At long last, we're past the auditions, the pointless group performances and the backstories for people who we'll never see again. It's the live show! The Top 12 women take to the stage tonight. The other thing we'll be paying attention tonight is Ellen DeGeneres' debut on the live show. The judges haven't gotten a ton of screen time the past few weeks, so here we will finally see how she fits into the panel, I think.

Ellen tells Ryan Seacrest what they're going to be looking for is what is going to keep people glued to the screen, not waiting for the next person to start. Ryan asks why Ellen and Simon aren't sitting by each other


Paige Miles is 24 and from Naples, Fla., and I am pretty sure we haven't seen her except for when she found out she made the Top 24. She says her standout moment was her final performance in Hollywood week, in which she got to sing with Michael Jackson's backup singers and went to another planet. She sings "All Right Now" by Free. Really? This is like a sing-in-your-car song, or maybe at the karaoke bar. I don't think this serves her well at all, especially since we haven't seen her much (if at all?). She sings strongly, but the choice is just odd. Simon is first, and he says he thinks that out of all the girls, she has the best voice, but he wouldn't have chosen that song, calling it a "wedding singer" kind of song. Yes! Kara DioGuardi says the song was brilliant because she put her soul into the rock song, but she should have done more with the chorus. Randy Jackson says he agrees with them in different ways -- that it is more a group song, but she still did a good job with it. Ellen says she must have been so nervous, but she was "so there, so present," and she agrees that she pulled it off.

Ashley Rodriguez is 22 and from Chelsea, Mass. She's singing Leona Lewis' "Happy." It's ... not great, and I don't really know what else to say. Kara says that was a big song to take on, and that she had some nice moments, but there were also not great moments. Going forward, she says, she wants to see Ashley take on songs they wouldn't expect. Randy says she did a great job with it, but with such a big song, he couldn't see her, only how she compared to Leona. Ellen agrees that it was a little predictable, and she needs to step out and take a risk. Simon says this isn't going particularly well and that her version was "clumsy." He adds that he thinks she is going backward. Man, rough going, but they aren't wrong.

Janell Wheeler is 24 and from Orlando. She wanted to impress Simon when she got to Hollywood since he didn't love her initial audition, and she did. She's also taking on a big song, "What About Love," by Heart. The very opening lines, she sounds shaky and nervous. Wait, make that for the entire song. Randy says, "Yo, yo, yo, glad that's over, right?" He says it's hard to bring something new and different to this song, but, "I still got vibes from you." Ellen says she sang it very well, but she had some moments that weren't great. Really? Simon says she gave 100 percent but only delivered about 65 percent, but he did like her voice at moments. I'm more with Simon than anyone else. Kara says the song was way too big for her, and it took away all that is distinctive about her voice.

Random thought: I really, really hate the new typeface they are using for the namelines and phone numbers. Ick.

Lilly Scott of Littleton, Colo., is 20 and has upgraded from last year when she was living out of her car and trying to support herself. She plays guitar and sings "Fixing a Hole" by the Beatles. Her whole thing is that she is quirky and unique -- or refreshing, as Kara called her earlier. This was just kind of odd. Not that she sounded bad or off-key, but I wasn't riveted, even though I wanted to be. Ellen says this is what they are talking about: "It's such a random song choice ... you have such a unique voice. ... I love it." Simon says she's the best so far, mainly because she sang the song because she likes it and it shows who she is as an artist. But, he says, he doesn't see a ton of star power from her -- yet. Kara says she's believable and doing this from the heart. Randy loves that she seemed indie and not caring what's fashionable, so he loved the honesty. Ryan tries to talk to/about Kara, but she is having a very intense conversation with Simon. Oops, live TV!

Katelyn Epperly is 19 and from West Des Moines, Iowa, and says this is just a dream come true. She sings "Oh Darlin'" from the Beatles, and it's weird because it looks like she's actually shaking from nerves, but she sounds stronger than a lot of other folks have so far. Simon says there were elements where she was beginning to scream the song, and it was messy, he still likes her and finds her interesting and brave. "But you're going to need an awful lot of work." Kara says she knows her own voice very, very well, and that she switched up the song in a good way. Randy says everyone is so concerned to the runs tonight, but she is concerned with the tone and the melody. Ellen seems conflicted -- she says at first it seemed like she was pushing too hard, but then she realized that's just how she sings, and overall, she was interesting.

Haeley Vaughn is another Coloradoan, from Fort Collins, and she's 16. Her mom let her get her nose pierced since she made the Top 24. Her song choice is "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." At first, I think, this is a problem, it's SO the Beatles, it's just not going to work. But she starts singing, and she puts her own spin on it, and it's interesting and keeps my attention. But toward the end, she starts to wear on me. So I'm not sure what to think just yet. Kara says from a technical standpoint, there were some issues, but every time she takes the stage, she has fun and everyone feels it. Randy says she is unpredictable, which is good, but he gives her some points about trying to get the top of her notes a little clearer. Ellen says she shines on stage, especially at 16. She says she enjoyed, as someone who likes music. Simon says he thought it was verging on terrible because she was a windup doll who wouldn't stop smiling, and he thinks that was part of why the vocals were inconsistent.

Lacey Brown is 24 and from Amarillo, Texas. She performs Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide." It's so slow that I feel like it reveals some weaknesses in her voice. And if she's got nerves in play (which I think is the case), it's harder to cover them up in a song like this. Her last note is pretty strong, though. Randy says that it's a great song, but it was the wrong choice for her. "I gotta tell you, I thought that was terrible." Ellen says she is better than that and that she was pulling for her. Simon found it depressing, that after 15 seconds, he was trying to figure out when it was going to be over. He thought it was boring. Kara says she usually hits those notes so easily, but tonight it wasn't happening. Simon randomly chimes in that she has nice eyes.

Michelle Delamor is 22 and from Miami. She takes on "Fallin'" by Alicia Keys, and I hope for her sake that she doesn't have the problem that the first couple of performers did with taking on a big song. She's a lot more consistent than some of her competitors, but I still don't think we saw a lot of who she is. Still, better than most. Ellen says it was fantastic, but it was safe because "it seemed so easy for you." Simon says she did well and it was professional and sounded close to the original, but "there wasn't one moment in the performance where I felt, 'Wow.'" Kara says she is commercial looking and that she had moments of sounding great, but there were some others that weren't great. She wants Michelle to distinguish herself. (She's a corporate singer, so she's used to sounding safe, I think.) Randy also wants her to push herself out of her comfort zone.

Didi Benami is 23 and from Knoxville. Her defining moment was playing Kara's song "Terrified" during Hollywood week. She sings "The Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson. She has a really cool voice, very controlled, and she doesn't seem scared like some of the folks who have preceded her tonight. Simon says she is a good singer, but tonight too many people are trying to sing like Adele or Duffy. He thought it was indulgent and dreary, and he's missing a spark from people. But he does like her and he thinks she has a good voice. Kara thinks the song choice was good, but she did make changes to the original recording to make the song a little different. Randy says his problem is, where is the star factor, the "outward oomph." He calls it sleepy. Ellen says this would be a great song in a set, but it didn't reach out to grab people for a first impression.

Siobhan Magnus is 19 and from Cape Cod. Her job is intriguing: She is a glassblowing apprentice. Her final performance in Hollywood week really got the judges' attention. We see footage from the Top 24 reveal of Simon telling her that it changed everything. Anyway, her song tonight is "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak. It's lovely, but not necessarily exciting. Kara says she wouldn't have picked it, but she kind of liked her on that song. "You're a quirky girl, and it gets a little nasally at time, but you're really in the moment ... you're just going for it, and it's real." She says she's living it and breathing it. Randy says it was tough following the clip of her killing that Stevie Wonder song in Hollywood Week. Ellen says she really liked it a lot. Simon says, "You really are a funny little thing, aren't you?" He says he liked it, but it wasn't anywhere near her Stevie' performance. She says she picked the song because it's haunting and memorable and she wanted to show her softer side.


Crystal Bowersox is 24 and from Elliston, Ohio. She plays guitar and performs Alanis Morissette's "Hand in My Pocket." She also manages to get some harmonica in there, too. She, as usual, sounds great. It's not the most exciting, but it's still fun. Randy says she is one of his favorites even though he doesn't think that this was the best song for her, but he's a fan. Ellen says they are lucky she decided to audition because she adds something fresh to the show. "If I'm at home, I'm voting for you because I want to see more of you." Simon says that there are thousands of her doing this outside of subway stations everywhere, and that he wouldn't stop. He says she needs to pick songs and make her own versions of things. But, he adds, he really likes her and thinks she is refreshing. Kara says she was good tonight, but she has greatness in her. She adds that she can take it beyond coffeehouse and fill the whole stage.


Katie Stevens is 17 and from Middlebury, Conn. She's the girl who takes care of her grandma with Alzheimer's who said she wanted to reach her dream while her grandmother still knows who she is. *Tear* Anyway, she sings "Feelin' Good." So. Her tone is good, her voice is good, and she's comfortable on stage. But the song is a little weird because she's so young, and this is kind of a grown-up song. But she's consistent and strong. Ellen says it was good and powerful, but you're 17, and it was very conservative and a very intense song. She wants to see her be fresh and modern and fun. Simon says he totally agrees with Ellen, that it was like her mum and dad dressed her up and planned this performance, and it became a little annoying. She needs to become a young recording artist, not singing at a birthday party. Kara says she doesn't think she could hear herself because she was all over the place pitch-wise. Randy says she was pushing so hard so she was going sharp, but she reminds him of Jordin Sparks. He tells her to "young it up."

When they replay the clips with numbers, poor Paige Miles -- the audio is kind of out. It comes back in during Ashley's clip. Anyway ... what a weird night.

I liked Ellen's judging overall, and I feel like Kara's gotten better since last year. It's more fun with Paula up there, but the judges did OK, I think. How about you?

And who's in trouble? Weigh in in the comments or the poll below.

(Photo courtesy of Fox)