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Signs point to Bice

Cowell says ‘American Idol’ is his competition to lose. By Craig Berman
/ Source: contributor

Attention, current and former contestants! The judges have heard your excuses, and they would like you to get over it.

Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell spent the first few minutes of Monday's show lambasting those that blamed lack of airtime or subpar songs for their premature ouster. Simon called the airtime thing "a ridiculous excuse. The audience isn't stupid at home. They vote for people who they think can sing."

Randy did the same for the song choice argument, reminding contestants that "you didn't hear Kelly, Ruben, Clay or Fantasia complain about their song choices." Maybe, but that also sounds like something every younger sibling hears once the older child has left home: "Your brother never complained about taking out the garbage!"

But that was about the only real complaining to be had all night, as most of the eight performers came through under the pressure.

For whatever reason, the theme for the day was astrology. Each contestant said a little something about his sign and how it affected them, or at least as good a story about that as they could concoct. As a public service to astrologers everywhere, the signs are provided below.

Scott Savol, 28, Shaker Heights, Ohio: Savol started the day with the song made famous by the Four Tops, "I Can't Help Myself." It was the best he's done so far, and the first time he's really looked like he's having fun out there. On the other hand, it probably didn't do a lot to get the audience to favor him over everyone else.Sign: TaurusGrade: BStay or go? Savol sang very well, but so did everybody else and the intangibles are all against him. He's not one of Simon's favorites, and he got outshone by some of the singers that followed. Going first did him no favors. Two of the men have to go home Wednesday, and it would not be surprising if he were one of them.

Bo Bice, 29, Helena, Ala.: Bice went for something different and sang Edwin McCain's "I'll Be." It was an odd choice, but then again every long-haired singer needs a signature ballad. The judges, per usual loved him. Paula said McCain would be proud, and Simon anointed him as the early favorite.Sign: ScorpioQuote: The generally cranky Simon Cowell interrupted his night of criticisms with, "I think it's your competition to lose."Grade: AStay or go? The judges love Bo Bice. Love him! It's hard to imagine what they would do if the American people voted him off, but it would probably involve outsourcing future votes to other countries. He'll stay.

Anthony Fedorov, 19, Trevose, Pa.: First, he reminded us in the intro that he came to the United States when he was nine years old without knowing English. Then he went with the lyrics of Mark Anthony and "I've Got You." The daring choice was a nice break from the ballads he's sung thus far, and was the best he's done thus far.Sign: TaurusQuote: "You have as much Latin flair as a polar bear." – Simon CowellGrade: A-Stay or go? Despite Simon not buying the whole Anthony-Fedorov-as-a-Latin-heartthrob thing, the other judges were effusive with their praise and he really seemed to nail the performance. He'll make the final 12.

Nikko Smith, 22, Town & Country, Mo.: Smith went with Ray Charles' "Georgia On My Mind." It was a rough start, and looked like he wasn't going to be able to pull it off, but he came through and nailed the finish. He certainly pleased his biggest fan, Paula Abdul who gave him a standing ovation.Sign: TaurusQuote: "I can't imagine the final 12 without you in it." – Paula Abdul.Grade: B+Stay or go? Smith is a question mark only because everyone else also sang very well. But if Paula has any pull at the phone banks, Smith will last a long time.

Travis Tucker, 21, Manassas, Va.: The second-youngest male in the competition said he was feeling the pressure of being one step away from the final 12, and it showed. Simon called him a born performer last week, and perhaps inspired by that he picked Bobby Brown's "Every Little Step." It allowed him to showcase his dance moves, but the vocals just weren't there. Randy gave him an A for performance, and a D for vocals, while Simon called it as good as something you would get in a theme park.Sign: AriesGrade: C-Stay or Go? If Tucker stays in the competition, it won't be because of this performance this week. But it was bad enough — and everyone else was good enough — that he's probably on his way out.

Mario Vazquez, 27, New York: After two weeks of uptempo numbers, Vazquez picked a ballad in "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart," sung previously by many, many people, including former "Idol" winner Ruben Studdard. He took off his trademark hat for the occasion and, as Simon pointed out, the effect was not unlike a boy coming home to meet his girlfriend's parents for the first time. But it worked like a charm, and he showed another aspect to his talent that impressed both the audience and the judges.Sign: GeminiQuote: "It would be a very bad top 12 if you're not in it." – Randy Jackson. Grade: B+Stay or go? It showed a lot of confidence for Vazquez to pick a song like that with a berth in the finals at stake. That confidence was well-placed. He'll make it into the finals.

Constantine Maroulis, 29, New York: Maroulis definitely has the personality of an Idol, which he showed again Monday night with the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." The vocals were fine, but the performance was enough to impress the judges. And he gave the universal symbol for a telephone by his ear while mouthing the words "call me" when he was standing next to Ryan afterwards, which should pass a few extra votes his way.Sign: VirgoGrade: BStay or go? Maroulis and Scott Savol did about the same, and Savol's vocals were probably a little better. But expect Maroulis to stand a little higher in the pecking order, since he's been able to get his personality to shine a little more than his rival's.

Anwar Robinson, 25, Elizabeth, N.J.: Robinson definitely isn't one to pick the easy songs. "What a Wonderful World" is one that almost everyone has heard, thanks to the great Louis Armstrong, and Robinson seemed to struggle out of the gates. But he came through at the finish, and likely secured his place in the final 12.Sign: TaurusQuote: You and Paula should marry and have children." – Simon Cowell. Cowell was referring to how "nice" Robinson seems to be, and comparing him to the similar niceness of his fellow judge. But because this is not "The Bachelor," no ring nor rose was offered.Grade: B+Stay or Go? Robinson has an outstanding voice, which will probably be enough for him to move on. Whether he's a pop star in the making or not … well, the coming weeks will tell that tale.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.