'American Idol' recap: Top 12 guys perform

OK, everybody, this is it. Not the Finals IT, or the Top Twelve IT, but the First Live Show IT. Will Steven Tyler be as awesome when he's not whittled down to sound bites? Can Jennifer Lopez still be sweet while she criticizes? Will Randy Jackson, now that That British Guy is off the show, step up with useful commentary? These questions, and more (such as: Will James Durbin still wear a scarf tail?) will be answered live, because this ……………………… is American Idol. (Cue guitar solo.)

In the introductory camera pan, we see that all the guys are dressed in black or gray, with some splashes of color. Then the judges walk out, and I didn't notice what Jennifer Lopez was wearing because I was blinded by Steven Tyler's tight black leather pants. Hello, Steven, what is up? Then Ryan Seacrest says that only 5 guys will make it through tonight. What? What about a Top 12? He then points out the big stage, with some people sitting above it getting a great view of the tops of contestants' heads. Oh, okay, a clarification: the People of America will vote for the top 10, and the judges will get 2 wild card choices. This will all be decided on Thursday. Suddenly it all seems too fast. I'm not ready!
Ryan says hey to the judges. He asks Randy how it feels. Randy says he's terrified and wishes Simon Cowell were back. No, he's having a blast at the Season 10 Remix Dance Party! As for Jennifer, she's wearing a black lacey dress, it's lovely. Ryan calls out her emotional moments and asks if she's ready to give up control. She's not ready! Wait, no, that was me. She's ready. Steven Tyler, ladies and gentlemen! He gets the longest applause. Ryan gives him an American Idol logo on a stick so that he can censor himself if he feels the need to talk about ducks. Finally, we get one last glimpse of the guys, and I notice that Cowboy Scotty is not wearing a hat. I don't know, it's a little early in the game to give up the hat.

Tonight the guys can sing any song they wish. We begin with Clint Jun Gamboa, karaoke host extraordinaire. He gets a 10-second flashback video that only highlights the judges complimenting him, not any drama from Hollywood. He's wearing red shoes. He sings "Superstition." Or is it "Superstitious?" Either way, isn't this a song of death? Hasn't it been sung every season? He sounds fine, holds some notes, even works in a screech. My hangup is that the arrangement is the same as always, and the backing horns and vocals are so loud that I think, in general, it's hard to "make it your own," as they like to say. Anyway, with no prompting from Ryan, Steven jumps right in and says Clint started strong, ended strong, it was brilliant. OK. Jennifer says she could see him working out the jitters, but it was good. Randy loved it too, he says no karaoke singer in the world has that kind of talent. Ryan gives the voting info. You can vote online now, how about that?

Now it's Jovany Barreto singing "I'll Be." He's very smooth, I can feel the girls in the audience swooning. Steven Tyler:
"Holy shipyard!" Nice! J.Lo is happy that people got to see him for the first time. Randy didn't like it as much, calls it karaoke (so
soon after Clint?) and says he didn't bring anything different. J.Lo disagrees, and Steven throws out something about the dawg eating too
many biscuits.

Jordan Dorsey strikes a pose and then removes his jacket as "OMG" begins. Those girls in the audience are screaming, now. He hits a falsetto. He dances around a bit. You know why I was smiling during this performance? Because it's one of the most current songs I've ever heard on Idol (see: Superstition/ous). I think it was a big, brave move to do it, even if the song is a little ubiquitous. He does a decent job with a song that's so much bigger than him. But. Steven liked the moves, it wasn't his favorite performance, though. J.Lo spells it out: "That's not who you really are, is that who you want to be?" He says no. Wow, a little soon to disown the performance, Jordan. Jennifer says that he's more a Nat King Cole. Randy says that it pales in comparison to the original. Oh well. At least Jordan towers over Ryan as he promises so much more to the People of America in exchange for their votes.

After the break, Ryan is at Stool Chat with Tim Halperin. Tim would like everyone to know that all the contestants are one big happy family. Then he sings "Come On Over." He's happy and bouncy, the judges seem to do some head bopping, I'd say it's not offensive. Steven says that it didn't do him any justice, and he gets the first boos of the season. "Nevertheless," he continues, "I've heard other songs better." Jennifer says it wasn't his strength and didn't show who he is. Randy says it's a cool song, but "I don't equate you with it." Is Tim not cool? Tim tells Ryan that he felt good, and he panders for votes.

Now it's Adorable Tomato Brett Loewenstern. He is singing "Light My Fire." With flames projected on the wall behind him, highlighting his red hair. It kind of doesn't work, but it does. He shakes his hair a lot. Steven says he did it again. Jennifer: "All that [mimics the hair tossing] was more hair tossing than me and Beyonce put together in the past ten years! You need a fan!" J.Lo, sweetie, I think I'm falling for you. Then Randy says he had someone count, and there were 14 head shakes. Brett claims he wasn't aware that he was doing it. Randy continues that there were some pitch problems, but it was cool and fun and bold. Ryan gives the numbers, then Brett wanders off camera. But wait! Ryan wants him onstage to lead out to commercial, so he calls
Brett back, and Brett thinks that Ryan wants a hug, so he runs back and hugs him! How can you not enjoy the peaceful obliviousness of Brett?

And it's James Durbin's turn. He's got the scarf tail. He's got the rocker stance. He's singing "You've Got Another Thing Comin'." He gives us some devil horns. Big scream, he nails it so hard that you know what? I forgive him for the scarf tail. Really, his voice is great, he owns
the performance. Steven says it was *bleep*ing crazy good. Then he grabs the censor-on-a-stick so that he can bleep some more. He points out that it was the first Judas Priest song ever sung on the show, and he loves that James is so over the top. J.Lo loved it, calls it insane. Randy screams, "This is how you do it!" James is jumping around and prostrating before the judges and going nuts. Then Randy asks the question that all of America has been wondering: What is up
with the tail? And James simply agrees that it's something to make him stand out other than the vocals. Which he doesn't need, so even though I forgive the scarf, I'm OK if he gives it up. Oh, he also towers over Ryan Seacrest. Part of my brain thinks that James looks like River Phoenix a bit. Anyone? Do you all know exactly how old I am now?

Next up is the "Pride of Long Island," Robbie Rosen. He's singing "Angel," and I didn't recognize it for a while because he changed it just a tad. He's got such a nice voice, and he shows a big range. Steven: "You can sing a ballad like nobody's business." J.Lo: "When you sing, you tell a story, and you feel every word." Randy: pitchy. Boos. Randy tries to get Robbie to say he wasn't
comfortable in the entire range, but Robbie doesn't bite. Randy pushes it, telling him to watch it later. Give it up, Randy, Robbie is adorable.

Now it's Scotty McCreery's turn. In the video flashbacks he never wears a hat, so I guess I was just projecting one onto his head. My bad. He's sitting on a stool, and I don't know the names of any country songs but I will guess that it's called "Letters from Home." It has a line referencing "something funny about the way I talk," and he doesn't actually wink but he acknowledges it in a way that's understated and cute. You know, I kind of hate country music, but I like how he sings. Scotty hits a high note at the end, and Steven Tyler raises his arms in victory. He says, "you couldn't have picked a better song to represent you." Jennifer says he was born to sing
country music, and introduces her catch phrase, "it was right in your lane." Randy loves that he's a throwback country guy, not a crossover country guy. Word, Randy.

Here's Stefano Langone singing "Just the Way You Are." His voice is in the higher register, or maybe it just sounds that way after Scotty. Kind of like in a boy band. (Here's where I mention that boy bands coordinate their clothing, which is a reference to an inside joke that I'm not even inside of, but when my brain wants to throw something random into the ether, I can't stop it.) Stefano holds notes longer than others, instead of doing lots of runs, and he hits one bad note.
But seriously, Stefano is an adorable puppy. Steven: "I can tell you're on the money when the vein in your forehead pops." !! Jennifer says he's consistent, nothing awkward about him, "you're a beast up there!" Randy says the judges were all rocking out and enjoying themselves, and they joke about the bad note. Ryan comes out and asks Stefano if he was singing that song to anyone in particular, and Stefano says it was for all the ladies. He reminds me of Joey from

Ryan sits at the judges' feet in the next segment, and I see Steven Tyler's shoes sparkle. Hooray for sparkly shoes!

Anyhow, Paul McDonald is up next. "What's up, TV land?" he shouts. He's singing "Maggie May," and he has that exact gravelly Rod Stewart voice. I'm conflicted, because I think I like Paul, but this song has never done anything for me, so I don't like hearing it. But that's just me. He does some wobbly struts across the stage as he sings. Steven: "It's all about the jacket, isn't it? And the McDonald two-step?" J.Lo mentions he's got character in the way he moves, and his smile lights up the room. This is true. Randy has been acting as our music professor all night, name-checking the original artists. Thanks, Randy! Randy is proud of the show for embracing Paul's quirkiness.

Now here's Jacob Lusk, singing "A House is not a Home." This is one of those big belting songs, and he can belt. He's wearing a nice suit with a pocket square, too. He winks and J.Lo squeals. Steven says divine intervention brought him here, "you make me cry when you sing. I don't know where you get it from, but I will bathe in it." J.Lo says Luther Vandross is her favorite singer of all time, and he's gone, "but now we have you, and that makes me happy." Randy says Luther
would be proud.

Finally, it's Casey Abrams singing "I Put a Spell on You." He sings like a crazy desperate man, but only in terms of the song, not like an actual crazy singer. If you can follow that. He's acting the song. Steven says it was crazy good. J.Lo: "You're sexy, Casey." Randy likes Casey's uniqueness, too.

That is it, friends. Let's try to break it down. In the standout unique category we have Brett, James, Scotty, Paul, Jacob, and Casey. In the less unique, but still great singer category, it's Clint, Robbie, and Stefano. Jovany got a No from Randy, and Jordan and Tim each got 3 meh's. I have no idea how this will shake down. Do you think James is guaranteed? Or Scotty? The judges seemed to worship Jacob, would they put him in as a wild card if needed? It's going to
be wild, but I think everyone is good enough, I won't be disappointed by anyone, really. I'll try to think of that as a positive.

Tomorrow night is all about the ladies. I don't remember quite as much quirky uniqueness going on with them, maybe more mainstream good voices. See you then!