American Idol Auditions: The Final Nine

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Tony Bennett has released more than 106 albums in his career?!? Wow. Elliott Yamin has a really long way to go. Anyway, on with the show ...

- And we start with one of our favorites: Blake Lewis. The song he's singing is pre-rap, Tony reminds him. We like this 80-year old already. We also like Blake, who started quietly, but then ended by bee-bopping away, of course.

- It's time for Phil Stacey, who says that Bennett is his hero. Randy isn't talking as though Phil is his hero, though; although Paula somehow claims that he reminds her of a young Frank Sinatra. As usual, Simon says what's on our mind: gloomy as all heck. Can anyone really see this guy as the next American Idol?

The Final Nine
- We like Melinda Doolittle a lot. Really, we do. But the overly humble act is almost wearing thin. Then again, gosh, this woman can sing. Simon made us laugh out loud over his concern that the judges just can't find a way to criticize this talent.

- Chris Richardson is embracing the Justin Timberlake comparisons with that hat. Not that we blame him for it. All three judges like it a lot. And Simon is showing a decent amount of chest hair. Let's move on.

- And let's just focus on Jordin Sparks. Because we love her. We also love how Simon laughs to himself every time Paula talks. But it's safe to assume Jordin has a clear path for a few more weeks.

- Back from break, and we wonder if rocker Gina Glocksen can pull off a ballad. So far, so good. It's a nice change, but the tongue ring is a weird effect to see so prominently during such a song. We liked the understated performance, though.

- Ryan jokingly refers to Sanjaya Malakar as a "legend." Sadly, that may not be too much of a stretch, depending on how you define the word. But what kind of a show is this when the judges all admit there's no point in even commenting on the vocals???

- Haley Scarnato is wearing a short skirt. And showing some cleavage. And trying the let's-come-out-of-the-crowd approach. But Randy and Paula dislike it so much, they can't even comment. Fortunately, Simon calls them out for being rude. Sadly for Scarnato, though, the judges despise it. Will take a miracle for her to last another week.

- Let's close out the evening, Lakisha Jones. Randy and Paula can't say enough good things about LJ or the performance. And Simon concludes on a similar note.

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.