LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lil Rounds has made a big impression on the “American Idol” judges.

Kara DioGuardi proclaimed that Rounds, the 23-year-old mother of three from Memphis, Tenn., was a “powerhouse” after performing Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You” at the end of the Fox singing competition Tuesday. Randy Jackson told Rounds she didn’t “lose her swagger.” And typically acerbic judge Simon Cowell described the performance in a word: brilliant.

“I have a sneaking suspicion we’re going to be seeing you for many more lil’ rounds,” Paula Abdul said.

Rounds, who is up for viewer votes alongside the other 11 singers from the third group of semifinalists, was the last to perform Tuesday. Besides Rounds, the judges also heaped praise on Felicia Barton, Jorge Nunez, Ju’Not Joyner and Scott MacIntyre, the 23-year-old blind piano player from Scottsdale, Ariz., who crooned Bruce Hornsby’s “Mandolin Rain.”

“In a sea of forgettable people tonight, you’re the only one, actually, that I think that I’m going to really remember who I actually think that’s got some relevance,” Cowell told MacIntyre, “and I’m going to be amazed if you don’t sail through to the next round, young man.”

The episode wasn’t a total lovefest. Cowell barraged many contestants with unflattering comments. He said Von Smith sang well — and looked “appalling.” Cowell called Arianna Afsar’s take on ABBA “absolutely terrible,” but he saved his harshest criticism for Alex Wagner-Trugman, who growled Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.”

“We had fun watching you, just not listening to you,” he griped.

The top three vote-getters will join previously picked finalists Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, Allison Iraheta, Danny Gokey, Alexis Grace and Michael Sarver. Dismissed semifinalists will get a second chance at stardom when the judges select the last three finalists at the end of a special wild card round Thursday.


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