The highly anticipated performance by the "American Idol" Top 12 pretty much lived up to the hype.
That is, except for the over-the-top snipping and sniping between host Ryan Seacrest and judge Simon Cowell, which pretty much punctuated the two-hour show.
I've been told by both of them that it's not personal, not planned but, for me, it's getting obnoxious - even more so than some of Paula Abdul's chitchat.
As for the show, it opened with Ryan raving about the new set, the lights, the "penthouse" for some members of the expanded band, and two strange, elevated blue "bowls." And I'm sure the three judges loathe having a female mosh pit standing and waving directly in front of them.
But, I digress.
As expected, the Top 12 performed selections from the Lennon/McCartney songbook. The judges mentioned things like taking risks and how the music was some of the greatest in history.
When all was said and sung, I broke the performances into three categories: shining solos (SS), mediocre melodies (MM), and bathroom breaks (BB). Here's my wrap-up from the show:
* Syesha Mercado: (MM) She sang "Got To Get You Into My Life." Syesha had some nerves going, even though she oohed and ahhed over the new set and bigger stage. Judges' comments?
Randy Jackson: "Nice arrangement. (It was the Earth, Wind & Fire version.) A little rough at the beginning."
Paula: "You found your zone, even though it started pitchy."
Simon: "It was better than all right, but you need to get past the nerves."
(Note to Syesha: You'll go somewhere in the middle if you don't pick up the pace!)
* Chikezie: (SS) He sang "She's a Woman." It opened with Chikezie hooking up with three musicians playing a banjo, fiddle and a tambourine. Then he broke bad into a rock finish.
Randy: "Dawg, I was looking for a jug, too. I was thoroughly entertained."
Paula: "You started with that whole 'Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?' thing. It was a risk that paid off."
Simon: "I'm reallly surprised that I agree with these two. You've changed within a week. Now you controlled the stage."
(Note to Ryan: Romping around the stage only leaves you winded, my friend.)
* Ramiele Malubay: (BB) She sang one of my favorite songs, "In My Life." I'll just let the judges take over on this train wreck.
Randy: "Kind of pretty. Kind of pretty boring, too."
Paula: "You look pretty (death knell). It was pretty safe."
Simon: "I was bored to tears. It was a dreary song choice, and I expect a lot better from you."
(Note to contestants: Forget there are stairs leading up to the "blue bowls." Stay away from them. They're bad luck!)
* Jason Castro: (SS) He sang "If I Fell." Jason brought back his guitar, and I loved it. He has to stay!
Randy: "I liked it, I didn't love it."
Paula: "It was special and unique. You made a connection with the audience."
Simon: "It was like a student in a bedroom at midnight. (Huh?) I'm a big, big fan and, up until now, you've chosen brilliant songs."
(Note to dermatologists: Does Jason have the best skin or what?)
* Carly Smithson: (SS) She sang "Come Together." Carly is definitely the strongest female contestant. I don't think there's even a close second (except for maybe Brooke).
Randy: "You sounded amazing. It was a stellar performance."
Paula: "It's like I'm already watching a star."
Simon: "Week after week, you've chosen the wrong song - until now. That reminds me of the same week six years ago with another contestant - Kelly Clarkson."
(Note to Carly: Don't let the whole Kelly comment go to your head.)
* David Cook: (SS) He sang "Eleanor Rigby." Not one of my all-time favorite Beatles songs, but David took it to a level even I didn't expect.
Randy: "You can rock out on 'Idol.' "
Paula: "You're a dark horse and more in this race."
Simon: "I thought it was brilliant. If this show remains more about the talent than a popularity contest, you could win."
(Note to Simon: Don't take Paula's "donkey" comment to heart.)
* Brooke White: (MM) She sang "Let It Be" (barefoot, playing the piano). I thought it was - and I think I have the creds now - a little pitchy in places.
Randy: "It was a heartfelt performance. I love that you've got conviction."
Paula: "This is your niche."
Simon: "It was again one of the best performances of the night. It was believable."
(Note to Simon and Ryan: Don't go there about women's shoes - or the lack thereof.)
* David Hernandez: (BB - big time) He sang "I Saw Her Standing There." David H. was one of the first contestants to start his song standing behind the judges. Too much twisting and shouting (natch).
Randy: "You've got a big voice, but it was too overdone. You lost me from the jump."
Paula: "I love your voice, but you kind of overdid it a bit."
Simon: "No, no, no! It was corny verging on desperate. You looked like a rabbit in the headlights."
(Note to Simon: What did you do with the deer in the headlights?)
* Amanda Overmyer: (MM) She sang (er, blasted) "You Can't Do That." I almost turned this performance into a bathroom break because it was hurting my ears.
Randy: "You rocked it. It was like a Southern bar, Southern club kind of thing."
Paula: "You are a star. This is definitely the best season of talent."
Simon: "Not as good as last week. I understood about 30 percent of the words. You're still a breath of fresh air in the competition."
(Note to Amanda: I can't help feeling that the stylists (fashion and hair) are abandoning their jobs when they get to you.)
* Michael Johns: (MM, but he looks sooo fine) He sang "Across the Universe." Nobody can stand still and sing as good as Michael.
Randy: "You've taken a little liberty (with the song). It was a little sleepy."
Paula: "I disagree - again. You've got an inner quiet confidence. It was brilliant."
Simon: "I agree with Randy. It was little bit monotonous. I'm a big fan of yours, but I still haven't heard what you're capable of."
(Note to Michael: You definitely look better in a white T-shirt than Simon.)
* Kristy Lee Cook: (pictured) (BB) She sang "Eight Days a Week," and, instead of actually going to the bathroom, I ended up flat-footing in the living room with my neighbor. This was a country-music catastrophe.
Randy: "I'm half and half. I liked the arrangement, but you forced the runs."
Paula: "I didn't enjoy it. You can't take what we say (about singing everything country) too much to heart."
Simon: "I thought it was horrendous! It was like Dolly Parton on helium. It was a brave but foolish thing to do. It was like you were at some ghastly country fair."
(Note to Kristy: Ripped jeans and a sparkly top does not a Lorrie Morgan make.)
* David Archuleta: (MM bordering on BB) He sang "We Can Work It Out." David A. said in his intro he was really nervous about this week. Well, it showed. Stay away from those stairs! It definitely was the teen's worst performance since his audition. Imagine that.
Randy: "Not on point. It wasn't your vibe. It felt forced."
Paula: "Not your best week. If you forget the lyrics (which he did), don't let it show on your face."
Simon: "There are 12 people fighting for a spot in this competition. And that was a mess. You stumbled over the lyrics. It was your weakest performance so far."
(Note to David and his huge fan base: Dude will bounce back next week.)
Predictions: Dialidol.com actually has David A. the only safe contestant. Surprise? Not really. Again, fans do factor in past performances, and he has been a superstar. Their bottom three are Syesha, Ramiele and David H. My pick? David Hernandez. But Ramiele better get it together - and fast.
The live results show will see one contestant go home. That's at 9 tonight (on Channel 40). I'll be chatting with the guy or the gal who gets the boot. So stay tuned here at 21Q.