Now we get to see what some wardrobe, make-up and vocal coach experts can do and this was a quality production all right. You can usually write off a good half of the hopefuls in this first week but not this year - I'm a pretty critical observer but have to say that there were no duds tonight. It really is anyone's guess at the moment. Such a massive voting audience can produce strange results when one or two genre favourites get backing whilst others get split so it'll be really interesting to get some clue. Stefano, Karen and Ashton at risk. My guess is Ashton goes. Or Naima if the kids don't vote.
Lauren ♪8 ☼8½
Lauren does Shania does Country. Confident - a little bit either on or off with the volume and not a lot of shade but solid enough and enjoyable to watch. She'll be around for a while for sure. She is the favourite, too, although the odds will be lengthening after tonight I suspect.
Casey ♪10 ☼10
Now normally I would stand up and walk out when yet another contestant in a singing show does Joe Cocker and they usually really do need a little help from their friends! Casey's preformance, though, was brilliant. 100% professional. The old Cocker would've been proud. Good backing from the band too - although maybe just too close to the original in the background. This guy's heading for the final. Not sure where he fits in on the 'pop' scene but very impressive.
Ashton ♪6½ ☼5
Taking the Diana Ross thing a bit far with the dress and the hair, perhaps. Trouble with copies is they are just that and you want to hear the original sometimes. No feeling in what was originally in a sensitive song. Not bad - and she did hit the notes. I remember how many of last year's lesser contestants did.
Paul ♪7½ ☼7½
Original and very competent performance. Lots of character. i'm not sure he chose the right number but America may not have a James Morrison so he could fill that gap for them.
Pia ♪9 ☼8½
She got rave reviews and the crowd really do seem to love her. I felt she was trying a bit too hard. She has a slightly harsh look - I'd change the middle parting - and lacks a soft, natural something that would make a hge difference and make her more endearing. I want to like her immensely but something's stopping me and after the third very loud and tinny All By Myself I was getting bored. A nearly very beautiful girl and possible new favourite but I'm really not sure I agree.
James ♪9 ☼8
Another very talented guy with an ability to hit the right notes across several octaves and you can see he cares. Now that he's sorted his hair out better he's looking more of a contender. He could be around a good time. Great rendition, far more in tune than Paul McCartney was too. Like so many of the others, though, there's a soft side, some shade missing. Just a little needy.
Haley ♪8 ☼7½
Loved this girl at the start and even though the bookies have her down amongst the early exits I hope she sticks around a while as she has a brave attitude and is a bit special. Nice performance and it had the right feel. Randy thought it was sleepy but that's how it should have been in my view. She's got really tough competition and may struggle to win votes against all but Ashton that have gone before.
Jacob ♪6 ☼6
I was wondering if I'd get bored with this guy or whether he'd rise about the warbling and screeching trick. He didn't and I did. No, sorry. Nice guy and, sure, he has a good voice and loves singing but not my choice on this week's performance. He'll probably be around a while longer but needs some new approach next week.
Thia ♪8½ ☼7
Really well presented, making this youngster look and sound so much older. Absolutely spot-on vocally at the start. There was one massive gap at one point which I didn't quite get but she can sing and she's around for a good few performances yet. The voice is superb. She should drop, or at least reduce, the band who didn't do her any favours.
Stefano ♪5 ☼6
Disappointing. Notes were a bit awry and he didn't look that sure of himself. Great reviews from the judges make me wonder if I saw the same performance. Oh well. I had this guy down as a possible finalist but he'll need some poor performance from someone else to keep him safe this week.
Karen ♪4 ☼7
Weak start and an unusual song that was not at all easy to get across. She didn't really manage it and didn't seem as confident as I'd expected. There wasn't that communication that it needed either. If she didn't have a massive unique backing then she'd be very much at risk but she'll probably survive. She'll definitely have to up her game if she does.
Scotty ♪10 ☼8½
Played it very safe with a good ol' Country song. An unchallenging number with notes that I reckon even I could manage to get right. All good stuff but he'll need to do more than this as the weeks go by. He's always been a potential winner by virtue of the huge Country vote and his clear experience and talent but I just don't see that special something I want a winner to show.
Naima ♪6 ☼7½
Great choice for her and really good first glimpse of what this girl can do. I hadn't expected much of her and she was favourite to exit first. If the voters like the more up-to-date stuff then she gets the 21st Century vote this week. The question is how big is it? Nice to see someone a bit different and having some fun along with Casey.