'American Idol' Top 8 women: Didi Benami brings it, Paige Miles lags behind

didi-benami-paige-miles-top-8.jpgThere are two relative certainties after the "American Idol" Top 8 women -- that Crystal Bowersox, Lilly Scott and Siobhan Magnus are safe and that Paige Miles is headed home.

The remaining four women's fates are up in the air due to hitherto unseen good performances by the likes of Didi Benami and Lacey Brown, a stumble by the usually good Katelyn Epperly and the fact that Katie Stevens still can't figure out what to do with herself.

The theme of the Top 8 women can be summed up in the word "understated." In several cases that was a good thing and in several cases ... not so much.

Here's our ranking of the night from best to worst:

No. 1: Didi Benami

Kara's assessment that this was one of the best moments of the show so far was spot-on. Didi finally got back to what got her to the Top 24 in the first place with her performance of "Rhiannon" by Fleetwood Mac, instead of trying to be something she's not. Her vocal was nuanced and pure without being a sound-a-like to Stevie Nicks. Didi was understated but still soulful. Really excellent job, way to step up the week it really matters. The judges were similarly complimentary. Is it enough to keep her here? Probably. But she's not a slam dunk.

No. 2 Siobhan Magnus

This doesn't usually happen but ... Kara, Ellen and Randy got it right with Siobhan's "House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals. Simon did not. This was a beautiful vocal. From the haunting a capella beginning to the big notes to the pulling it back for a very subdued ending, this was a superb vocal. This showed off Siobhan's voice better than anything she's done so far. Simon criticized her for not having a big "moment" like she did on "Think" last week. However, he's forgetting that she also had a few crappy little moments. Wouldn't we rather hear a wall-to-wall solid beautiful vocal than one big "moment" that hides other weak ones?

No. 3 Lacey Brown

Was Lacey as good vocally as Crystal? No, but she gets the No. 3 spot because she finally got it right (despite looking like a Goodwill threw up on her). Her choice of "The Story" by Brandi Carlile was excellent. Exactly the type of music she should record. It let her weird quirky voice shine without becoming maudlin ("Landslide") or too bubblegum pop ("Kiss Me"). It also finally let her show some emotion -- another example of being understated but still powerful. The judges rightly praised her.

No. 4 Crystal Bowersox


Crystal's "Gimme One Reason" by Tracy Chapman is her best performance yet in the semi-finals and Simon was right that she's 100% safe for the Top 12. However. She has done the same thing three weeks in a row -- stand there, play her instrument, sound nice. And even if that is exactly the artist she will always be, the voters (and judges) can only go so long before they want something different. Crystal's done this before. Now that she's made the Top 12, next week she needs to change it up or she will become a one-note performer. A very good one-note performer, but one-note nonetheless.

No. 5 Lilly Scott


It was hard to critique this objectively because Patsy Cline had such a gorgeous, pure voice. Lilly's vocal on "I Fall to Pieces" by Cline was not my personal favorite. Plus, what was she wearing? It was bad even for Lilly. However, I can see past my love of the original song and my dislike for her denim jumper from 1993 to agree with the judges that it was a strong vocal -- it's what we all like about Lilly. It lacked some oomph but she should still be safe from elimination this week.

No. 6 Katelyn Epperly

Katelyn really threw her hat in the ring last week. This time, she took it right back out. "I Feel the Earth Move" by Carole King is a tiny-ranged, milquetoast song and between Katelyn's return to her '80s style and looking like when Susan Dey used to fake playing the keyboard on "The Partridge Family," the entire performance was a mess. Does that mean the vocal itself was bad? No. She didn't miss a note. But it was repetitive and blah -- understated in a boring way, really middling vocally. Katelyn is in trouble.

No. 7 Katie Stevens

Why is Katelyn Epperly in trouble? Because Katie Stevens has been showcased more. Katie's "Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson was a weaker vocal than Katelyn's "I Feel the Earth Move," but she's this fresh-faced 17-year-old with the Alzheimer's grandma. That might be enough to keep her here, which is a shame. In reality, Katie wasn't big enough to handle this song and managed to make a soaring anthem sound like a boring dirge -- a Kelly Clarkson song is the wrong time to be understated.

No. 8 Paige Miles

Oh, Paige Miles. I was so sure she had pulled it out after being the pre-Top 24 Invisible Woman because she's had two decent weeks before now. But Paige's "Smile" by Charlie Chaplin was bordering on painful. She was getting choked up, which is an incredibly difficult state to sing through and that's too bad for her. But the vocal was terrible. Breathy, unsupported, no star power, no wow, no oomph. The judges echoed those sentiments. This was the worst performance of the bunch on a song that has the power to break the audiences' hearts.

Who's going home?
Paige is going for sure. She cannot overcome the fact that she has had very little screen time and gave the worst performance of the night. Combine that with the growing theory that minority contestants need twice the talent of their white counterparts, and she's a goner.

Who's safe? Crystal, Lilly and Siobhan, 100%. Didi is also most likely safe.

Lacey is fighting her weirdness because even though she and Didi have done basically the same thing in the Top 24 (two bad, floundering weeks, then finally pulling it out), Lacey is a quirky little sprite while Didi is a stone-cold hottie. Let's not pretend that doesn't matter on this show. Katelyn is fighting a weak performance and the fact that she hasn't been promoted as much by the show as Katie has.

If all is fair, Paige and Katie are headed home. But really only Paige is a done deal. The other spot could go a number of ways. The Thursday night results show on March 11 will actually have some suspense.

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