'American Idol' recap: Top 12 men perform live

Tonight, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest says, the Top 12 men are going to provide us with "another night of incredible performances." Incredibly good would be a nice switch from last night's underwhelming offerings. Let's just get to said performances, shall we?

Todrick Hall is 24 and from Arlington, Texas. He's singing his take on Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone." And it's a pretty groovy take, if a little filled with runs for my taste. But I'd say it's more fun than anyone had last night. Ellen DeGeneres says he's a great performer and has fab stage presence. She says the chorus was a little rough, but she's glad he took a chance. Randy Jackson says he's a fan of his, but it didn't even sound like the same song, and he doesn't like it when a song gets totally obliterated and becomes unrecognizable. Kara DioGuardi says he is a strong enough singer that any way he performs the song will make it unique. Simon Cowell says he came over as a dancer trying to sing rather than a singer who can also dance. He likes risks, but he "murdered" the entire song, so "it was verging on stupid."


Aaron Kelly, a 16-year-old high school student from Sonestown, Pa., forgot his lyrics in his last performance, which he describes as his defining moment. I hope for his sake it isn't, since at the top of the show, Simon said they all had a lot of nerves in rehearsal and that if anyone forgets their words, "your career is over." Yikes! He sings Rascal Flatts' "Here Comes Goodbye." He sounds pleasant enough, and he doesn't forget any words, but I'm not jumping up and down or anything. Simon says that bearing in mind that this was his first live show, it was quite a good performance. But, he goes on, he looks almost embarrassed to be there, and he needs to have self-belief and -confidence. Kara says he is her favorite kind of contestant because he has no idea how good his raw talent is, so he will grow more and more each week. Randy says he has a huge voice, and though he was worried at first, Aaron pulled it off. Ellen says, "Ditto to all that." She goes on, but she doesn't add much beyond that.

Jermaine Sellers is 27 and from Joliet, Illinois. He admits that he threw the band under the bus in his Hollywood solo performance, and he's never going to do that again. He takes on Oleta Adams' "Get Here." I love this song. I do not love this version of it. Ellen says she's a huge fan of his, and she loves his look, and she loves that song, but she feels like he was all into the performance instead of feeling the song. Randy says it was a weird choice because it's an older song, but mostly, he tried to do much with it, and he should follow the melody, that that is why it was a hit. Kara says he wanted to show what he can do, and that he needs to use the runs in a more meaningful way. Simon says it's the kind of song someone in their 50s would request in a piano bar. He thinks Jermaine just blew his opportunity with this performance. After this, they talk more about the whole thing with him diva-ing out on the band, and they ask if her made up with "Michael," and he thinks they mean Jackson, since he sang an MJ song, but they mean Michael from the band. He comes up on stage, they hug, it's just totally bizarre.


Tim Urban had been cut and then made the Top 24 after Chris Golightly got disqualified. He is 20 and from Duncanville, Texas. He tells Ryan that he kept his second chance from his family, so they didn't know until they saw it on TV. He sings OneRepublic's "Apologize." This is not a good choice because his falsetto is not that pleasant. Simon says congratulations on coming back, but based on that performance, they made the right decision the first time. "The truth is, I just don't think your voice is good enough," he adds. Kara says he was swallowed up by the music, and they couldn't get a sense of his tone like they did in Hollywood when he played acoustic. Randy says he doesn't have the falsetto like the original singer, and none of it worked. Ellen says choosing a popular song was a good move, but he didn't hit the notes. Then she says adorable about 15 times, and we can hear Kara talking ... to Simon, I guess? For some reason, they let him talk for way too long afterward. I feel bad for him because they basically say if he makes it through, it's because he's cute. They didn't imply it, they said it.

Joe Munoz is 20 and from Huntington Beach, Calif. We haven't seen much of him as of yet, but apparently, he messed up one of his first Hollywood Week auditions because his fingers froze when he was trying to play guitar. He sings Jason Mraz's "You and I Both." It's sweet, but very soundalike. Ellen says he was comfortable on stage and just "right there in that song." She liked it. Randy says it wasn't the perfect song choice "for me for you" because Jason Mraz is such "a stylized artist," but he made it work. Kara says he was up front and center right at the first of the song, though he had trouble in the chorus, but so far, he's been the best singer. Simon says he kind of agrees, but that he needs to get out of the bubble of this show. He doesn't believe he is a star who could sell records. "In 10 seconds time, we're going to forget this." He calls it "limp and forgettable ... [under his breath] rather like our host." *eyeroll*

Tyler Grady is 20 and from Nazareth, Pa. He is the 70s rocker dude, and as such, he takes on "American Woman." It's ... weird. He starts out really slow, then gets into the rocking part of it, and he closes with a terrible note. Simon says that plus side, people will remember this performance, but down side is, not necessarily for the right reasons. He says Tyler comes across like someone who went to "trying-to-be-a-rock-star school," and that it doesn't seem natural. I can agree with that. I was thinking that someone told him he looks kinda like Roger Daltrey, so he's decided to take on this persona. Simon adds that he needs to concentrate on his vocals. Kara says it's like he has an obsession with the 70s, and it's playing too true to it instead of playing with it. "You've got to do something more than the schtick." Randy agrees that it was style over substance, and he needs to bring himself into it. Ellen says he has the poses, but he's lacking the charisma and excitement, going through the motions without being that person. "Be an original," Randy says.

Lee DeWyze is a 23-year-old Chicagoan who we haven't seen much of before now. He sings Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars." It's ... not great. Kinda nasal, kinda off. Ellen says it was a good song choice, "except when you started kind of screaming it a bit." She does like the tone of this voice. Except, you know, for the part where he stunk it up. Randy doesn't like the song because it wasn't a rocky enough song. Kara says the song has a small range, and he tried to change it up to get it to his voice's sweet spot, and that made the song unrecognizable. Simon thought this was the best performance by a mile and calls him "a naturally good singer."

John Park is 21 and from Northbrook, Ill. He got a nice commentary from guest judge Shania Twain. He sings "God Bless the Child." Weird, weird choice, but at least he sounds decent (except when he tries to show off the deep end). Simon says you have to have an incredible voice to take on that song, and "you haven't." Sadly, some people think he says, "You have it," so he has to clarify. Kara says she agrees, that there was no connection, and it was loungey and sleepy. Randy says when he did runs on the bridge, it reminded him of why they liked him in Hollywood, but in general it was a bad choice. Ellen says he sounded great, but the song isn't going to get young girls on the phone.

Michael Lynche is 26 and from St. Petersburg, Fla. He sings "This Love" by Maroon 5 (playing guitar). He jazzes it up a little, and it's fun. Not incredibly exciting, but this week, competent is OK. Ellen says personality is just bursting out of him and that it was a good song choice, though he had a couple of pitch issues. Randy agrees that he likes him, brought energy, but that when he lifted Randy and Ellen at the Top 24, he literally hurt them. Kara says he woke things up, but that if they had had a lot of great performances, they would be more critical tonight. Simon says he was like the support act before the main act, but he delivered so little.

Alex Lambert, a 19-year-old student from North Richland Hills, Texas, was in a mess of a group (*cough* Mary Powers *cough*) in Hollywood Week. But he survived. He sings James Morrison's "Wonderful World." I hope his mullet is ironic, but I'm not sure. He starts out very rough, but he warms up to the song a bit into it. Simon says he isn't sure who was more excited it was over, Alex or Simon. He calls it the most uncomfortable performance of the night because he seems unsure on stage. But he thinks he has a good idea. Kara says he needs a hug. She says he sounds so much like James Morrison, which is good and bad, but that overall, he has a great tone, and he needs to believe in himself. Randy loves his tone, too, but he likes him and hopes he sticks around. Ellen says she supports him in holding onto the mullet and that he was like a not quite ripe banana. (It actually kind of makes sense.)

Casey James is 27 and from Fort Worth, and Kara really likes him. He sings Bryan Adams' "Heaven," and plays guitar. It's nice but not that exciting. Kara disagrees because she was very moved by him. Um, it's creepy. I can't even recount it. Ellen says he was good. Kara apparently realizes she is being a total idiot, so she decides to interrupt to say that though Casey is eye candy, he is also ear candy. Simon says it's tough because they were both cursed with good looks. Then he gets serious and says it was a good song, and his best performance so far. He also calls Kara a cougar. She is not amused. I kind of am.


Andrew Garcia is 24 and from Moreno Valley, Calif. He sings "Sugar, We're Goin' Down" by Fall Out Boy, but it's stripped down and acoustic. And weird. I think I might have liked that song better before I realized exactly what the lyrics were, and I never understood them until he enunciated them just now. Simon was looking forward to this, but he found him disappointing and kind of boring. Kara says it was a strange rendition of that song, and she likes him and hopes they see him for many weeks. Randy found it strange, but he is a fan of him. Ellen thinks his rendition of "Straight Up" in Hollywood Week will save him. She adds that the best moment was when he leaned toward his wife and kind of opened up.

So the theme of this week seems to be: I'm a big fan of yours, but ...

What did you think about tonight's performances? I'd like to chalk the whole four hours up to nerves or something. The playback of the clips is actually somewhat painful!

Anyway, weigh in in the comments and/or the poll below.