Brenna Gethers, American Idol
American Idol
Mandisa got the crowd on their feet with an incredible version of Heart's "Never." It could have been risky, but she pulled it off with strong and confident vocals. I noticed the same Burger King-inspired flame graphic on the screen behind her that Kimberly Locke had during 2003's "Heat Wave." Idol rakes in so much cash; can't they get some new backdrops?

Though the judges had mixed things to say about Kellie Pickler's performance, they loved her sincerity and "aw-shucks" demeanor. That kind of humility can make up for a few bad notes, so you might want to take note, Brenna. Paula Abdul got a few boos for correctly critiquing Becky — or maybe the crowd was rebelling against Paula's hair. Seriously, what was going on with her head?

Ryan Seacrest felt short next to Ayla Brown, so he had someone bring him out a pedestal. As for Ayla, she needed no help, skillfully managing "Reflection" with a good mix of emotion and vocal gymnastics. She took the judges' advice, so no doubt she'll go far. Also going far will be Paris Bennett, who transitions from perky to adorable without being annoying. She had the most upbeat and fun time of all the girls, channeling both Gladys Knight's voice and her '70s look seamlessly.

Poor Stevie Scott appears to be in the most trouble come elimination night, proving the old Idol adage that song choice is critical. Though she said she'll "bring it" next time, even Stevie herself didn't appear to believe it.

Brenna's constant posing and promises of "claws out" attitude will probably not endear her to the voting public, Simon Cowell's demands for the "real her" notwithstanding. And oversinging "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" is no way to show a "softer side." Please, people, leave Stevie Wonder alone.

Heather Cox got points off for playing it too safe, with her song choice also causing some trouble. Too many of the girls chose sappy songs. More "Midnight Train to Georgia," less maudlin moaning, please. Heather could also be on the chopping block. Even though Simon called her "lifeless," Melissa McGhee did a great sultry turn on Faith Hill, but she should really show off some versatility with something a bit more upbeat next time. Kinnik Sky (how cool is her name?) looked amazing, but the judges noted too many sharp notes, while 16-year-old Lisa Tucker proved that it was a great night for the younger women. Her powerful "I Am Changing" was full of poise and confidence.

Finally, judge favorite Katharine McPhee truly owned her song and showed lots of versatility. I'm not sure if I agree with Simon that she was the best of the night, but she was definitely in the top three. And I'm not sure about anybody else, but I can't handle the "dawg pound" for another three weeks. Can't Arsenio Hall sue to put a stop to it? — Ken McGilvray

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