Now just the girls. After being somewhat nonplussed by the Top 13 guys’ performances, I’m ready for the ladies to kill it. I’m hoping there’s a mix of song choices this year, rather than the ever-popular slough of ballads. I think the crowd favorites going into tonight are Skylar Laine and Jen Hirsh, maybe Shannon Magrane. The other girls haven’t made much of an impression, at least not on the editing team that compiled the auditions up through Las Vegas. I think I might be rooting for Jessica Sanchez and Erika Van Pelt, just based on the snippets of their solo performances we’ve seen. Basically, it’s still anyone’s game and it’s the girls’ opportunity now to give us something to get excited about.

There’s also a Baylie, a Hailey, a Holly, and a Hallie and I am not sure I know the difference yet. Parents, whatever happened to nice, sensible names like Anne and Jane? Or even fancy names like Ermengarde? No one would dare bully an Ermengarde. But similar names and hair colors aside, let’s get to it.

Vote for your favorite girl in the BuddyTV Top 12 Girls showdown here.

“Is one of these faces our first female winner in FIVE seasons?” Ryan Seacrest asks, leading me to believe that we may just elect a sixth male winner. They just don’t make ’em like they make Fantasia Barrino anymore. But it’s Leap Day, so anything can happen! Sadie Hawkins Day! For ladies!

Ryan introduces the Top 12 Girls as “some of the most buzzed about people in the nation,” and I’m not sure that’s true, either. He is just full of half-truths tonight. A lot of the girls are wearing prom dresses, so I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a selection of ballads tonight (I’m looking at you, Shannon Magrane!).

lineofpromqueens.jpgOnly one can be queen!

Up first is Chelsea Sorrell, who needs to work extra hard to be memorable because we don’t know her very well. She is one of many country singers amongst the girls this season, and is singing “Cowboy Cassanova” by Carrie Underwood to celebrate all things Idol. Her voice is a little nasal, and her vibrato is a little too fast, but I think that’s how Carrie started out on her own season, so anything can happen. She was also a little flat on this song at times. She seemed nervous, but wouldn’t you be?

Chelseaseemsnervous.jpg“I mean listen, you definitely can sing … I just wonder if that was the best choice,” Randy says, eliciting a boo from the audience. Oh, and that girl behind Randy’s right shoulder needs to be put down.
“It sucks to go first,” Jennifer Lopez noted, after commenting on Chelsea’s nasal tendencies. I don’t know if tonight is Chelsea’s night. She didn’t really win me over with that performance.

I definitely enjoyed Heejun and Phillip’s choice to be blankly cheery behind Ryan Seacrest. It’s good fun!

Up next, it’s Erika Van Pelt! She’s a DJ and she’s over it. I like her because she seems like she could hang, you know? She’s singing “What About Love?” by Heart, a song you may recognize from Swiffer commercials. Terrible, I know, but true. Her voice sounds amazing, though, I would very much like to see her rock some more 80’s power ballads and then some. Jennifer said Erika is one of their powerful voices and she felt like she might have held back a bit, but she seemed very comfortable on stage. Agreed. Song well sung! I think they told that girl behind Randy to stop.

Jen Hirsh! Has she gotten so much time in episodes prior that they felt OK putting her third? She’s singing “One and Only” by Adele. This is going to be a season chock full of Adele songs, I’d wager. Happily, Jen is a great singer and can actually carry an Adele song! She’s belting out and leaving nothing behind tonight, and I appreciate that. I’m glad she went for it, rather than playing it safe, even if it got a little crazy for a second there. Jennifer said Jen went for it, and Steven told her “you got it. You got what it takes.” Randy likes Jen’s swag. I like that she is so much taller than Ryan.

JentheGiant.jpgThen, Randy admitted that they were too lenient on the guys last night! Due to first night excitement! I have never been more proud of Randy Jackson. The dawg is telling it like it is!

Brielle Von Hugel sings next and I can’t really stand her yet, but at least her mom isn’t on stage with her (“Brielle’s the next American Idol! NEW YAWK!” her mom says). Brielle starts her performance of “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding sitting amongst the Top 13 Guys. It got weird really quickly, particularly when she sang “wastin’ tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime” all lounge-y. The judges seemed to like it, though, so I must be biased against her because of her off-putting mother. NEW YAWK! Also, a terrible dress. But the judges loved it all. I think Ryan likes her, too.

After Ryan dragged a stage manager in front of the camera like a Lifetime Movie serial killer, we met Hallie Day. She’s singing “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone, or Michale Buble if you prefer. This song is easy to vamp up, so it’s actually a good choice for your introduction to the voting audience. I think she could have put a little more verve into it, though. She didn’t seem totally committed. She IS pretty, though, and her notes were all spot on. Randy did not applaud. “You looked beautiful, you sounded beautiful,” a bored J. Lo told Hallie. Yes, she certainly is beautiful. Randy asked her what kind of artist she wanted to be, and she gave him a non-answer about singing from the heart. At least Randy got a very relevant Lana Del Rey dig in there! Very topical, Randy.

hallielanadelrey.jpgDid you forget that Skylar Laine likes to ride ATVs and hunt? If you did, American Idol will happily remind you many times over. She’s so cute, though, and she wants to save the family store. She’s the Reba one, who won my heart singing “Fancy.” This time she’s singing “Stay With Me” by Faces. I know that already people are wanting to dislike Skylar, but I think she’s darling and has amazing stage presence. Girl knows how to perform and I love watching her! She has total command of the stage, and it’s exciting. That’s it, I like her! Randy was excited too, he loves her energy and star quality. Yup, she’s got it. “You’re a pistol. Keep it up,” Steven said.

skylarslays.jpgBaylie Brown is another country girl, but I’d hate to be the country girl who followed that performance. Look how darling her grandpa is, just making her those eggs, with absolutely no idea what this “American Idle” thing is. She has opted for “Amazed” by Lonestar. Yerrrgh. Oh, the notes are all over the place, too, there’s not enough control and it sounds … lurchy? It was not great. The judges agreed that Baylie is … very pretty. Jennifer thought she could have had a better moment, and Randy said it had a lot of problems. Well, bless her heart.

Baylieyikes.jpgHollie Cavanagh is from McKinney, TX, but it sounds like she has an accent. Or is it a slight speech impediment? Best not to mention it, I suppose. When I heard she was singing Christina Aguilera, I was hoping it would be “Come On Over,” but no, it is “Reflections” by Christina Aguilera (and from Mulan). Mi Reflejo! Girl is a great singer, but this song is a little weird to choose. It’s a little Disney Parks. But she nailed it. I’d like to hear more from her, definitely. Steven was right, she hit the notes so perfectly that she destroyed the song and left nothing but passion. Jennifer thinks she is one of the frontrunners. Randy tried to get his comment out, but was too fixated on how Jennifer accidentally said “do do.”

holiextina.jpgWho are you, Haley Johnsen? She’s from Oregon and she has bangs. We know this. She’s singing “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics. That’s a cool choice, although maybe not the best for showing off vocal ability. It did get weird almost instantly with the lighting designer way too excited to finally use his “blinking eye” effect.

bewaretheblink.jpgShe mostly just riffed over the track, confirming that it was not the best choice to introduce herself. Good for her, though, for doing something different. “You really do have skills,” Jennifer said to Haley, and to America. 
“Ummmm, uhhh … it was a bit of a nightmare for me,” Randy said. Love you, Randy!
Time to bring in some star power: Joe Magrane! Ryan is making way too big a deal out of that thing Steven said in the audition about daughter Shannon Magrane. Something about Shannon I do not care for (she seems affected, maybe?). but maybe she’ll change my mind tonight in her long, white prom dress, singing “Go Light Your World” by Kathy Troccoli. Is this a church song? If not, she definitely took it there. Yuck, just not my taste at all. But her voice sounded good I guess? Oh my god goodness, it is a Jesus song. And now I’m treading dangerous waters. The judges loved it and admire her 16-year-old passion. God, that dress. She tells Ryan that the song was “in her soul.” And now I realize why I don’t like her. She reminds me of this really obnoxiously chaste and religious girl from my high school. But Shannon can’t help that, so I’ll try not to hold it against her.

shannonworldpeace.jpg“First of all, world peace,”

Up next is Jessica Sanchez! We haven’t seen much of Jessica, and we may not hear very much from her either because she’s sick. Oh, I hope it goes well because I love “Love You I Do” from Dreamgirls. You can tell that the voice is there, even though she sounded a bit hesitant at times. Her performance made me nervous, and that’s better than bored. I really like her, I hope she at least gets a shot at the Wild Card if this performance doesn’t put her through. But she killed it! The judges and boys all stood up for her and she was adorable reacting to that. “That confidence, that control! How old IS she!” Randy exclaimed. She is SICKENING (in a very positive, drag queen way).

Elise Testone is giving us one last Adele song for the road. Did you see how many dogs her family has? That’s too many dogs. ALSO singing “One and Only” by Adele, Elise Testone sits at the piano. I’m not sure how I feel about the way she emphasizes her hard “R’s” but at least she’s not trying to sound just like Adele, which no one can do. Her voice broke at the top, and it wasn’t as exciting as Jessica’s performance, but I like that you can tell Elise is feeling what she sings. I like her enough to want her to stay, for sure. The judges liked it, and appreciated that it was bluesy and from the heart. Apparently she almost cried, which endears her to me even more because she’s connecting emotionally to the music. The judges all hope America “gets it.” Uh oh, we’d better vote to prove we do!

Who surprised you tonight? Who won you over? Can you believe that two girls sang the same Adele song? Whose version did you like better?

(images courtesy of FOX)

Carla Patton

Writer, BuddyTV

Originally from Seattle, Carla recently took a husband and moved to Austin, Texas, where she is finally using her television “problem” to her advantage. It’s sort of like Dexter, but boring and less murdering. Carla’s favorite shows include 30 RockThe Amazing RaceProject RunwayModern Family, anything with murder, and pretty much anything gross and weird (CSIThe BachelorToddlers & Tiaras, etc.). Favorite canceled shows include: Arrested DevelopmentVeronica Mars and Average Joe. In her spare time, Carla leads tours of downtown Austin on a Segway (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!), blogs about Netflix Instant, and visits elementary schools telling children they don’t need math to succeed (just kidding, stay in school, kids).