'American Idol' Recap: Billboard Hot 100 Night

Kara DioGuardi, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson

The first twelve contestants of 'American Idol' Top 36 showcase their performance on popular songs and Aretha Franklin's two pieces come up.
The first live "American Idol" in season eight has begun and this would be the first live appearance of Kara DioGuardi, who is added as the fourth judge starting this season. Twelve out of 36 contestants who got through take the stage to perform before the judges. The theme is rather broad: any songs that have entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart, no marginal year.

Before the show begins, Paula Abdul gives an advice to the singers who line up on the stairs. She says, "You know what? This is all your dream, right? You gotta hit that center stage and make magic happen in a minute twenty seconds, and if you don't? Look to the right, look to the left, whoever is better, you're gonna go home! It's a tough, tough, kind of a season this year."

First up is Jackie Tohn singing "A Little Less Conversation" by Elvis Presley. She receives mild compliments from the judges, particularly on the stage presence. Ricky Braddy comes next, singing "A Song for You" by Leon Russell. Paula pulls a standing ovation for him but Simon Cowell says he has no star quality. Alexis Grace is the one who got a unanimous opinion though her "Never Loved a Man" by Aretha Franklin performance. Simon says it is the best so far and compares her to Kelly Clarkson.

A shot of country is delivered by Brent Keith who sings "Hicktown" by Jason Aldean. The performance is mediocre and the judges agree that he does not put himself to the max. From bad to worse, Stevie Wright messes up her performance of Taylor Swift's "You Belong to Me". Simon comments, "There is zero chance of making it to the next round." Fan favorite Anoop Desai gives it only one notch higher when he selects a ballad, "Angel of Mine" by Monica and the judges think it was a bad choice.

Casey Carlson, the contestant praised for her look does The Police by singing "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic". Kara thought it is completely wrong and Casey is immediately put off. Oil rig guy Michael Saver is up next, delivering "I Don't Wanna Be" by Gavin DeGraw. The judges think it is not his best performance. Anne Marie Boskovich decides to go big with her song choice, "Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin and indeed, the judges think it's too big a song for her.

Lyric-forgetting Stephen Fowler takes on "Rock With You" by Michael Jackson and manages to pull through although Simon wishes he would have forgotten the lines. Tatiana Del Toro which creates a lot of drama prior to the Top 36, gets a "drama queen" label from Simon when she delivers her rendition of Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love For You". Kara says she does not know where Tatiana will fit in the industry and Tatiana answers back "I fit everywhere". The last performer of the day is Danny Gokey who surprisingly goes with "Hero" by Mariah Carey. The performance is a solid one although not "spectacular" according to Simon.

Fans can vote for their favorite singers and the live result will be expelled Wednesday, February 18 at 8/7c. Three finalists will advance and make up the Top 12 along with the Wild Cards.

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