s not that kind of singer. Then she went out and sang “Say A Little Prayer” without stretching her voice to its full potential.

“This is the point of the show where you’ve got to come out and nail it — and what you did there is come out and sing a very cabaret version of a cabaret song,” Simon said.

Trade-show model/grad student Amy Davis had the best quote of the night, saying that making it to this stage was “like a hundred Christmases as a 6-year-old girl all packed into one.”

Her version of “Where the Boys Are” was kind of a mess at the beginning, but Davis came through with a big finish. Still the judges mainly complimented her looks and dissed her sound, which isn’t a good thing since this isn’t “America’s Next Top Model.” For Davis, as well as the other singers who struggled, Wednesday’s sleepless night may be caused by something other than that pesky flu bug.

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