If the "American Idol" girls are beautiful, bland and uninspiring (save, say, three or four), this year's guys are a rag-tag lot. If this were the NFL draft, you'd compare them collectively to this guy Jay Cutler everybody's buzzing about: There are a lot of unknown quantities with huge upside and equal potential to be busts.
Singer: PATRICK HALL
Song: "Come to My Window"
My Take: Is "largest Adam's Apple" in "Idol" history a worthy goal? Patrick seems to have this in the bag. Bizarre song choice. The gals are in the background singing along. I'd rather hear eight or nine of them. I don't know what to make of him. His voice isn't bad at all -- a couple sharp notes here and there -- but what could you do with him? If he were playing a piano in a lounge, you'd stop to listen. That's not what this show is about. At 27, he's too old to magically transform into Clay Aiken.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy noticed that he was nervous. Paula wants him to stick to what he does best. Simon thinks it was an awful song choice.
Singer: DAVID RADFORD
Song: "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
My Take: In the opening auditions, Paula expressed concern that David was just a one-note performer. Tonight's performance proved she's wrong. Unfortunately, every note that isn't "crooner" may be wildly out of tune. He's affected and cheesy from note one. The teenage girls may love him, though. He's like a spazzier, better looking John Stevens. I don't think that's a good thing.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy thinks it was like a high school talent show. Paula doesn't think it was horrible. Simon thought it was a joke, but he recognizes that old people will want to hug him. David is a good sport in the face of the criticisms. That also bodes well for him.
Singer: BUCKY COVINGTON
Song: "Simple Man"
My Take: Scarier facet of Bucky: His facial hair? His vampire-esque canines? Or the fact that the judges thought he was one of the 12 best male singers in this competition? Dunno. When he doesn't have to carry a tune, he's raspy and effective. Whenever the notes change, there's about a 50 percent chance he's gonna be out of tune. We haven't seen much of him to this point. Color me unimpressed. Bucky, you ain't no Bo Bice.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy thought he oversang, but thought he was cool. Paula thinks he's growing, bad notes aside. Simon likes his rawness and makes a veiled stab at Constantine. He says there are Buckys at 1000s of bars around America. That's SO true.
Singer: WILL MAKAR
Song: "I Want You Back"
My Take: Is he 12? Boy he's young. He's less annoyingly affected than David, I think. He shouts the song, which isn't necessarily better than doing a Michael Jackson impression. He's got an Adam Brody thing going on, which could be big with the FOX audience. He's OK. Sorry. The men are boring me.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy thinks he did his thing. Paula compares him to Bobby Brady. Simon thinks he's cute, but vocally average. Ryan needs to shut up. He's not a judge.
Singer: JOSE 'SWAY' PENALA
My Take: If it's the first time America has really seen you? Do you want to do a whole song in falsetto? No. No you don't. He can certainly get high, can't he? When we have an "Aaron Neville Theme Night," this guy's gonna knock it out of the park. If we're going for uniqueness, I'd take Sway over the assortment of bland teen crooners.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy thought it was hot and original. Paula calls it amazing. Simon's confused and calls it "pimpy."
Singer: CHRIS DAUGHTRY
Song: "Wanted Dead or Alive"
My Take: You've gotta love the guy's backstory and you've gotta love a guy who's willing to do "Wanted Dead or Alive" on a show like this. I also like how he shares Bo Bice's refusal to take the mic off of the stand (at least until the very end). He's sure a huge step up from Bucky. Did he get outsung by the backing vocalist, though? Ooops. That's not as positive. If there are 1000s of bar band singers nationwide better than Bucky, there may only be dozens better than Chris. That's not so bad.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy calls it really, really good. Paula doesn't know where to begin. Simon likes the choice of song and he's finally hearing somebody with potential.
Singer: KEVIN COVAIS
Song: "One Last Cry"
My Take: I've seen a couple writers say he looks like a fetus with glasses. What could I add to that? He's a mediocre young operatic type without an iota of stage presence. That shouldn't be considered a total insult. With four years of growing and training, he might be good. But why does he have to be here now? There isn't a chance he was one of the 12 best singers who auditioned this year. This isn't a show where kids compete to see who America wants to pat on the head the most. "American Mensch" perhaps?
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy thinks he's an honest, real kid and calls him da bomb. WHAT?!? Paula loves him as well. Simon apologizes with a "but" and scales his age rang up to 90 and says it verged on excruciating. How is it possible that Ryan is getting worse?
Singer: GEDEON MCKINNEY
My Take: His over-enunciated cue card reading makes me giggle. Awful song choice. He's more energetic than he is melodic, but he's so sure he's a star it's nearly enough to be plausible for a round or two. He's right on the edge between creepy and energetically creepy. No idea what that means.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy liked the song choice. Yeah. We're not together tonight. Paula says he's different and unique. Simon compares it to watching a warm-up for the Chippendales. Oh.
Singer: ELLIOTT YAMIN
Song: "If You Really Love Me"
My Take: If Elliott were a pirate, he'd be named Neckbeard. It's a tough song, but he sounds really good on it. He has it set an octave too low, I'd say. That causes him to be overwhelmed whenever the music picks up. When the music goes down, he shines. His stage presence is a bit weird. But he's just a solid vocalist. But again, is this guy going to win? That'd be surprising..
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy? Happy. Paula? Happy. Simon? Thinks Elliott may be the best male vocalist they've had. GEEZ.
Singer: BOBBY BENNETT
My Take: No. No. No. Bad karaoke. I can't even begin to guess what show he'd be good on. That E! thing that Wayne Newton hosted? No. They had talented people on that show. This was a wasted Top 12 place.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy generously thinks he's a performer from a different era. Paula enjoys his showmanship. Simon dubs it "a complete nightmare."
Singer: ACE YOUNG
Song: "Father Figure"
My Take: Is this his real name? Nice. Singing George Michael? Tee-hee. Ace is the kind of guy who wins the "Idol" competitions in other countries. If this were England, he'd be unbeatable for "Pop Idol." Unbeatable. This performance? A yawn. The voice is good, but the song isn't challenging in any way. If girls fall in love with him -- and some probably already will -- it won't matter that he isn't running scales.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy thinks he's a star. Paula's breathless. Simon notes that it doesn't matter if Ace can sing, because he's got the X-factor.
Singer: TAYLOR HICKS
Song: "Leave On"
My Take: Here's what I've decided: You know who doesn't like Taylor Hicks? Terrorists. A vote for Taylor Hicks is a vote for Freedom. I'd love to see him become America's Favorite Goofball, at least for another couple months. Who knows what songs and artist he can Joe Cocker-ize. Huzzah for Taylor Hicks. I don't care that when he sings, he looks like he's sitting on the toilet.
Irrelevant Judicial Opinion: Randy loves him. Paula loves him. Simon retracts his earlier comment about Taylor not making the finals.
TONIGHT'S BEST: Taylor, Ace and Elliott, I guess.
IN DANGER: Bye Bucky. Bye Bobby.