Recap: Third Group of 12 Performs

On Tuesday's American Idol, another dozen was sent to the chopping block. Three will move forward; the rest will soon be appearing at a steakhouse near you. Overall, it's a tough call: There were many promising performances, to be sure, although most of the finalists were plagued by various issues about song choice, styling and displaying their true personalities to full advantage. Who will make the top 12? Read on to peruse my admittedly amateur observations, and then weigh in on who you think deserves to make the cut.

Hey folks, Mickey O'Connor here, filling in for Erin Fox tonight. I'm one of those fair-weather American Idol fans who usually doesn't start paying attention until it gets down to the finals, so I haven't really been watching. I apologize in advance if I say something stupid due to my early-season ignorance.

I will say that I'm not a big fan of the "12 perform, three survive" system they're trying this season. It seems unduly harsh. Also, how much can America really get to know these kids after one performance? For the record, although I supported the idea of a fourth judge, and initially I liked Kara's moxie (and her obvious expertise), I think she's kind of a pill. As such, Simon remains the only judge who gives substantive critiques, so I'm glad they're changing up the order in which the judges give their critiques. Though he still has to fight the booing crowd (so rude), at least he no longer has to fight the clock as much.

Tonight Simon floated an intriguing idea: Simon Cowell Week, in which he picks all the songs for all the contestants. I always enjoy seeing which songs the judges choose in the later weeks of the competition, so I say bring it on! For now, we have to be satisfield with tonight's loose theme: songs that appeared on the Billboard 100, which is basically every famous song ever recorded. Let's see how they did:

Von Smith

Von wisely addresses the shouting criticism that the judges gave him during Hollywood Week, where Simon called his singing "indulgent nonsense." Von sings "You're All I Need to Get By" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, which, ironically, has a somewhat shouty, exuberant vocal. (Check out Diana Ross' version for a smoother take.) His performance is appropriately restrained, and it's clear this kid has some talent. Randy notes his improvement, Kara says he's coming into his own, Paula says "America's going to remember you," and Simon, perhaps somewhat unfairly, compares him to Clay Aiken, taking a particularly unnecessary jab at his "dress sense." This is especially dumb considering Von's wearing a gray suit. Shocking! But Simon also says he sang very well. Von is diplomatic about the Clay comparison, which is a smart move. Claymates everywhere will vote for him.

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