Greetings, “American Idol” aficionados! I’ll be your guest blogger today, as Mr. Farley had plans which necessitated that someone step in for him on either “The Biggest Loser” or “AI,” and although I’m far from a regular viewer of either series, you don’t need to have been following “AI” to tune in and offer your opinions about the performances. Besides, before I got this sweet gig as a TV critic, I spent more than a decade writing almost exclusively about music, so it’s not like I don’t have a frame of reference to the topic at hand. (You kids are still listening to Marcy Playground and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, right?)

We’re into the Top 16 now, of course, and last night was all about the ladies, with each of the eight female contestants getting their chance in the spotlight. I think it’s fair to say that any episode which begins with Ellen DeGeneres sitting in Simon Cowell’s lap, seemingly basking in his scent, is going to be an interesting one. It was, as ever, a mixture of magnificent and mediocre, but you can get my impressions on the performances after the jump.

Given how long he’s been doing this, I might as well follow Mr. Farley’s format and kick things off by tackling…

THE REALLY GOOD

Siobhan Magnus is as cute as the dickens, but put her in a short red skirt and she transcends cuteness and heads into the territory of the truly gorgeous. In this case, though, it was her performance that left me breathless. Tackling a song like “House of the Rising Sun,” which Eric Burdon and the Animals turned into a ’60s classic, was a risky move, but she gave an absolutely amazing performance, one which even made my wife look up from her Sudoku puzzle. (I can assure you that this is high praise, especially since she was predisposed to ignore the proceedings because it meant that we weren’t able to watch “NCIS.”) Three out of four judges couldn’t say enough good things about Siobhan, but, of course, Simon had to offer the dissenting position and use words like “plodding,” “boring,” and “dark.” Obviously, I disagree with the first two adjectives, but the darkness was why I liked it as much as I did. Mike referred to her last week as being “maybe more than a dark horse.” After a performance like this one, I feel like she’s officially worth considering as a major player in this race.

Crystal Bowersox, I have read, battled back from a hospital stay to turn in a roof-raising performance last week. She’s clearly on a roll, then, because she picked a perfect song for her voice – Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” – and rocked it up like she was Melissa Etheridge, Jr. If my wife hadn’t fallen asleep on the couch, I think she would’ve really dug Crystal, too.

THE GOOD

Didi Benami deserves credit for making the ballsy decision to tackle Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” because, man, Steve fans will kick your ass if you do their girl a disservice. (If you don’t believe me, check out some of the things they’ve had to say about Lindsay Lohan’s version of “Edge of Seventeen.”) Although I thought Didi sounded a bit too little-girl in her performance for my liking, it was an interesting recasting of the song, and the judges clearly loved it.

Lacey Brown is clearly not one of Mike’s faves, and I can’t say that she was absolutely mindblowing with her performance of Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” (which, frankly, still strikes me as the sort of song that’s tailor-made for the “Dawson’s Creek” soundtrack…and that’s not a compliment), but “American Idol” has never been solely about the singing, and I have to give her major props for working the camera for all she was worth. Between her rather coquettish appearance and the come-hither gaze she was giving as she looked into the lens, I can imagine that a whole lot of guys were fully prepared to dial her 800 number.

THE IN-BETWEEN

Lilly Scott has a look I like, but I only thought her mandolin-fueled take on “I Fall To Pieces” was just okay. If I’m to be honest, I actually thought it was a bit dodgy at times, but the mere fact that she tackled such a country classic made up for that a bit. Simon said that it was cute and quirky, but it didn’t have the wow factor. I can’t disagree. Kara’s comment that it made Patsy Cline feel current, though, struck me as unnecessary. Patsy Cline doesn’t need to be current. She’s a legend!

Katie Stevens was pretty ballsy herself, taking a shot at Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway.” It’s always an iffy choice to perform a song by a former “AI” winner, and while Katie’s take on it wasn’t bad, it certainly didn’t offer anything unique. Randy called it karaoke, and I have no argument with that description. I’m not entirely sure Ellen was on about, though, with her constant assertions that Katie had picked the right song even as she repeatedly observed how she didn’t feel the words. Talk about sending mixed signals. By the way, am I the only one who felt like they should be getting Social Security checks when Katie confirmed Seacrest’s statement that she was only eight years old when Kelly Clarkson won “American Idol”?

Katelyn Epperly went out of her way to look as much like Carole King as possible while performing “I Feel the Earth Move,” so kudos to her for that, but the song’s so familiar that it’s hard to view it as anything other than karaoke. In fact, the combination of the look, the lighting, and the performance actually reminded me of Robin Sparkles!

THE PRETTY BAD

Pity poor Paige Miles, who tried to remedy her problems with song selection by tackling a song which meant a great deal to her: Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” which Paige became familiar with via Michael Jackson’s cover from several years back. Bad move. Her voice wasn’t up to the task to begin with, and the fact that she found herself fighting back emotion worked against her rather than for her. All four judges shredded her, and that’s never a good sign. It’s hard to imagine anyone else getting the boot.

Well, that’s it, kids! Tonight, the boys are back in town…and, Mike, you can feel free to use that for your title. No charge.