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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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  • IDOL 411: Ellen DeGeneres torn between naughty and nice on 'Idol'

    (AP)

    (AP)

    Ellen DeGeneres made her debut on “American Idol” Tuesday night, and our initial feeling was “eh.”

    The comedienne did make us laugh a couple of times, like when she teased the nervous contestants by asking them to step forward, then step back, then step to the side, then finally told them they’d all made it through. She also gave a great sound bite when she told a barefoot contestant to “put some shoes on … it’s filthy here. Hollywood is a disgusting town.”

    How did Ellen do on “Idol”? [Poll]

    But while making the press rounds to promote “American Idol,” Ellen expressed her fear that America will think she’s “mean,” something she swears she’s not. We know how she feels — we sometimes feel mean just writing this blog. But the fact that “Idol” is reportedly considering Howard Stern to take over Simon’s role proves that the more outspoken you are as a judge on this show, the better.

    That said, we’re not convinced that America wants to see Ellen being mean — we ourselves would rather see her doing her dorky dance moves than shattering people’s dreams.

    Inevitably, some dreams were shattered on Tuesday’s show. We were sad to say good-bye to Erica Rhodes, the former “Barney” actress who now prefers pleather and whips. The very strange “Skiiboski” also got the boot (how did he make it to Hollywood to begin with?) with Ellen accusing him of “frightening the audience.” Vanessa Wolfe, who left home on her first airplane trip to try out for “Idol,” went back to her tiny Tennessee town after botching Blind Melon’s “No Rain.” And Cornelius Edwards, who split his pants open in Orlando, went home, along with that Italian guy Amedeo DeRocco.

    But after four weeks of outcasts and freak shows, Tuesday night’s “Idol” was finally more about being good than about being bad. Andrew Garcia’s slower, sexier version of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” was just plain amazing. Kara even called him “genius.” Single mom Crystal Bowersox might have tied Andrew Garcia for best performance of the night, belting out Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman.” With her Jason Castro dreadlocks and slightly gritty edge, Crystal stands out from the rest of the pack.

    WATCH the best performances of the night: Andrew Garcia’s “Straight Up” and Crystal Bowersox’s “Natural Woman.”

    Mary Powers, the mother of “Simon’s long-lost daughter,” nailed Pink’s “Sober” and seems destined to be this season’s resident rocker chick. Michael “Big Mike” Lynche was even better in Hollywood Week than he was in his audition … all while his wife went into labor with their first baby. We still don’t think he’ll be cut from the show because of his dad’s big mouth, but anything can happen.

    Didi Benami, a personal favorite of ours, was a hit with Kara DioGuardi’s song “Terrified.” Simon admitted he liked the whole idea of her “waitress makes it big ” narrative — Kelly Clarkson, anyone? But we have to say, she reminds us more of Brooke White.

    Katie Stevens, a pretty, fresh-faced 17-year-old high school student from Connecticut, impressed Simon (and us) with her performance of Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life.” That she can pull off a pair of sexy black pants and high heels will only help her. Gorgeous 24-year-old Janell Wheeler also wowed the judges (and us) with her sexy performance Estelle’s “American Boy,” and stood out as one to watch.

    But the most important performance of the night came from Ellen, who left a lot of questions up in the air. Will she get nicer or snarkier as the season unfolds? Will her lack of a music background become evident when she’s critiquing the better contestants? And when will the rumored clashes with Simon begin? We’ll be back tomorrow with part two of her debut.

    —Jennifer D’Angelo Friedman, Amos Content Group

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