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March 4, 2009
'American Idol': Last 12 a mixed bag


MICHAEL BECKER/Fox

Well, last night "American Idol" viewers were treated to multiple helpings of Elton John and Alicia Keys and one serving each of Martina McBride and, uh, Meat Loaf.

The final 12 contestants performed, and tonight three of them will move on, joining Alexis, Michael, Danny, Allison, Kris and Adam.

There were numerous blunders and bad song choices, especially at the beginning when I feared no one had the pipes to earn a vote. For example, Taylor Vaifanua, 17, did the first Alicia song, "If I Ain't Got You," and it was as pedestrian a performance as you'll see. Von Smith, 22, opened the show with "You're All I Need To Get By," which was judged better by the judges than I thought it was. Simon Cowell even compared Von to Clay Aiken (Season 2), for his look and his singing. And poor Alex Wagner-Trugman, 19. His rendition of "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" featured growling (no kidding), snarling and a knocked-over microphone. Arianna Afsar, 17, who entered the round with a lot of potential, blew it with a depressing take on Abba's "The Winner Takes It All." Simon called it "gloomy." Even Paula Abdul thought it was a little old-fashioned.

It wasn't until almost halfway through that Ju'Not Joyner, 26, changed up his Hollywood Week version of "Hey There Delilah" and got modestly good reviews.

Kristen McNamara, 23, got the purple out of her blonde hair, but her pink dress with a sash and rosettes looked more like she was going to a hootenanny, not performing on "Idol." And "Give Me One Reason" doesn't have enough range for even a bad singer to do anything with it. Simon said he was puzzled by her.

Drama guy Nathaniel Marshall, 19, appeared as a bad version of Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" get-fit get-up from the '80s - metallic headband, odd leggings-like pants, etc. He sang the Meat Loaf song "I Would Do Anything For Love," which left judge Kara DioGuardi saying she would take Nate on as her "karaoke buddy." For me, it was just uncomfortable.

And then things got interesting.

Felicia Barton, 26, was, essentially, a sub-contestant for Joanna Pacitti, who made the Top 36 but was ousted for having past conflict-of-interest ties with the show. Felicia proved why second chances are doled out with the other Alicia K. song, "No One." Paula hit her with one of those special Paula lines: "Isn't it funny how the universe works."

Scott MacIntrye, 23, was a little disappointing on "Mandolin Rain." I worry that without his piano, he's still a strong singer but missing just a touch of his passion. The judges, however, heaped on the praise. Simon says he would be surprised if Scott didn't sail through. "You're growing on me," he said.

Kendall Beard, 24, and Jorge Nunez, 21, both still had shots as the show neared the end. But her Martina McBride song, "This One is for the Girls" was not her best vocal performance. It got shrill, but Kendall definitely has the chops for country music. Jorge did the other Elton John song, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." It was good, not great. And he's a likeable guy.

Up last was Lil Rounds, 24, (pictured) who knocked it out of the vocal park with "Be Without You," a Mary J. Blige song she definitely connected with. Simon called it "brilliant." Paula added, "We'll see you for many more 'lil rounds." Hah!

My predictions? It's tough. But I'm going with Lil, Scott and - as my darkhorse - the risen-from-the-ashes Felicia.

The live results show is at 8 tonight on FOX40.

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