‘Idol’ females unleashed on America


To paraphrase the old adage, you can’t be too cute or too young to take the stage on “American Idol.”

As revealed by the first live look at the top 24 contestants — in this case the female half — the ninth season is shaping up to be a marketing department’s dream.

Gone are the hefty divas and past-their-prime torch singers. They’ve been replaced by younger, chirpier models. Fortunately, a dose of diversity was reflected in their musical styles. As always, some were better than others. But none were terrible.

Also significant for the evening was the first live appearance by judge Ellen DeGeneres, who remained attentive, enthusiastic and far more interesting than the not-at-all-missed Paula Abdul. Her presence in tandem with Simon Cowell and Kara DioGuardi actually seemed to make the discourse-challenged Randy Jackson attempt to say something of interest. At least he appeared to not be sleepwalking through the proceedings.

In the interest of avoiding a 2,000-word blog — I’d much rather devote those words to answering my hate mail — here’s a quick rundown on how the contestants fared.

* Paige Miles (“All Right Now”): Good voice but generic everything else. Partial kudos for attempting a classic rock staple instead of something from the Mariah Carey catalog.

* Ashley Rodriguez (some Leona Lewis song): A weak low range and out-of-tune meanderings made for an unmemorable debut.

* Janell Wheeler (“What About Love”): Why try and duplicate Ann Wilson’s unbeatable voice? Wheeler proved in her auditions to have taste and creativity, so her tackling a wedding-band song was disappointing. Anyone else think she looks like a cross between Kate Winslet and Scarlett Johansson?

* Lily Scott (“Fixing a Hole”): Easily the freakiest Beatles song yet performed on “Idol.” Still, there’s something that didn’t quite “come together” with this barista-looking hipster.

* Katelyn Epperly (“Oh! Darling”): Great pipes but somewhat awkward. Much potential, though. And curls to match.

* Haeley Vaughn (“I Want to Hold Your Hand”): While effectively trying to mix up the arrangement on this early Beatles hit, Vaughn veered between infectious and chaotic.

* Lacey Brown (“Landslide”): Could she not hear? There were moments when the crimson-haired siren must have thought she was performing a capella because she couldn’t connect with the band whatsoever on the Fleetwood Mac gem.

* Michelle Delamor (“Falling”): When playing “spot the pro,” here’s the most likely choice. She’ll do well on theme nights as she radiates that ability to competently deliver on whatever is thrown her way. Can’t you picture her fielding requests at a corporate fundraiser?

* Didi Benami (“The Way I Am”): Although she looks like a young country artist, she leans more toward the hip Duffy/Adele/Megan Joy school of singing. But sometimes “new” can get “old” real fast.

* Siobhan Magnus (“Wicked Game”): There’s something bizarre about this big-voiced contestant — besides the length of her front teeth. She’ll either do really well or have a memorable meltdown. Money is on the latter.

* Crystal Bowersox (“Hand in My Pocket”): Really, a harmonica neck holder? Talk about putting a barrier between you and the audience. You might as well be wearing a metal mouth brace like that nerd girl in “Sixteen Candles.” At least she got her teeth whitened. Oh, and she’s pretty good in that Wakarusa Fest kind of way.

* Katie Stevens (“Feeling Good”): High school theater vibe coupled with back-of-the-throat delivery made young Stevens a poor choice of a finalist. She needs to go back to playing Marian in “The Music Man.”

Bottom three prediction: Ashley Rodriguez, Paige Miles and Lacey Brown.

Loser: Ashley Rodriguez. Remember, it’s not how bad you are in the early rounds, it’s how forgettable you are.