It was Ladies' Night on American Idol Wednesday, with the Top 5 females each performing two songs — one from the year of their birth (get ready to feel old, Idol viewers) and one by a diva. The competition is now officially on, with none of those pesky guys hogging votes in what has been universally acknowledged as a girl's year. So who became the front-runner going into Thursday's results show? Here's a breakdown of the performances:
Who will win American Idol?
-"Straight Up" (Paula Abdul): Candice once again put her own spin on a cover song, infusing Paula Abdul's dance number with a sultry jazz/R&B twist. Not as strong as her "Lovesong" rendition from last week, the song was also a little restrained, vocally speaking. Still, Keith Urban compared her vocal runs to "the slow wink one gets across a bar." "You don't choose them; you just feel them," he told her. All in all — not her best performance, but still at the top of the pack when it comes to the final five. Grade: A-
-"When You Believe" (Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston): Candice — the only one in the Top 5 who could do this song proper justice, let's be honest — had Nicki Minaj swaying and Mariah Carey holding up a respectful hand during her performance. While the song, again, was more subdued than "Lovesong" (dd she set the bar too high too early with that one?), Candice, per usual, brought the house down and earned a standing ovation from all the judges. And unlike Amber Holcomb (see below), Candice seemed proud rather than intimidated to demonstrate her vocals in front of Carey. "That's the best vocal of the night," Randy Jackson told her. "You've got one of the best voices in the known world." Grade: A
-"When I Call Your Name" (Vince Gill): Janelle once again pulled out her guitar for this country ballad, which ended up being one of her best performances in the competition thus far — according to everyone but Urban, who said she should have opted to just stand or sit behind the microphone and sing. "I didn't feel it," he told her. "I felt like you were spending so much time thinking about getting all the notes right and doing little runs in between." Carey and Minaj begged to differ, with Carey calling the performance "raw and real." Jimmy Iovine agreed with Urban that the performance wasn't strong enough to move her up in the rankings. Grade: A-
Bubble Shows: Which will survive?
-"Dumb Blonde" (Dolly Parton): Abandoning her guitar for this boot-stomper, Janelle seemed a little timid on the Dolly Parton. Unfortunately, there's something about her demeanor that seems inauthentic when she tries to channel attitude or go too upbeat (as evidenced by her Billy Joel number in Classic Rock week). Even the judges looked confused when she tried to go into the audience. "There was more performing than there really was a vocal kind of thing," Randy Jackson told her. "I think you're in jeopardy of going home tomorrow," Minaj said, with the added disclaimer that everyone in the Top 5 has "superpowers." Grade: B-
-"She Talks to Angels" (Black Crowes): Out of the five performers, Kree looked the most comfortable with her "Year of My Birth" song, even riffing a little bit with the audience in between lyrics. "That was the best performance of the night, absolutely by far," Minaj told her. As for Urban's comments that Kree seemed "awkward" on stage, Minaj retorted: "Those are the heels and he's a boy and he doesn't get it." Grade: A
-"Have You Ever Been in Love?" (Celine Dion): Kree broke rank by not choosing one of the usual go-to Celine songs and earned the scond universal standing ovation from the judges' panel of the night. She looked slightly distracted during the song for reasons unknown, but, ever the consummate professional, Kree still managed to turn in a top-notch performance. "You stayed in control of the song the whole time," Urban said. And the performance caused Minaj to have an epiphany that Kree was more than just a country singer. "You are worldly, iconic," Minaj told her, and compared her to Adele and Dion herself. Grade: A-
-"I'll Stand By You" (The Pretenders): Angie made the wise move to accompany herself on piano, and dedicated the Pretenders hit to her hometown of Boston. But perhaps due to the emotions of the past week, though she was technically proficient, Angie looked a little uneasy during her delivery. The judges stuck mostly to complimenting her song choice and offering their sympathies to Beantown, so perhaps they felt the same way. Grade: B+
Check out all the performances from this week's Idol
-"Halo" (Beyonce): Angie, surprisingly, seemed much more comfortable in her second performance, even though she wasn't behind the piano. Beyonce's hit was a perfect choice for her tone and range and if anything could be criticized about the performance, it would be that Angie's meandering around the platform seemed a little random and forced. Plus: The song went a little off the rails on the final notes. "Definitely Top 3," Urban said. Minaj pounded the judges' table while gushing, "You just did that song justice like a queen could." Grade: A-
-"Without You" (Mariah Carey): Eesh. Maybe she was intimidated about performing the cover in front of Mimi herself, but the normally charismatic Amber looked stiff and uncomfortable on stage, and held back on her delivery for the first half of the song. She finally found her footing in the last minute or so. "You were really stoic, but there was no feeling in the beginning," Minaj told her. "You seemed a little scared." The rest of the judges, per usual, heaped praise on Amber, with Urban referencing an "Amber alert" (and then thankfully checking himself for the poor wordplay) and Randy Jackson giving her "props" for having the guts to perform it in front of Carey. As for Mariah? "Vote for Amber," she said, and added that she might even borrow some cues from Amber when she performs the song live. Grade: B-
-"What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" (Barbra Streisand): Points to Amber for not going the predictable route with a Whitney Houston number. She owned the Streisand number — which Jackson said was the most difficult song tackled by anyone thus far this season — though she was occasionally drowned out by her backing musicians the low notes. And she earned the fourth standing ovation of the night from the judges. "Every single note was on point," Minaj told her. Added Jackson: "You sang the I-don't-know-what out of that. ... This girl does not belong in the bottom." Grade: A
So what did you think? Who gave the best performances of the night? And who will be sent home tomorrow? Sound off in the comments, and check out our interview with last week's castoff, Lazaro Arbos, below: