The top 12 girls perform; Randy admits the judges were useless on Tuesday. You're all still beautiful!

By Annie Barrett
March 01, 2012 at 08:55 AM EST
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A few performances into Wednesday’s Ladies’ Night, Randy Jackson admitted that the judges hadn’t done any judging on Tuesday for the Top 13 Guys. “I must say, Ryan” — because Mr. Lythgoe’s been checking the internet again and my NigelNotes are telling me to — “We were a little lenient on some of the boys. Some of them were a little…. Not….”

I’m so glad he clarified that issue so specifically. Good looking out! I knew less right at that moment than I ever had in my entire life. Anwyay, this non-apology apparently licensed Randy, J. Lo, and Steven to go ahead and kill the Top 12 Girls with some deadly watered-down constructive criticism. But does it really matter what the judges say, ever? Let’s get to the performances.

Hot mom alert! Chelsea Sorrell has one. She isn’t one herself — that would have meant much more screentime prior to her first live performance. The country-singing cannon fodder tried Carrie Underwood’s “Cowboy Casanova” and hit a big note at the end, but throughout the rest of the song it seemed like she was playing catch up and was overly aware of any tiny mistakes. I also don’t think she could move in those heels because she kept rooting herself to the ground and just squatting awkwardly. “It SUCKS to go first!” J. Lo announced, as if to seal the poor girl’s fate even further with a sloppy kiss-off.

Did anyone notice that when Ryan tried on Heejun’s glasses, Deandre Brackensick was ALSO wearing glasses? Heyyyyy girl.

It sucks to go second, too, because I’m not sure many voters will have remembered the beautiful (agh, sorry) tone and relaxed confidence of Erika Van Pelt on Heart’s “What About Love.” This was so good! Her voice is always so grounded even when she’s going high, and she looked like she was having so much fun out there — but in a casual, sly, “check out where I am” way instead of in a manic fit like Skylar Laine. But there’s certainly no wrong way for a girl to wanna have fun, and in this week’s sea of nervous nellies it was good to see anyone kick back and go with the flow. J. Flo acknowledged that Erika was “one of our power voices,” but felt she “could have gone a little further…next time let loose on us.” What?! This was one of the loosest performances we’ve seen. Just because it’s not her personal best in Erika’s past, present AND future doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the best performances on the Idol stage all season. That was wack. Randy just couldn’t believe there was a DJ who could sing. “What do you think of that? Dude! I’m saying!” Another great critique by Mr. Jackson.

Esteemed Colleague Email Interlude

Agreed. In any case, Erika far and away wins Best Makeover. Love the straightened hair with kicky red streaks. Work it, girl (give a twirl)!

NEXT: This! is American Adele…. As soon as Ryan said Jen Hirsh would be covering Adele, I knew my love for her had peaked. She has a sweet and dynamic voice and makes interesting tonal choices, but Jen is not a soulful powerhouse on the level of Adele. (Adelevel? No, too awkward.) “One and Only” is just not a song you are allowed to smile through as you sing it. Sorry. She added way too many physical affectations and useless melody changes to the song. Ugh, why would you pick something that makes your voice sound weaker? I don’t get that. Still, Randy complimented Jen: “You got all that swag, R&B, you can do those runs.” Eh. Can she?

I think my favorite part of Jen’s segment was when her family members (who apparently co-own a winery) offered her good luck and they were all on a different rhythm. Cheers!

Brielle Von Hugel, legend in her own mind, often refers to Brielle in the third person. That’s not annoying at all. If you closed your eyes, Brielle might have sounded a bit like Haley Reinhart on Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” For like, ONE SECOND. I couldn’t get into this — I could tell the performance got better during the middle but I couldn’t get past Brielle’s bizarre sexyface mugging combined with awkward, plodding vocals to start off the song. Once she got going, she could at least engage well with the crowd — which J. Lo loved. “You’re not one of the biggest voices in the competition, but you understand what it is to entertain,” Jennifer said, and I trust her because she would know. But I disagree that people underestimate Brielle. I think people mostly just want Brielle’s loudmouth stage mom Mrs. Von Hugeturd to go away.

Then Randy compared Brielle to Janis Joplin and I almost flipped the channel. But then I was like, “Oh, man, I was like YO,” and remembered that I had a job to do.

Hallie Day‘s intro segment was mega dullsville, but then she made up for it by having the most amazing closeup at the start of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” Not everyone can pull off sultry without embarrassing themselves — she’s just naturally, genuinely sexy as she’s singing. She should stay away from touching the audience members, though — outstretched 13-year-old arms don’t really fit in with that vibe. Anyway, I love Hallie’s voice but as soon as she stops singing, the old Hollywood sensuality seems to shut off and she just becomes a a statue of Debbie Harry. Which is beautiful — just beautiful; you’re all beautiful — but I’m just not sure it’s what American Idol voters want to vote for. If only they knew! Statues of Debbie Harry are awesome.

Randy bothered me with his weird insistence on figuring out exactly what type of artist Hallie would be RIGHT THEN. It’s the first live show and they obviously kept her for a reason, so why not just give her a chance to figure it out along the way just like everyone else? I honestly think Randy brought this up so that he could name-drop Lana Del Rey of all people in the most cringe-inducing way imaginable: “I was just kind of tripping a little bit thinking what kind of artist you could be. Lana Del Rey’s doing her thing…sorta interestingly.”

WHAT?

Meanwhile, J. Lo couldn’t believe another girl had dared to wear pants on prom night.

Angelina J. Lolie? Is that you?

NEXT: Skylar Laine nearly explodes out of her tight dress in the name of funI’ve never been too enamored by the country singers on Idol, but Skylar Laine may have converted me with her ridiculous amount of energy during Faces’ “Stay With Me.” I’ve never seen a contestant so desperate to get people to have fun that she ends up simulating her own mental breakdown, but somehow this really worked for Skylar. She’s just kind of doing her own crazy thing and not trying to politely copy other country artists. That could be what ends up driving non-country fans to vote for country contestants. (Not that they’ll ever need those votes.) Maybe this was just a fluke and the next time Skylar performs I will find her antics to be much, much, much too much. Sure. Probably. A change is gonna come. But for now, she’s pretty funny — and as long as the live wires can sing, I think it’s good to have them around as long as possible.

I can’t tell which was more tragic: Baylie Brown‘s dull, often pitchy rendition of Lonestar’s “Amazed” or the fact that her grandpa seemed to be just as bored with her in her hometown footage as we were after that performance. Steven’s commentary really said it all: “Wow, Baylie. I’m not sure it’s the best song you could have picked for tonight. But I enjoyed it and you’re very pretty.” Luckily all of the judges agreed that Baylie looked amazing in her long red pageant gown. But in the immortal words of Randy Jackson, “Uhhhhhh. Yeahhhhh…..”

Thanks Dawg. I enjoyed that and you’re very pretty.

Cue music! The dead-eyed aftermath of Brown vs. the Bored of Judgication left a wide-open door for tiny bright-eyed woodland creature Hollie Cavanagh to blow us all away with Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection.” I loved how she was able to power it up on “the reason why” and the long high note (“insiiiiiiiiide!”) but then pull it back and be perfectly composed to do a much softer final line. For some reason I almost cried as she grinned gratefully at the audience. She’s so little! She reminded me of Robyn (only in appearance) with her short-as-heck stature and short-as-hell dress. “She’s gonna be one of our frontrunners,” proclaimed J. Lo. “I hope you let your hair down next time,” said Steven, and yes he did mean that literally. “You slayed the biggest dragon,” said Randy, clearly picturing American Idol and The Voice facing off in a legendary dungeon duel. Hmmm…if Xtina is the dragon, does that make Adam Levine the princess?

Only Randy was honest after Haley Johnsen massacred the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” calling it “a bit of a nightmare instead of a dream.” In a way, her disastrous performance mirrored the brief tumbling pass Haley had attempted during her hometown footage. She made some competent twists and turns mid-air, but in the end we couldn’t quite make out her landing behind the American Idol logo in the corner. It was way existential.

Anyway, I agree that this was a disaster, but I have a feeling it would be legitimately delightful if someone randomly “pulled a Haley Johnsen” one night at karaoke. Imagine: You’re drunk, you sit back, you take another sip, and suddenly a cute blonde dressed in her half-assed Stevie Nicks Halloween costume gets up and caterwauls this reimagining of “Sweet Dreams.” Come on, it’d be great! Hold your head up! You’re hammered. Movin’ on.

NEXT: The father of the bride used to play baseball Is “16-year-old volleyball player Shannon Magrane” the new “high school student Aaron Kelly”? I’ll ask Ryan as soon as he’s done flirting with Shannon’s famous baseball dad. Joe’s daughter donned her finest white wedding dress to sing “Go Light Your World,” a Christian song from 1995. This was either a brilliant move or Shannon just blew it. You never know. Well, sometimes you do. The Bride of Franckewitz (imagine the height difference!) hit a strong high note at the end but ultimately delivered a performance almost as boring as Baylie Brown’s. Still, Randy told Shannon she’d “come out swinging.” HA, HA, HA, baseball. Next.

“Teenage powerhouse” Jessica Sanchez got a special Get Coked Up With Ryan Seacrest interview before her performance, so she could warn everyone that her vocal cords had become swollen over the last week. Nonsense! Jessica was pitch-perfect on Jennifer Hudson’s “I Love You I Do.” Her lower register (the one that started out the song) is much weaker than her terrific higher range, but once she got going this turned into of the most memorable songs of the week. I agree with Steven that the very studied Jessica (she’s been doing this since she was 5!) has “exceptional timing,” and I know exactly what J. Lo meant when she gushed over Jessica’s bodily punctuation on the ends of her phrases. For me, for you, dawgs — I usually find this sort of perfectly timed gesturing too corny for my tastes. But I was excited enough by Jessica’s vocals to get over that. It is a singing competition, after all, and she’s young, cute, hungry, and loves to shop at the mall. I can see her winning it.

If you had decided based on Eben and Jen Hirsh’s performances that the Adele songbook should be banned from Idol, there’s a decent chance that Elise Testone may have changed your mind. She convinced me, at least, that covering Adele is fine as long as there’s a significant growl factor combined with vocal acuity. Without the growl, you’ll just seem like a wimp. Anyway, Elise picked “One and Only,” likely edging out Jen Hirsh as only one of them could pull it off. I didn’t like the hard r’s she dragged out on “scared” and “before,” and her voice cracked pretty hard while she was still sitting at the piano. Plus there were pitch issues aplenty, especially if you isolated the audio here. Even so, this was a really good showcase for the dynamics of Elise’s bluesy voice and what she could potentially do with it. J. Lo called her “maybe the best singer here.”

Also, hello:

ROOM. SERVICE. FLOWERS. New fave.

My Top 5: Elise Testone, Hollie Cavanagh, Skylar Laine, Jessica Sanchez, and Erika Van Pelt — with Hallie Day as the Wild Card.

Which five girls do you think will (or more importantly, SHOULD) make it through?

‘Til tonight — sleep tight.

.

Read more:

Did the Top 12 Girls outperform the Top 13 Guys?

Tuesday’s ‘Idol’ recap: 13 Men and a Confused Baby’s Nipple

Watch Hollie Cavanagh’s season 10 audition — VIDEO

Watch Baylie Brown’s season 6 audition here — VIDEO

Deandre Brackensick, Jessica Sanchez early frontrunners for hairography, cuteness

Jermaine Jones returns to ‘Idol’ for an ‘incredible second chance’

‘Idol’: Get to know the Top 24 — PHOTO GALLERY

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Ask Annie anything about ‘Idol’ (or whatever) in the video player below. To see her answers to previous questions, click on the text links below the picture.

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