American Idol escorts us to the solo audition during Hollywood Week – where nerves are stowed away and the big puppy dog eyes are dragged the hell on out. With the weak picked off in the group auditions, it’s time for the ones who stood out to pull out the stops, nothing but the best. The strategy for tonight seems to be as follows: assign the same song to a number of contestants, with the hope the one will either shine brighter or fall harder, depending on the song and their willingness to perform it. Or at least it seems. Why would two guys choose to perform Britney Spears’ “My Perogative“? (Chris Medina and Carson Higgins, yes. And it was a rhetorical question.)

Notable performances of the night first go to Ashton Jones, who worked “And I Am Telling You” in a way that only all the Hudsons and Holidays of the world could not – and we’re not knocking the greats. She wasn’t weak, but she was powerful in her own right and didn’t try to copy anyone else’s style preceding her. Haley Reinhardt and Jacob Lusk both rocked “God Bless the Child“, and both of them were sent through to the next round. The latter performance was delicious (a word saved for special occasions), but it was his reaction following that. As emotionally draining as it looked like on his end, we had to keep our ribs in check since our hearts had grown a couple sizes bigger. Clint “Jun Bug” Gamboa from Long Beach (with a frakkin’ golden voice) sang “Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles, and by his performance as of late and previously comes the belief that he will continue to deliver performances that just keep on getting better by the second. Because just when you think it’s fantastic, he manages to take it up another level, and another, and another. A badge or banner really needs to be made for him already, because only a badge or a banner emphasizes the truth of a situation, not a verbal validation or screen time. Only a badge or a banner, and only where use of a glitter pen is obvious.

In this season so far we’ve come across many talents from different occupations and walks of life. What has been a favorite of ours thus far is seeing people in normal everyday jobs competing for the title of American Idol. For instance, Kendra Chantelle , an office manager, who also sang “Georgia On My Mind“, knocked the song out of the park – as did singer Sophia Shorai. Short n’ simple evaluation: they were both fantastic. But can you imagine flipping on the TV one night during Hollywood Week and seeing your manager competing for the title? That’s one cool office manager! One cool office manager with dreams, mind.

This episode also reminded us of how refreshing it is to hear what comes across as either fear or desperation mixed with talent and something like confidence in order to make it on to the next round. With that said, our major question this evening was this: how exactly does one eliminate anyone after a round like this? Like, what is the criteria when the bulk of them are just that amazing? How do you pick one to go home when they are just? In no way do these questions justify the paychecks that Idol judges receive for choosing the talent, but at the same time the pressure behind the end-of-the-day decisions they make is appreciated.

At the end of this evening, we still are heaping on loads of love for Steven Tyler, because you know when he’s happy. He’s either harmonizing in some way or “woo!”ing in approval. He’s our favorite. Can we keep him?

See you next week in Las Vegas! Check out American Idol‘s official site for the complete list of contestants on their way to the next round.