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‘Idol’ women try some risky business

If the "American Idol" men played it too safe, the women took too many chances. By Andy Dehnart
/ Source: contributor

At the start of the second performance episode of “American Idol 6,” Simon Cowell said he “couldn’t remember half of the performances” from last night, when the men performed. The guys were, for the most part, boring.

But if the guys played it too safe, the girls took too many risks. From an Aerosmith ballad to multiple Aretha Franklin songs, the women were criticized for choosing songs that were beyond their abilities.

Still, the women were much stronger and “in a different league,” Simon Cowell said. As Ryan Seacrest noted at the end of the show, if the top 12 didn’t have to be six men and six women, there would probably be many more women in the top 12 than men.

Stephanie Edwards, 19, Savannah, Ga.: Stephanie started the show with “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore,” and unlike Rudy’s start last night, she blew the judges away. Besides choosing a great song, she was praised for performing like an idol. Randy Jackson said she was somewhat “pitchy” — he’s contractually required to use that word every night — although he also said there was “a huge difference” between that song and the guys’ performances. But the biggest praise came from Simon Cowell, who said Stephanie’s 90 seconds on stage was “a million times better than any performance we saw last night.”Grade: AStay or go? Stay, absolutely.

Amy Krebs, 22, Federal Way, Wash.: Performing “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” Amy went a little bit country. She could have made the judges love her by really performing well, but her rendition didn’t woo the judges. Her reserved performance was “median, middle of the road performance” and “really safe,” according to Randy, and even Paula Abdul agreed. Simon Cowell got mean, saying she had the “personality of a candle. There’s nothing to remember. You’re just like this thing that sings.”Grade: C+Stay or go? If the audience agrees with Simon’s harsh criticism that she’s “forgettable,” she could go home.

Leslie Hunt, 24, Chicago, Ill.: Both the “dawg pound” and “song choice” made appearances after Leslie’s performance of “You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman).” Her selection of an Aretha Franklin song wasn’t the best, the judges said, because it was “a little too big for you,” according to Randy. Simon said she just didn’t look like she wanted to be on stage, and even Ryan Seacrest agreed.Grade: B-Stay or go? Not one of the best, but also not one of the worst, so she’ll probably be here next week.

Sabrina Sloan, 27, Studio City, Calif.: “That’s the one to beat right there,” Randy Jackson said after Sabrina sang “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You).” Simon Cowell said that Sabrina “just proved the point between taking part, as we see a lot, and genuinely having a desire to win with talent.” He added that it was “the best [performance] so far.”Grade: AStay or go? Universal praise from the judges is generally a good sign of someone who will be back next week.

Antonella Barba, 20, Point Pleasant, N.J.: Antonella’s song choice seemed like a risk, and the judges certainly love risk-taking. Well, they do unless they decide that the risk didn’t pay off. Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” didn’t work for the judges, who said Antonella didn’t sing it well. “It was really pitchy, it was really bad,” Randy Jackson told her, and Paula criticized her song choice. Simon was more blunt, as usual, “It didn’t work. It was way, way, way too big for you, that song,” going on to say the choice has “seriously, seriously damaged your chances of staying here another week.”Grade: C+Stay or go? Probably go. The judges seemed a bit hard on her, and the audience could reward her for taking a risk and singing a song that many of the men, never mind the women, wouldn’t try. But at this stage, viewers may just take Simon’s implicit advice.

Jordin Sparks, 17, Glendale, Ariz.: Jordin finished up the first hour, and ironically, the judges told her the opposite of what they’d told many of the five women who performed before her. They were impressed by her abilities, but not by her selection of “Give Me One Reason.” While she has “some of the most unbelievable natural talent,” Randy said, he insisted she needs to “pick songs; challenge yourself; don’t be afraid.” He added that she could take bigger songs, unlike some of the other contestants.Grade: B+Stay or go? She’ll stay, as her voice and personality are distinct and memorable. The judges weren’t wowed, but they weren’t disappointed, either.

Nicole Tranquillo, 20, Philadelphia, Pa.: Choosing a song previously performed by Chaka Kahn and Erykah Badu gave Nicole a chance to flex her vocal cords, and reach some high notes. Nicole’s rendition didn’t impress Randy — “I don’t think that’s your vibe; I don’t think those are the kinds of songs you should be doing” — but Paula said her singing was “out of this world.” Simon called it “unnatural” and “fake,” and said “she can sing, but song choice is very important.”Grade: BStay or go? She’ll probably stay; she gave a strong performance that wasn’t well-received by the judges, but she’s also nowhere near the bottom of the pack.

Haley Scarnato, 24, San Antonio, Texas: The judges weren’t in agreement about Haley’s selection and performance of the Meat Loaf song, “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” but none of them were blown away. “It was just okay,” Randy said, although he appreciated the choice. Paula, on the other hand, said she should have picked a song we didn’t hear in an earlier round. Simon told Haley that she has a great voice, “You sounded 40. ... I think you should sound a bit younger.”Grade: B-Stay or go? Boring the judges doesn’t always equal boring the audience, but her strong voice will probably keep her around.

Melinda Doolittle, 29, Brentwood, Tenn.: The third Aretha Franklin song of the evening came from former background singer Melinda Doolittle, who sang the upbeat “Since You’ve Been Gone.” And finally, the judges responded positively. In fact, they loved Melinda’s performance—and Melinda—so much that they said very little. “That was the bomb,” Randy said, while Simon told Melinda, “You are an incredible singer, ... you’re a fantastic person, I really hope you do well.”Grade: A+Stay or go? Being called the “front-runner” by a judge, even if, in Melinda's case, the judge was Paula, will definitely keep someone around, especially at this point in the competition.

Alaina Alexander, 24, West Hollywood, Calif.: Choosing The Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket (I’m Special)” basically invited the judges to criticize Alaina for not being “special,” and they went for it. Once again, the judges were underwhelmed. “She didn’t make it her own,” Paula said. “You didn’t go for it ... I didn’t feel it, sweetheart.” Simon said, “It was actually a mess. I thought you lost it halfway through.” Simon said, somewhat shockingly, “So you are going to be reliant on your looks at the moment, not your voice.”Grade: C+Stay or go? Although her performance may not have been the best, it was far from the worst. Whether people vote for her because of her appearance, as Simon suggested, or for other reasons, she’ll probably stay.

Gina Glocksen, 22, Naperville, Ill.: Gina chose another big song, “All By Myself,” but the judges didn’t jump on her like they had the other contestants. Randy said he thought she pulled it off, saying, “I was surprised.” Simon disagreed, primarily saying that Gina didn’t hit the note at the end like Celine Dion did when she sang it. Gina, though, was confident. “Whether it was off or not, I hit it,” she said.Grade: B+Stay or go? Whether or not she hit the note, Gina was in the upper tier of performers tonight, so she’s staying.

LaKisha Jones, 27, Fort Meade, Md.: Fittingly, the first female performance night closed with “the song that may win Jennifer Hudson an Oscar on Sunday night,” as Ryan Seacrest said. LaKisha’s version of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” included the line “you’re going to love me,” and that the judges did. “I do love you,” Randy Jackson said. “Jennifer Hudson, watch out!” Paula was equally enthusiastic, and so was Simon Cowell. “That’s the right note,” he said. “I’m very tempted to say to 23 people, book your plane ticket home. That was in a whole different league.”Grade: A+Stay or go? Her song also included the line, “I’m staying,” and LaKisha is definitely doing that this week—and probably will stay well into the top 12.