Ellen DeGeneres Takes Judges Chair For Live ‘Idol’ Round, Top 12 Girls Draw Mixed Reviews
First Published: February 24, 2010 12:18 PM EST Credit: FOX
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Ellen DeGeneres got her first taste of judging on a live “American Idol” on Tuesday night as the Top 12 girls got their first chance to compete for the public vote.
Ellen and Simon Cowell served as bookends on the judges’ table, with Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi in the middle, something the talk show host was quick to comment on before the singing even began.
“We had a little problem and I felt like it’s safer over here,” Ellen told host Ryan Seacrest of her seat next to Randy. “The problem is, Simon wants me and he’s got a thing for me and I get it Simon. I get it, and it’s not going to happen.”
But while she opened with laughter, the comedienne didn’t fill her commentary of the singers with jokes. Instead, Ellen paid intense attention to the vocalists, often finding her commentary in tune with that of music mogul Simon.
The two agreed on several performers, including the white-haired Lilly Scott, who they both praised for her uniqueness.
And with so little for the judges to spar over opinion-wise, the debut live show gave the singers a chance to show their personalities (through song) to the public. The week’s theme was, “songs from the Billboard Top 10 charts.”
Here’s what happened:
Paige Miles, 24, from Cypress, Texas, tried on “All Right Now” by English 1970’s rockers, Free, to open the show. The bubbly woman, who revealed following her performance that she was sewn into her outfit, showed off her vocal range on the rocking number, which drew largely positive comments.
“I think out of al the girls, you have the best voice. I genuinely do think that. Having said that, I wouldn’t have chosen that song, because it is a wedding singer type of song,” the sassy Simon said. “I think you’re gonna be fine, but you’ve gotta be really careful in your song selection.”
Ashley Rodriguez, 22, from Chelsea, Mass., belted out the recent Leona Lewis pop ballad “Happy,” which drew mixed reviews; Ellen thought it was a fine performance, while Simon called it “clumsy.”
Janell Wheeler, 24, from Orlando, Fla., gave it her all with Heart’s “What About Love?” but while Ellen enjoyed it, Kara claimed it was “way too big” for the pretty blonde.
Lilly Scott, 20, from Littleton, Colo., wore a patterned dress as she re-imagined The Beatles’ classic “Fixing A Hole,” which got props from Simon. “[You’re] definitely the best we’ve had so far,” he said. He added, however, he wasn’t “feeling much star power” from the singer.
Kaetlyn Epperly, 19, from West Des Moines, Iowa, also opted for a Beatles number – “Oh Darling” – and her perky performance and fascinating vocals left Simon scratching his head in a good way. “There’s something about you,” he marveled. “You’re kind of quirky, interesting… But you’re gonna need an awful lot of work.”
Haeley Vaughn, 16, from Fort Collins, Colo., performed an unusual rendition of The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” a rendition that didn’t leave a good impression, despite the teen’s ever-present smile. “It was verging on terrible,” Simon said. “You were like a wind up doll that never stopped smiling through the song. It was just, for me, a complete and utter mess.”
Lacey Brown, 24, from Amarillo, Texas, the contender who missed out on “Idol’s” Season 8 by one place last year, used a stool as she sang the Stevie Nicks classic “Landslide.” While her face found favor with the camera, her vocals didn’t impress the judges. “I thought that was terrible,” Randy commented. “I thought that was pitchy all over the place.”
Michelle Delamor, 22, from Miami, Fla., tried out Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’” and she found favor with Ellen following her performance. “That was fantastic!” Ellen raved. “I feel like the only thing I would say for you, and this is a compliment, is that was safe.”
Didi Benami, 23, formerly of Tennessee, now of Hollywood, Calif., showed her stuff with “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson,” but she failed to make an impact. “What I’m missing here is a spark,” Simon commented.
Siobhan Magnus, 19, from Barnstable, Mass., offered her taken on “Wicked Game” from Chris Isaak. “I loved it,” Ellen said. “For a minute, I forgot we were in a singing competition and I was just being entertained.
Crystal Bowersox, 24, from Elliston, Ohio, tried out Alanis Morissette’s “Hand In My Pocket.” Although the judges commended her on her personal originality, Simon suggested she choose less predictable song choices in the future.
Finally, Katie Stevens, 17, from Middlebury, Conn., took the stage with Michael Buble’s “Feeling Good,” which was praised, but the teen also got a barb. “It was like your mum and dad had dressed you and given you the song,” Simon quipped. “So it started to become annoying… It was very pageant-y.”
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