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Ladies liven things up on ‘Idol’

Early favorites leap to the front of the pack on Tuesday's show. By Craig Berman
/ Source: contributor

It was ladies night on the “American Idol” stage on Tuesday, as the men were relegated to sitting in what Randy Jackson termed the "Dawg Pound" and wondering how many times their friends and family had managed to get their votes in before the lines went dead Monday night.

Unlike the men, more of the women decided to liven things up with some upbeat numbers, get the audience involved and show off their personality. But like the men, those who didn't probably left themselves in the most danger to be one of the dreaded bottom two in the audience votes who will be given the boot in front of millions of people Wednesday night. Not that anyone was feeling the pressure…

Vonzell Solomon, 20, Fort Myers, Fla.: Started the evening off with some energy, blasting out "Heat Wave" and getting the audience out of their seats early. The performance was first-rate, and she looked like she was having a lot of fun out there. It was, as Simon called it, "an amazing start to the show."Grade: B+ Stay or go? Solomon definitely was one of the better singers, so talent-wise she should be safe. Her biggest hurdle to overcome will be her position in the competition — going first may mean that too many fans forget all about her when the time to text-message comes.

Amanda Avila, 23, Las Vegas: Immediately brought the house right back to its seats with "How am I supposed to live without you" — the second time in two days someone has sung the song, and the second time the rendition has been very average. She certainly looked nice, though. Simon even said that "In a second life, I want to come back as your microphone," which was 17 different kinds of wrong, even if the program had taken place in her hometown of Las Vegas.Grade: C Stay or go? Based on her performance tonight, Avila's in trouble. She didn't perform badly enough that she's a guaranteed out, but she didn't do herself any favors either, and almost all of the singers that followed her were better.

Janay Castine, 17, Lawrenceville, Ga.: Wow, was she nervous! At 17, she's one of the youngest singers in the competition, and it was hard to tell if her moves onstage were a result of design or panic. A faster song than Jessica Simpson's "I Wanna Love You Forever" might have helped her get going, but instead she slowed herself down, which isn't something the audience really knew what to do with.Grade: D+Stay or go? If people base their votes on this performance, Castine's probably a goner. She's shown a lot more showmanship at other points of the competition, and that might be her lifeline, but even if she makes it through here she'll have to do much better to make the finals.

Carrie Underwood, 21, Checotah, Okla.: It might sound dumb at first since she's seldom seen nowadays except on VH1 retrospectives, but taking a page out of the "Songs once sung by Tiffany" lyric book probably was a great move for Underwood. She sounded great with "Could Have Been So Beautiful," looked incredibly poised on stage — especially following the nerves of Janay Castine — and got Simon to say that she's one of the favorites to win the competition. Besides, is there any doubt that Tiffany would have been an “Idol” contestant had the show been around in the 1980s?Grade: AStay or go? It would be a shock to everyone if Underwood didn't make it to the final 12, much less lost at this early stage. Her only enemy here is the sheer random chance that her supporters are overconfident and don't bother to dial in.

Sarah Mather, 22, Wilmington, N.C.: It's so hard to say bad things about a woman who breaks out the Earth Wind & Fire, but Mather's version of "Get Ready" didn't seem to get her anywhere. She played to the camera like it was her lifeline, and that may wind up having to be the case because the overall performance wasn't that great. She seemed to run out of gas at the end, and none of the judges were overwhelmed.Grade: C-Stay or go? Mather's voice is definitely distinctive, and that along with her playing for the cameras gives her a chance to move on. But it will be an awfully close call, and she'll be one of the women who won't sleep well tonight worrying about it. It would not be a shock at all if the viewers send her packing.

Melinda Lira, 19, Hanford, Calif.: To sing Celine Dion's "The Power of Love," a performer needs the power of a good voice. It was probably too ambitious a pick for the teenager, and she didn't always look comfortable singing it. On the other hand, Randy loved it enough to call her "A Kelly Clarkson in the making," which we can only hope doesn't mean she'll make a dumb film with this season's runner-up.Grade: C+ Stay or go? Lira was far from the best singer, but Randy's support will help. She'll likely stay, but is still in that danger zone.

Nadia Turner, 28, Miami: Turner went out there with the biggest hair in the competition and took the biggest risk by singing Ashley Cleveland's "Power of Love." It paid off huge, and Turner brought the house down. It was the best performance of the night, and Turner needed it because she hasn't gotten as much attention as some of the others thus far.Grade: A+ Stay or go? All three judges will probably quit in disgust if Turner is voted off this week. She'll almost certainly stay.

Celena Rae, 29, Fort Worth, Texas: Rae was hurt by having to follow Nadia Turner's dynamic performance. She sang OK, but the rendition of Lara Fabian's "I Will Love Again" was dull in comparison, and her voice was so low at the beginning of the song that it was difficult to hear. It was a much safer song choice that might have paid off if Turner had struggled, but that fact that she didn't means Rae will definitely lose votes to the other singer in her two-person set.Grade: C+Stay or go? Simon said after the performance that he couldn't tell from that performance, but she "could be good." Rae protested that she was, and Simon responded with a "prove it." While the performance wasn't great, she stands about a 50-50 shot of being able to do just that.

Mikalah Gordon, 17, Las Vegas: Simon said it all when he told her that half the audience would probably love her and the other half would find her annoying. Her version of "Young Hearts Run Free" was great for trying to work the crowd in a casino, but wasn't great for this competition. On the other hand, Gordon played to Randy during this performance after doing the same for Simon at the auditions, so all she has to do is butter up Paula and she's got all her bases covered.Grade: BStay or go? The grade's only that high because of the personality, but that's more than enough for her to move on at this early stage. It would be a tremendous upset if she was one of the bottom two this week.

Lindsey Cardinale, 20, Ponchatoula, La.: If nothing else, Cardinale set an “American Idol” record by wearing nine bracelets on her right wrist. It's a wonder she could even lift the microphone. Her version of Karla Bonoff's "Standing Right Next to Me" was far from her best work, and she would probably be a big risk for eviction if she hadn't shown better skills in the auditions. All of the judges told her she needs to take more chances, which practically caused her to break down in tears.Grade: C+ Stay or go? Not her best performance by a long shot, but also not the worst. Paula said she had a "deep, rich, sexy voice," and that's probably enough for her to advance.

Jessica Sierra, 19, Tampa, Fla.: "Against All Odds" wasn't the best choice for her, and she kind of plodded through it. Sierra does have a nice, husky voice that stands out from some of the others, and a very good stage presence. She'll be hoping that the audience remembers that, because her performance itself was forgettable.Grade: C+ Stay or go? She'd be in much bigger trouble if the judges had slammed her, but they all seemed to hope she'd make it to the next round, and that may save her. If she doesn't get a handle on the nerves, however, she'll be a longshot to advance much further.

Aloha Mischeaux, 19, St. Louis: She began her performance by telling the crowd to stand up and get on its feet, but she could have saved her breath. Mischeaux did that on her own. She broke out the Beyonce, and did a lot more than work it out. It's hard to believe she's just a teenager, since she showed the showmanship of someone with a lot more experience.Grade: A+ Stay or go? Mischeaux benefited from singing last, but made her own luck by nailing her song. She's probably the best bet of anyone here to move on