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Crystal Bowersox, Lilly Scott Own the Stage on “American Idol”

Though Tuesday’s “American Idol” finally brought two one-time frontrunners out of their shells, it was the consistent female standouts that ultimately stole the show.

Those individuals–Crystal Bowersox and Lilly Scott–were leagues above the rest of the competition and, barring some massive surprise, should enter the Top 12 with serious momentum.

If forced to select the night’s top performer, one would nonetheless find himself favoring Bowersox. The soulful singer absolutely nailed “Give Me One Reason,” injecting a surplus of emotion into the song as she took the vocals to a place they have never been. Simon Cowell once criticized Bowersox for resembling the average subway performer, and while there might have been some merit at the time, Crystal made it clear Tuesday that she is the real deal. From having a genuine identity to showcasing an edgy and effective voice to connecting passionately with the audience, she simply has been the most successful female performer to date.

Lilly Scott was not, however, far behind. Her quirky rendition of “I Fall to Pieces” was executed brilliantly, with the right combination of bluesy vocals and confident crowd interaction. Her song choices and overall style steer her clear of the mainstream, which always puts a contestant at risk of scoring with the mass voting audience, but from a talent perspective, she is easily one of the best contestants of either gender in the competition. Unlike so many of the females who have simply tried to emulate the 21st century jazz style that has brought success to singers like Duffy and Adele, Scott has her own style that is both genuine and controlled.

While Crystal and Lilly had the clear standout performances, it was not as if there were not other strong showings. Further, for the first time of the season, the judges were generally on the ball–absent were the blatant contradictions or wildly inconsistent critiques.

The only instance of the judges dropping the ball was on Didi Benami’s “Rhiannon.”

A mistake should not be made regarding that statement–Didi’s vocals were solid and absolutely gorgeous at various points. Nonetheless, the performance itself came across as detached and even painful at times–it is hard to see what made this so much better than her week one “The Way I Am.” Having clearly borrowed her entire look from Taylor Swift, Benami also mirrored the country-pop phenomenon’s “deer-in-headlights” facial expressions and stiff overall performance style. While the vocals were much better, one comparing Didi’s take on this song and Swift’s critically-panned Grammy rendition would have a tough time arguing that Benami came across like a better stage performer. And to win “American Idol,” one does need to outdo Taylor Swift from a performance standpoint.

The judges’ extraordinarily positive reaction will, however, do wonders for Didi. After generating buzz in Hollywood, Benami’s limped through the semifinals. On the first night in which she probably could have been in jeopardy, she earned a “wow” from Simon and absolutely secured herself a spot in the Top 12.

Lacey Brown, who, like Didi, has thus far failed to live up to the reputation she built in Hollywood, also made a big impact with “The Story.” There were still moments in which Lacey’s voice came across as “whiny,” and her awful choice of lipstick was rather distracting, but she definitely found a song that allowed her unique tone to click. Lacey’s haunting version of “What a Wonderful World” made a huge impact in Hollywood, and she again showed how instrumental her voice can be in making a song resonate. She did not own the performance the way Crystal and Lilly did, but this was a great rebound for her.

Siobhan Magnus, one of the weirdest contestants ever on “Idol,” continues to also be one of the show’s toughest to judge. Her vocals on “The House of the Rising Sun” were haunting and emotionally-loaded at times, but they were quite flawed and detrimental at others. Similarly, while she appears dialed into the lyrics and capable of conveying feeling, she absolutely has a tendency to get a bit blank, lost and predictable on stage. What it ultimately meant is that while Siobhan showed she has the power to be a true force in this competition, the performance was a bit too uneven to secure her a place as a frontrunner. But how voters will situate her as the competition gets more heated remains anyone’s guess.

Not all the performances were good. The night’s worst, unfortunately, involved a contestant who was on the verge of becoming a true force.

After entertaining the judges two weeks in a row, Paige Miles absolutely bombed on “Smile.” A song brought back into pop culture via a beautiful rendition on “Glee,” the classic just did not suit Miles at all. Paige never seemed emotionally connected, and from a vocally standpoint, the word “shaky” cannot even begin to describe how it went. Paige seriously appeared to be shivering at times, totally messing up the vocals and totally removing herself from the top of the pack.

Katelyn Epperly’s fall from grace was nearly as dramatic. After shocking the world last week with a mature version of “The Scientist” that put everyone on alert, she hit the stage with a brutal, “karaoke” version of “I Feel the Earth Move.” The vocals were passable, but the facials and stage antics were excessively gimmicky and the whole thing just failed to leave an impression–this was not a star’s performance. Most unfortunate about the performance is that Katelyn described this performance as her answer to Simon’s note that last week’s take on “Coldplay” was “corny.” “Corny,” interestingly, is probably the most apt adjective for describing this week’s performance.

It is impossible not to root for Katie Stevens. Unlike so many precocious young contestants in the past, the charming Katie Stevens actually looks and acts her age. Unfortunately, that positive becomes a negative when it comes time to own the stage. She again showed no ability to internalize a song, stumbling through a mediocre rendition of “Breakaway” that had far more vocal low points than high points. A contestant like Katie always goes in with a slight edge due to her rapport with youth voters, but as she is the only female remaining in the competition who has not yet had even ONE strong performance, she could be in trouble this week.

Headline Planet’s Top 8 Females Ranking:
Ranking based on performance quality, not on likelihood of elimination.
1) Crystal
2) Lilly
3) Lacey
4) Didi
5) Siobhan
6) Katelyn
7) Katie
8) Paige

Written by Brian Cantor

Brian Cantor is the editor-in-chief for Headline Planet. He has been a leading reporter in the music, movie, television and sporting spaces since 2002.

Brian's reporting has been cited by major websites like BuzzFeed, Billboard, the New Yorker and The Fader -- and shared by celebrities like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj.

Contact Brian at brian.cantor[at]


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  1. It is absurd that Lilly was kicked off. It made sense though, coz the voters are mostly young kids who listen to mainstream music in the likes of miley cyrus, jonas bros., stuff like that. It’s a real shame and it just concludes that no real talented musicians will ever will this show.

  2. I agree. i’m devastated that Lilly is out. She’s my fav and shld be in the top 3. She’s very talented, unique and interesting. Hope she gain some support to make an album for her fans.

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