The search for the next American Idol intensified as the first twelve semi-finalists showed America and the world a combination of brilliant singing skills and lackluster performances.
When asked to give advice to the Idol contestants, new American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi stressed: "You gotta forget your nerves...Be yourself and go for it." Paula Abdul added, "You gotta make magic at center stage." The male judges Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson agreed with these observations.
New Yorker Jackie Tone was first to perform from her batch; her edgy performance of an Elvis Presley original was classified "entertaining" by the judges.
Twenty-one-year old single mom Alexis Grace performed an Aretha Franklin number "I Never Loved a Man" with much ardor. "You worked it out," says Randy. Kara stated "The genie is out of the bottle. I love it. You did a great job." Simon admiringly commented, "Alexis, by a mile, you are the best contestant. She reminds me of Kelly Clarkson of Season 1."
It will be recalled that Kelly was the first winner of the reality singing competition.
Noticeably good performances came from Ricky Braddy, "Anoop Dog in the House" Anoop Desai and Michael Sarver. They performed "A Song For You," "Angel of Mine," and "I Don't Want To Be," respectively.
Others were particularly "forgettable." Those from Brent Keith, Stevie Wright, Casey Carlson, Ann Marie Boscovich, Steven Fowler and Tatiana del Toro weren't jaw dropping numbers.
Danny Gokey's rendition of "Hero" literally saved the night and tugged at the judges' heart strings. Kara says of his performance: "The redeemer of the night. Danny, you are the hero, man. You gave us hope."
The top three contestants who garnered the highest viewer votes automatically become part of magic circle of 12 Idol finalists who will compete tooth and nail to become the next American Idol.
First called to be part of the Final 12 is "dark horse" Alexis Grace. Roughneck Michael Sarver's golden chance of being the next American Idol was further strengthened as he was chosen to be finalist number two.
The last slot was a toss between "drama queen" Tatiana del Toro of Puerto Rico and church musical director Danny Gokey from Milwaukee. America's vote went to Danny.
Semi-finalists including Tatiana del Toro and the rest may still have another chance to be part of the Final 12. After the first nine finalists are selected via viewer voting, the last three finalists will be picked by the four judges following a wild card round on March 5.
Catch American Idol Season 8 every Wednesday and Thursday at Q Channel 11. Show starts at 6 pm with a replay scheduled at 8:30 pm.