The feeling's right as the girls take on their solos. Plus: Top 40 announcement!

By Annie Barrett
Updated February 15, 2013 at 05:39 AM EST
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Credit: Fox

American Idol is not f—ing around. A girl WILL win this season, they’ll have you know — and the three ladies you love the most so far and will support throughout season 12 with all your being are Angela Miller, Candice Glover, and Janelle Arthur. Votes for anyone else will go right into the trash!

Not really, but wow, heavy-handed much? This episode was light on the performance footage of the girls’ solos and concluded with some desperate and wonky sing-offs between two guys (oh hey guys, how’s that holding cell been treating you for the past week?) and two girls at the end. We have an official Top 40 contestants — 20 guys and 20 girls. I’ll list them at the end of this recap.

Angela Miller had a serious breakout moment — one of the best of the series, I’d say — with her original tune “You Set Me Free.” NIcki Minaj had to change her attitude after a severe eye roll at Angela’s intro (“This song is about being set free from baggage and from the weight you carry from hard times”) — Nicki eventually admitted to her partners in crime that the song sounded like it could be in the Top 40.

“If that was recorded right there, I would play that in my cahhhh,” drooled Keith Urban. I love how into it Keith gets! And truly this was a stunner from Angela, her voice building along with the song in just the mere minute or so we saw of it. Excellent work.

Randy kept piping up with helpful commentary during the song — he yelped “Really!” about five times. Excellent work all around, really.

I’m sure many of the other Top 20 girls sang well during the solo round — what the heck did Jenny Beth Willis, Adriana Latonio, or Amber Holcomb sing during this round, I wonder? And also, who are they? But we got a spotlight performance from Janelle Arthur again, who maintained her steady, gorgeous but not overpowering country vocal on “I Told You So” and put the judges in such a hypnotic state that Nicki had to repeat “Janelle” 13 times to snap out if it.

NEXT: Which girl is on fi-yahhhhhhhhh? Then Candice Glover took on Alicia Keys’ “Girl On Fire” — I wasn’t wowed, to be honest, in that she’s been mentioned so much I expected something astounding to happen during her solo. But she made some excellent pitch choices, enough to twist the song into her something she owned during some moments. During others it seemed like the song was containing her in a somewhat awkward way. I like her so much, I almost wish she could “come from behind” as the underdog this season. (That might be Kree Harrison’s job; see below.) But that’s fine — better to be shown at all, I suppose. And don’t get me wrong — she’s excellent.

I may as well start referring to Zoanette Johnson as Rude Gallagher because her audition with an original eloquently entitled “Ba Ba Da Duuhhh Dub” was basically “performance comedy” that some people may find amusing but most would be like WHAT? NO. She got up there and “went on the drums and we just winged it,” said Zoanette, the band scowling incredulously behind her as she barked out orders. She’s got so much spirit! But where was the singing? Who cares if she can (not) play the drums? I still have no idea if she could turn in a real vocal performance that isn’t just screeching. Maybe we’ll never know?

“WHERE MAH STICK AT?” was the climax of that “song,” and also the best line. The other lines she thought up on the spot, and they referred to her surroundings. I think we can all rest assured Mariah Carey was not amused when Nicki and Randy got lengthy, slobbering affirmations of their existences and then all Mimi got was “And then there was Mariah….” Burn! And also, a major burn on the scores of talented vocalists who got cut so that Rude Gallagher may prank us all again.

Maybe she’ll turn out to be a real singer and we’ll all fall in love with her during this nebulous, three-week-long Vegas round! Probably not.

Shubha Vedula inspired Mariah to sing along with her fingers during her cover of “When You Believe,” providing the diva with “a nice moment for me, personally.” I know we were all on the edges of our seats waiting for the moment per episode during which Mariah would be the most flattered. Kudos to Shubha! Then Juliana Chahayed — have we ever seen her before? — sang a snippet of “Landslide,” apparently one of Nicki Minaj’s favorite songs. Juliana is only 15 and reminds me a bit of Arya Stark from Games of Thrones, in the face. Anyone else see it?

NEXT: Oof, Kez BanI just want to pretend Kez Ban‘s Hollywood Round performances never happened and that she ended up missing her flight or something, because that initial audition of hers was sooooo perfect. Suffering from a cold, she tried another original, “I’m Flyin’ on a Cloud,” and it just sounded terrible. The judges didn’t even want her to stand in line again to receive her death sentence. On the upside, Kez Ban has most definitely made her mom, a huge fan of the show, proud. And now she’s a boomer! Turns out, all the quirk monster ever wanted was a steady job. Mission accomplished.

Oh, and my favorite line of the episode was actually from Kez Ban, as Zoanette dragged her kicking and screaming into a tacky mall store called Love Story — “There’s better stores, man!” Ha!

Ashlee Feliciano ended up getting eliminated following what I thought was a beautiful cover of “Tin Man,” having had the misfortune of landing just on the shadowy side of a Randy Jackson mood swing. Randy couldn’t stand all these sad songs, dawg. “Music is fun, come on!” It all seemed like a massive setup for Melinda Ademi to bounce out, all sprite-like, and brighten everyone’s day with the upbeat “Price Tag.” She’s good, but I think she’ll be more of a visually spot-on contestant — with those leather shorts over knee-high boots, 90-lb. frame and a propensity for deep squats, she’s just what American Idol is looking for. That she can sing well is just an enhancement. Or maybe her voice will turn out to be huge on other songs! I’d love to see that happen.

Enter a dark horse! This was probably the perfect episode for Kree Harrison to make a first major impact with her stirring cover of Grace Potter’s “Stars.” The Nashville girl has such a unique timber to her voice and, as Mariah pointed out, “something that feels genuine” about her performance. In one of the more obnoxious moments of the evening, Nicki mentioned “the authenticity behind” Kree’s performance and Mariah CUT HER OFF but only to repeat what she had already said…about how that’s what she had meant. We know what both words mean, lady! There’s no need to teach us about synonyms.

Meanwhile, Keith kept marveling at/rubbing his goosebump-riddled forearms. Yes!

NEXT: Which 20 guys and 20 girls made the Top 40?And now for some sad sing-offs: Stephanie Schimel, the Barbie, had to battle Rachel Hale, the Bubbly, for the final spot in the girls’ Top 20. What’s awesome is that they chose two former Idols’ songs — Phillip Phillips’ “Home” for Steph vs. Haley Reinhart’s “Undone” for Rachel. I thought Barbie showed way more control than Bubbly here, but the judges obviously admired that Bubbly didn’t play it safe and had the bigger voice. Stephanie had really grown on me by the end. How can Zoanette go through while Stephanie has to pack her tiny doll bags and head home to the Malibu dream house? Not fair.

Then the boys trotted back onstage — buzzkill! they all look about 14 and super awkward — so that Adam Sanders (“Taking Chances”) could take on Josh Holiday (“Georgia On My Mind”). Adam was mind-numbingly off-key despite his obvious knowledge of music and sweet demeanor. C’est tragique! Not to be outdone, Josh gave a mediocre vocal performance but SPLIT HIS PANTS with a totally unnecessary kneel at the end of freaking “Georgia on My Mind.” In a way it was a relief, because I’d been wondering in horror whether he was wearing white jeans. Nope, just some bright-ass khakis. He gets to stay. Nicki will never forget what happened here. But America will. Likely by next week.

Here are your Top 40!

TOP 20 GIRLS

Adriana Latonio

Amber Holcomb

Angela Miller (pictured)

Aubrey Cleland

Brandy Hotard

Breanna Steer

Candice Glover

Cristabel Clack

Isabelle Pasqualone

Janelle Arthur

Jenny Beth Willis

Jett Hermano

Juliana Chahayed

Kamaria Ousley

Kree Harrison

Melinlda Ademi

Rachel Hale

Shubha Vedula

Tenna Torres

Zoanette Johnson

TOP 20 GUYS

Bryant Tadeo

Burnell Taylor

Charlie Askew

Chris Watson

Cortez Shaw

Curtis Finch, Jr.

David Willis

Devin Velez

Elijah Liu

Gurpreet Singh Sarin

Jimmy Smith

Johnny Keyser

Josh “J’DA” Davila

Josh Holiday

Kevin Harris

Lazaro Arbos

Mathenee Treco

Nick Boddington

Paul Jolley

Vincent Powell

So who’s your favorite so far? Do you also want to bottle up Keith’s positive energy and use it daily as a life-affirming, pore-defying serum? Who do you think will crash and burn in Vegas?

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American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

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