And so, the bill of fare had Nadia Turner, 28, of Miami, doing Crystal Gale favorite "When I Dream" – though it wasn't a favorite with judge Randy Jackson, who admitted: "I don't even know what that song is."
It was Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" for Bo Bice, 29, from Helena, Ala., who got a big pat on the head from judge Paula Abdul, who assured Bo she'd see him in the finals.
Youngest hopeful still standing, Anthony Fedorov, 19, of Trevose, Penn., was "pretty good," said Cowell, with his '80s Paul Young number "Every Time You Go Away." But that praise followed Cowell's criticism for Fedorov's past performances.
Vonzell Solomon, 21, of Fort Myers, Fla., got footloose with "Let's Hear It for the Boy" – and then the audience got to hear it for Solomon, whom Abdul termed "adorable."
Scott Savol, 28, of Shaker Heights, Ohio, sang "She's Gone" by Darryl Hall and John Oates – who just happened to be in the audience. Jackson told Scott that his lower range was out of tune.
Pat Benetar's "Love Is A Battlefield" was slightly garbled by Carrie Underwood, 21, of Checotah, Okla., and got a mixed review from Simon. "It was a little like watching a kitten trying to be a tiger," he said.
And New Yorker Constantine Maroulis, 29, gave perhaps the evening's best performance with his rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." "You're the one to beat in this competition," Abdul told him.
Wednesday night will see who will be eliminated. The season finale will be May 24-25. Meanwhile, former winners tell MTV News that they had it tougher appearing on the show than this latest crop of singers, who have "couches and big screens, excuse me!" said 2004 winner Fantasia Barrino.
"They get to perform every night with a live band. Now how unfair is that? You've got horn sections and you've got violins going," she added.
"Now they've got Xboxes in the room," second-season winner Ruben Studdard said. "They have a free drink machine."
"We were definitely the guinea pigs," said first-season winner Kelly Clarkson. "It's a little easier (now) 'cause the staff knows the scheduling and they know what not to do to, (when) people will lose their voice. They know you can't be up at 4 a.m. and go to sleep at 11 a.m. and then do it all again."