Danny Gokey Shines As ‘American Idol' Heads Into Live Competition

"American Idol" went live for the first time in Season 8, filling a two-hour show with a gaggle of singers, most of which failed to impress the judges.

Just two contenders – spectacled frontrunner Danny Gokey and pint-sized blonde soul-singer Alexis Grace – managed to impress the entire judging panel during Tuesday's competition. The rest of the hopefuls found themselves with mixed reviews and criticism on everything from their song choices, to their singing style, and in one case, a hopeful's lack of wacky antics.

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Teenager Stevie Wright, who fans fell for during the audition rounds (she was the one who revealed she was named after Stevie Nicks), faltered on Tuesday's show as she tackled "You Belong With Me," by Taylor Swift. "It was just not the right song for you," a sad-faced Paula told the 16-year-old. "It wasn't the Stevie Wright that we fell in love with."

Judge Simon Cowell, however, had harsher words for the wide-eyed brunette. "Stevie, it was terrible," he said as the studio audience booed. "There's no point booing, it was terrible… The good news is you got some experience, I guess. But there is zero chance of you making it through."

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Another brunette who was highlighted during the audition phase of "Idol," Casey Carlson, also attracted the ire of the judges after she took on The Police classic, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic."

"Everything about that was wrong," Judge Kara DioGuardi said. "You're such a beautiful girl, but you picked The Police. You don't touch those songs. Nobody goes near them."

And Paula chastised the young woman's expressions during her 120-second rendition of the tune. "You've gotta watch pulling the faces and winking," Paula said.

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Anoop Desai, an early Season 8 favorite, came off with mixed reviews. He received the season's first standing ovation (from Paula) and a critique from Simon. "I think it was a little bit too grown up for you," Simon said of Anoop's version of "Angel of Mine," a song by Monica.

"People don't know the song… and I think it was a little bit too serious," Simon continued. "We've heard you better, but what you've got is… massive likeability."

The night also featured a judge-confusing performance by Tatiana Del Toro, the young woman known throughout her auditions for her extreme emotions. While Tatiana's version of Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love For You" was judged well, her lack of strange laughs and the crying that accompanied her early on in the competition, left the judges puzzled.

"Tatiana, it's like a rollercoaster with you… I never know what you're gonna pull," Kara said. "Tonight it's a very reserved Tatiana."

"Do the weird laughing," Simon added.

Like most of the contestants, the show itself had a few hiccups. An intro package for Stevie appeared to be cued up when Brent Keith was about to perform, forcing host Ryan Seacrest to ad lib as he led the young man to the stage, a part not usually shown on camera.

But things went flawlessly for Alexis Grace. The 21-year-old from Memphis, TN, performed "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)," and took praise across the board.

"You done found the dirt, you done found the soul," Judge Randy Jackson exclaimed. "You worked it out man, I'm loving your right now."

And Danny Gokey, the spiky-haired contender whose wife passed away a month before his "Idol" audition, also took home a host of praise for his version of Mariah Carey's "Hero."

"The redeemer of the night right here: Danny Gokey! That was blazing hot," Randy stated as Kara cheered him on also.

"Danny, you're stellar," Paula added. "I have two words with a hyphen – 'Sold-Out Arenas!'"

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