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American Idol: Lil Rounds Owns the Night

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In some ways, Idol‘s third group of 12 to perform in the top 36 made for the most inconsistent musical night so far. Simon described it as “a sea of forgettable .” But there were a few standouts with a strong chance of being named the night’s top 3 on Wednesday’s results show.

The fabulously named Lil Rounds, 23, ended the evening by delivering a big, swaggering, sassy performance of Mary J. Blige‘s “Be Without You.” Kara hailed her as a powerhouse; Simon rhapsodized, “I’m going to keep this very brief: Brilliant,” and Paula smiled to herself as she punned: “I have the sneaking suspicion we’re going to see you for many more lil’ rounds.”

Oh, Paula, you LOL kitten you!

Scott MacIntyre, 23, wasn’t as polished as he should have been with his interpretation of Bruce Hornsby‘s “Mandolin Rain,” but he inspired and impressed the judges. Randy zeroed in on the passion pouring into his vocals. Simon commented that he was starting to like him more and more — and added that Scott seemed like a pretty sure bet to advance. Then Ryan, who got plenty of online ribbing for attempting to high-five the blind singer earlier in the season, tried again and this time pulled it off.

Jorge Nu ez, 20, a solid pop singer from Puerto Rico with romantic curls, thrilled Paula by singing Elton John‘s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” without his accent. Simon reiterated what he’d said before: Jorge’s accent is part of his performer’s personality, and that to praise him for shedding it is patronizing.

Ju’Not Joyner, 26, who told the judges that what might have seemed like a case of nerves was actually the jitters from a cortisone shot, did a very smooth job with “Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White T’s. Randy loved it.

Among the misses: Alex Wagner-Trugman, 19, whom the judges seemed to regard as a sort of pop McLovin; Arianna Afsar, 17, stumbling through a dirge-like version of ABBA‘s “Winner Takes It All;” and the unstoppably over-the-top Nathaniel Marshall, 19, whose performance Simon described as “verging on excruciating.”

But keep an eye on Kendall Beard, 24. She wasn’t a standout vocally with her cover of Martina McBride‘s “This One’s for the Girls,” but she’s extremely blonde, extremely cute and she leans toward country.

As Simon noted, “Strange things happen on this show… “

Tell us: Who was your favorite of the night? Who disappointed with their performance?F Micelotta/American Idol 2009/Getty