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

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  • IDOL 411: Top 12 girls in the spotlight

    IdolTopGals

    The caliber of talent this year on “American Idol” makes this season one of the toughest ever for contestants. With the live shows beginning this week, our top 12 ladies must take this opportunity to not only prove themselves worthy of the crown but also to create a memorable imprint of their own personalities on the audiences at home and in the auditorium.

    Top 12 girls: Who gets your vote?

    It’s part of why these first few live rounds are so difficult to maneuver for contestants — if we don’t remember you, we won’t vote for you. If we remember you too much in a less-than-awesome way, we won’t vote for you. And the trickiest bit: if your performance is great but resonates with a narrower segment of viewers, then not enough of us will vote for you. Here’s what to watch out for with some of our early favorites:

    Single mom Crystal Bowersox, who lists among her musical influences Janis Joplin, Tracy Chapman, and Melissa Etheridge, finished the Hollywood Rounds as a clear crowd and judge favorite. She oozes cool confidence onstage, but how much does her guitar fit into her performance — a guitar she won’t have during the live shows? And can she translate her indie rock vibe to mass appeal?

    SLIDESHOW: The ‘Idol’ Top 24

    Seventeen-year-old Katie Stevens emerged as a potential winner with her clear, full voice and classic look, but she’ll have to bust out with a stellar performance — in all aspects — to really make sure viewers remember her after the two-hour show. And 17 is awfully young, especially in a group of women with arguably more to lose if they don’t make it far in the competition.

    Ashley Rodriguez, trained at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, definitely puts on a show with every performance, but she risks coming off as too theatrical for some viewers if she doesn’t dial down the jazz hands a notch.

    Orlando’s Janell Wheeler originally auditioned with “House of the Rising Run,” a performance she infused with just enough of her own personality to avoid coming off as theatrical or corny. Even Randy remarked that she was bubbly, which as you might imagine is not a typical response to someone singing “House of the Rising Sun.” And after a great acoustic version of Estelle’s “American Boy” in Hollywood, it appears she knows how to work the room and still show her own style — which she’ll need to fend off the haters who will say she’s coasting on her looks no matter how well she sings.

    WATCH: The Top 24 female semifinalists perform for the judges.

    Which brings us to Lilly Scott, whose performance this week is one of the most anticipated. Her Hollywood rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Lullaby of Birdland” could be packaged and sold as a single right now, but the “American Idol” contest is about appealing to the widest audience possible, especially in the early rounds. Her look alone will make her stand out — and not in a good way for some people — so can she pick a song that will appeal to the masses and still highlight some of that jazzy cool she showed off in Hollywood?

    —Christine Lusey, Amos Content Group

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