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'American Idol': Top 8 women perform

We're back for another installment of American Idol. Tonight, the Top 8 women will perform. (And around here, we'll be seeing whether Fort Meade's Lakisha Jones took the style advice offered in this story today.)

Ryan says the drama is about to begin -- and then notes that Paula is missing. Maybe she's recording more bits for TV news morning shows with garbled connections! Looks like she made it.

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Jordin Sparks says football is a huge part of her life. She sings Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker." She rocks it out -- but as usual, I think it would be better without the backup singers. Randy says it's weird because "it's like a different show when the girls come out." He says it wasn't even her best performance but that it was still a million times better than any of the guys' attempts last night. Paula says she brought a ton of energy and she's "exploding coming in to your own artistry [sic]." Simon says he isn't as enthusiastic, that it was a little manic, a little shrieky, but she's done well and shown personality, though it wasn't her strongest performance.

Ryan interviews Gina and Sabrina in the red room, and Gina's outfit looks like it was attacked by wolves before the show.

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Sabrina Sloan says she wanted to be Katie Couric when she was in high school, but she much prefers singing. Speaking of which, she sings "Don't Let Go," by En Vogue, but it's a little ... sharp, maybe? She does end with a killer long note. Randy says it was another solid performance even though he didn't love it. Paula says she's consistent and her voice soars and "pierces through." Simon says she's a great singer, but that it was lacking the emotion in "your main competitors, which are Lakisha, Melinda, Stephanie." He compares it to a "hotel resort performance." People must burst into song whenever Simon is around. Or else I don't go to the right hotels, resorts, weddings or parties.

Antonella Barba says her secret talent is that she plays the violin. (I will abstain from commenting about her current Internet-photo controversy because the joke is just too easy.) She sings Corinne Bailey Rae's "Girl, Put Your Records On." She has Phil Stacey syndrome, wherein her lower register just isn't quite right. But she is still better than her previous two performances. Randy says that was a good song choice, and a good ending, but pitchy in the middle, and that she doesn't seem to quite believe in herself. He says she is a better singer than she has shown. Paula says it was the right song for her, but she needs to watch out for the bottom notes. Simon says, "You've gone as far as you can go. ... You are surrounded by some pretty amazing girl singers, and I don't know how much more you can do, to be honest with you. ... I feel for you because you have taken a lot of stick in the media, and you've handled yourself well throughout. ... But I'm not going to patronize you here. It wasn't your worst. ... I just wish you could sing better." Wow. Ryan asks her if she thinks she deserves a place in the final 12. She says she just has a different style than the other women. It's more than that, though. Simon says, "No one's being critical for the sake of being critical!"

Haley Scarnato says she was a gymnast until her body started to give out. Dislocated shoulders do not sound fun. She sings "If My Heart Had Wings" by Faith Hill. I don't particularly like the song, but the performance is about a million times better than last week's "Queen of the Night." Randy says it was an interesting song choice at this point in the competition. He says it was in tune and everything, but had no "pizazz," but it didn't make him go "yo." Paula says she sang it well. Simon says it was like some "ghastly high school musical performance," and that -- I kid you not -- halfway through the performance, he realized he didn't know her name. Ouch. That's about as negative as it gets. Seriously. He made her cry last week, and he doesn't even remember her name? He says he doesn't think she's made enough of an impression and that this performance didn't help. Ryan asks how hard it is to sing that song live and then hear something like that, and that you probably take it personally. She says she has gotten bad comments every week, at least that Simon doesn't like her. He says he does like her, he just doesn't think she showed herself off enough.

Stephanie Edwards says she would sing in front of her parents only, but she used to be really, really shy. She sings "Sweet Thing" by Rufus and Chaka Khan. She has a couple of shrieky moments, but generally, it is great. Randy gives her an 'A' for "valiant effort," but that he was hearing Chaka in his head and you have to be careful of songs like that. So, what are they supposed to do? Not pick songs by people who are good? But then, others get in trouble for going too obscure! You can't win! Anyway, Paula says she was "darn near flawless." Simon says she is one of the best they have, but that she has a tendency to go a little copycat, but adds that she has definitely done enough to be in the Top 12.

Lakisha Jones is next. She tells Ryan she is ready to bring it. Before she goes downstairs, she asks him for a hug. Awww. In her tape, she says she is terrified of all animals. She's singing some WHITNEY, and I bet she is going to knock it out of the park. She delivers an excellent performance of "I Have Nothing." Randy says it wasn't her best performance, but it was, "another great performance from the great Lakisha." Paula: "You've already made us love you, you don't have to run anywhere, you're going to stay right here, and you're going to work on being the next Idol." (In the audience, you can her her aunt yelling, "That's my niece! That's my niece!") Simon: "What we haven't seen tonight, but you brought: Passion, talent, believability" -- Randy: "Yo" -- "and of course the yo factor, and just picking up on what I mentioned about the outfit, Lakisha. Tonight, you look beautiful." She says thank you. Ryan says her auntie and momma need their own show. "Oh, my God, I told them, 'Don't act up.'"

Poor Gina Glocksen has to follow. She says her lucky charms are a troll and a stuffed pickle, and a pillow from her niece and nephew. She sings Evanescence's "Call Me When You're Sober." Halfway through, she starts growling unnecessarily. Randy says, "Finally, finally, the real Gina comes out." He says there were some pitch problems, but she should keep the edge alive. Paula says that this was "more or less who I expected you to be." She also tells her to be careful of oversinging. Simon says, "You enjoyed that, didn't you?" He says it's the first time she appeared to be comfortable on the stage. He says she screamed part of the song, but he still hopes she gets through to the next round because she is a "breath of fresh air."

Melinda Doolittle will be closing the show. She says she has some quirky, OCD habits -- but it's all about equality. She sings "I'm a Woman." She interacts with the backup singers for a minute -- nice since she used to be one. And she doesn't have a second's trouble harmonizing with them, for the record. The crowd goes wild! Randy says she was the "hottest one of the night. ... You're ready to go in the studio and make a record right now." Paula asks her if she ever thought that she would be on this stage getting this adoration. She says she can't ever wait to see what's next. Simon: "You little tiger. I thought we had a pussycat. I loved that!" He says it's nice to see that she is enjoying every single minute of it.

My predictions: Haley and Antonella out. Maybe Gina. We'll see tomorrow!

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