She almost missed out on "American Idol" due to her hospitalization earlier this week for undisclosed "medical issues," but when Crystal Bowersox hit the stage on Wednesday's live round for the FOX reality show, she left the judges awed.
The dreadlocked 24-year-old mom brought out her acoustic guitar as she performed an older tune – Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Long As I Can See The Light" — singing with heart, depth and passion. Her performance didn't just make her a standout, it made her the "contestant to watch."
"You are the truth and you do what you do," a moved Randy Jackson said. "I just love that you're not trying to be anybody else… I love that girl. That girl is hot."
Ellen DeGeneres was also impressed and she thanked Crystal for her performance.
"Please stay healthy. We need you here. You're amazing," she said.
And although Wednesday's show was just the second week of live competition for the public vote, British judge Simon Cowell said Crystal's performance had echoes of one from the original "American Idol."
"The vocal was incredible and I promise you, this was like, the moment we realized with Kelly Clarkson that we've got a serious artist here," Simon said. "I think we've got a really serious artist with you. Congratulations."
So how did the rest of the pack do? Here's a recap:
Teenager Haeley Vaughn was full of smiles as she performed the Miley Cyrus hit "The Climb," but Randy slammed it, dubbing her rendition "excruciating" and "pitchy."
"There's a certain irony for you singing a song about climbing when you actually fell off," Simon added.
Redheaded Lacey Brown took Kara DioGuardi's advice last week and rolled out her version of Sixpence None The Richer's "Kiss Me." Her version was true to the tune, but it lacked a spark according to Randy, who said it felt "like we're doing karaoke."
Katie Stevens, the teen with the big voice, made an uncomfortable impression last week, singing what the judges thought was a not-very-age-appropriate "Feeling Good," the sexy tune from Michael Buble. So on Wednesday she opted for a younger selection – Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put your Record On." "I liked it," Ellen said.
Didi Benami performed the Bill Withers classic "Lean On Me," but despite hitting the notes, Randy said she picked the wrong song. "I would just have not chosen a soul song like that — that deep rooted soul for you," he said. "I don't think it really worked. It shows the imperfections."
Curly haired Michelle Delamor, the beauty who bears a resemblance to Simon Cowell's "X Factor" protege Leona Lewis, took a chance on stage, singing Creed's "With Arms Wide Open." The gorgeous gal got props from Randy for her perky white dress, atop skinny pants – "the outfit is dope," he said – but he said the performance "fell flat."
Lilly Scott, who the judges have complimented for being unique, tried a rendition of Sam Cooke's much-covered classic, "A Change Is Gonna Come." Randy, Ellen and Kara enjoyed it, but Simon threw down the gauntlet. "I thought it was good. I wasn't crazy about it like the others," he said. "I thought Crystal was stronger than you."
Katelyn Epperly, the ringlet-haired blonde, took to the piano for Coldplay's "The Scientist." Ellen slammed it for being too slow, but Kara offered high praise. "You're really good, you're seriously good and when you get to that sweet spot it's like, 'Wow! That is hot. Figure out who you are though, real quick."
Paige Miles, the girl with the big voice, performed Kelly Clarkson's "Walk Away," which was co-written by Kara. Her rendition was dubbed, "fantastic" by Ellen, but Simon said it was "forgettable."
Finally, Siobhan Magnus, who Simon previously called "a funny little thing," tackled "Think," a song made famous by Aretha Franklin. And while in the past judges have slammed contenders for trying Aretha songs, Siobhan sang it well enough to impress.
"Most people would say don't take on a big song, but you know, they also said don't mix sleeves with a blanket, but look at the Snuggie, it's huge. Man, that was good," Ellen said.
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