Go Team Shiv! The top 16 girls: Bottom Row L-R: Crystal Bowersox, Katelyn Epperly, Lilly Scott and Paige Miles. Top Row L-R: Didi Benami, Sioban Magnus, Katie Stevens and Lacey Brown.

By Gina Carbone

I’m officially on Team Shiv.

While Simon Cowell (foolishly) gave Jay Leno an early endorsement of Crystal Bowersox — who has probably already peaked — and I gushed over Mullet Boy Alex Lambert, odd bod Siobhan Magnus quietly snuck up to take over the conversation.

She’s the love-it-or-hate-it performer of “American Idol” season nine and THANK GOD FOR IT because otherwise this group has been so flipping dull I’ve considered going back to reading at night.

Little Shiv had her Adam Lambert moment as the second singer of the top 16 ladies night, starting “The House of the Rising Sun” in a capella and hitting just about every note dead on. It was ballsy and paid off.

Simon wasn’t into it, but that’s fine. He challenged Adam Lambert, too. So did I. He was my sometimes love (“Mad World”) sometimes hate (“Ring of Fire”) singer. I couldn’t wait to hear what he would do next.

Unlike Crystal Bowersox. She’s a great singer, don’t get me wrong. But I know what I’m going to get from her every time.

All right, Shiv, I'm on your team now. Don't let me down.

I think she’s as good as she’s going to get and she’s just going to keep at this level for the rest of the competition, while people like Alex Lambert improve every week and Shiv does wild roller coaster stuff.

At least my girl Didi Benami is finally getting love from the judges. They “get” her now. Or they got her this week, anyway.

For some reason the judges thought Lacey Brown/Tonks was good this week, but when they play her performance back I wonder if they’re going to hear anything to praise.

And I have to say I’m with Simon this week on one of my other faves, Lilly Scott. No “wow” factor from the final song of the night.

People none of us are getting:

Katie Stevens — what the hell happened?
Katelyn Epperly — borderline embarrassing
Paige Miles — total train wreck

In the battle for the worst, I’m thinking Paige and Katelyn saved Katie from going home. If that’s the way it turns out, she should send them flowers.

Sidenote: I like these one-hour “Idol” shows. Things move quickly and no one mucks about.


1. Katie Stevens — “Breakaway” (Kelly Clarkson) — Kelly Clarkson starts the night! Except this is karaoke Kelly. Randy was right: Katie’s version pales in comparison to Kelly’s breakaway hit. Bad idea to stand next to the prettiest girl during a beauty pageant and that’s what she did with this song. It makes her look worse than if she had done something unique, or at least less recognizable to the “Idol” universe.

2. Siobhan Magnus — “The House of the Rising Sun” (The Animals) — Wow. This could’ve been  a total train wreck, but she had amazing control from the initial a capella to the end. Risky. Paid off. She is the Adam Lambert of this season. We’re all going to be watching what she does next. Simon thought it was “weird” and he was “under-impressed,” but keep in mind he wanted to cut Chris Daughtry after his initial audition and he challenged Adam Lambert throughout. (He may have just been pushing people to call for little Shiv, to position her as an underdog. Or he could be covering his own tush for already endorsing Crystal Bowersox to Jay Leno. Way too early in the season for that kind of talk.)

3. Lacey Brown — “The Story” (Brandy Carlile) — She picked a song that fit her voice, but I cringed a bit. She couldn’t hit all the notes, the way Shiv did. But the judges are right, this is probably the best we’ll get out of Lacey. Simon complimented her more than Shiv — because Lacey sang that “very well” and she knows where the cameras are, etc. — but please. Watch it back and then tell me that.

4. Katelyn Epperly
— “I Feel the Earth Move” (Carole King) — What was the point of this performance? It’s the kind of song you have your little niece sing during the annual family reunion. Cute for a kid. Not for a prospective pro. This is no way to showcase yourself as an artist. She wanted to be LESS corny and chose this? But her hair is very cute.

5.  Didi Benami — “Rhiannon” (Fleetwood Mac) — I love Didi. Love her voice and I love her melancholy, mystical version of this song. She sounds so different from the other karaoke types. She belongs in the top 12, at the very least. To quote Ellen, “Yes indeedy, Didi.” I’m glad the judges are finally “getting” Didi, too. Simon said it was “head and shoulders above” everything else they’d heard the whole night and her “wow moment” was the whole song. Nice! And yet now I feel like Shiv is the underdog. I have to support whoever ends up the underdog. Last week it was Didi.

6. Paige Miles — “Smile” (Charlie Chaplin) — Why so serious? Paige has always come across, to me, as bubbly. Was she in a depressed mood? She sounded on the verge of tears while singing. I love melancholy songs — I have a “depressing” mix on my iPod, and the Nat King Cole version of “Smile” is on it — but she didn’t even do a good version of a sad song. She’s probably gone after this. (I had no idea Charlie Chaplin originally did that song.)

7. Crystal Bowersox — “Give Me One Reason” (Tracy Chapman) — It’s worth noting when judges, like Ellen, are already looking for new adjectives to praise a singer. When you’re this good this early people expect you to get better. Everyone wants more “wow.” But I feel like we’re just going to get more of the same. I’ll tell you now — I’ll buy a song by Didi, I’ll buy a song by Shiv, I’ll buy a song by Lilly, but I don’t picture myself ever buying anything by Crystal. She’s talented as hell — I’m not deaf — but she’s not my style.

8. Lilly Scott — “I Fall to Pieces” (Patsy Cline) — In the battle of the sweet indie voiced girls, I’m thinking Didi won this week. Surprise. I still love Lilly — and LOVE her little knit earrings — but I’m surprised by this song choice.  Mandolin! The judges thought she made Patsy Cline sound current. I think she could just sing anything and with her voice make it sound interesting. But I agree with Simon, she had the prime end-of-night spot and her song didn’t have a “wow” factor.