Tonight on 'American Idol': And Then There Were 12

Who's made it into the coveted top 12? We'll find out tonight on the American Idol results show (8 p.m. ET on Fox). From here on out, the final 12 (guys and girls) will perform together on Tuesdays, with one person knocked off in the Wednesday results show. In other words, now the competition really takes shape.

Matt Giraud and Scott MacIntyre, who placed fifth and eighth in last season's Idol, are performing Billy Joel's "Tell Her About It" with dueling pianos—which was a crowd-pleasing staple during the 2009 American Idol Live summer tour. MacIntyre, who is visually impaired, is releasing his first post-Idol CD, Heartstrings, today. With the show's through-the-roof ratings, this is hands down the best way to publicize it. (Who says Idol doesn't help its own?)

But of course, tonight is all about finding out which two guys and two girls get the boot. Ironically, it's the oddballs who seem to be safest. This has been the season of the individualist.

Simon Cowell made that point way back on February 24th, while critiquing Andrew Garcia's performance. "When you did the Paula song, 'Straight Up,' during the Hollywood round, that, to me, made you stand out as being original, quirky, interesting," he said. "I'd never heard it before." And in the weeks since then, the judges have reiterated that sentiment, urging contestants to "make the song your own." Meanwhile, the more eccentric singers, like the white-haired hipster type, Lilly Scott, are garnering their praise. And the attractive, all-American types, like Katie Stevens, aren't connecting.

When Cowell appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno this week, he touted another nonconformist. "I like this girl Crystal [Bowersox]," he said. "When I first saw her I described her as a busker [a British term for street performer]. And I like the way she handled that, because she kind of admitted that’s who she was. But she’s got some confidence now. She’s got a great voice. She’s different. I like her."

But it's not just Bowersox's bohemian look (dreads, tattoos, jeans) and raspy voice that intrigue the judges. The folksy singer comes off as someone who doesn't watch American Idol, and doesn't care to. She's a lone wolf, too artsy and out there to get into such a mainstream show. She's the equivalent of the hard-to-get love interest. The less interested she seems, the more interesting she becomes. Stevens, on the other hand, is like the girl who's waiting by the phone. Garcia, too. "It was a little bit desperate, I thought, Andrew," Cowell told him last night. 

That said, the viewers will decide who goes tonight, not the judges. Will the viewers smell the desperation, too? Would they favor someone who doesn't seem to want it as much? The show has always been part singing competition, part popularity contest. It will be interesting to see which way it veers this season.

Plus:
- Everything the Idol Guys Can Learn from the Top 12 Women
- PHOTOS: Idol Champs vs. Runners-Up: Who's the Bigger Winner?

Who do you think will be sent home tonight?

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