American Idol's Top 8 seventh-season finalists took the stage during last night's live performance episode broadcast, with each singing inspirational songs to keep with the Idol Gives Back spirit.

Some of the frontrunners faltered due to poor song selection, while a few of the underdogs made smart song choices and shined. 

The following is Reality TV World's recap of the performance broadcast in the order which the Top 8 finalists sang.  Also included are comments from each of the three judges -- Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell -- as well as additional information about each performance.

On Wednesday beginning at 7:30PM ET/PT, Fox will air it's second-annual Idol Gives Back concert and fund-raising event to benefit various U.S. and international charities.

Then on Thursday night beginning at 8PM ET/PT, one finalist will be eliminated based on home viewer votes cast immediately following last night's broadcast, revealing the seventh-season's Top 7 finalists.

Michael Johns, a 29-year-old from Los Angeles, CA

Song: "Dream On" by Aerosmith
Randy said:  "I really believe that this is one of the important weeks for us.  This is one of the important weeks on the show because you guys are telling us now who you really are, and I'm now looking to see who could really win the thing.  I thought that was a pretty good song choice for you but it had some pitch problems for me and I still believe that's... (boos) I don't buy in anyway you're like an Aerosmith. That's not the singer you are to me.  It was alright for me. (boos)  It was alright."
Paula said:  "I couldn't disagree more.  First of all, I think it was the perfect song for you to pick.  I've got to tell you, you sound as good as you look. (cheers)  The high notes that you hit -- I think my Chihuahuas are going to come join you on stage... You were unbelievable and I thought this fit you so perfectly."
Simon said:  "From dreams to Chihuahuas -- only on American Idol.  Michael look, I thought it was a very good performance.  (cheers)  Why I'm slightly with randy on this though is I don't like it when you do an impersonation of a rock star.  I prefer it more with the kind of blues, R&B thing in your voice -- which we heard last week.  So while I wasn't jumping out of my seat, I thought it was a little bit wannabe-ish."
Additional Info:  "I think the message of 'Dream On' to dreams comes true is pretty universal.  I came to this country and had a dream and I'm living it right now so I think it's really a positive message that if you dream it and you're willing to work, you can achieve it," said Michael, explaining his song choice... Michael defended his song selection after Randy's comments, claiming he "had to do it" partially because of the 20-piece orchestra backing him up.  "But wait a minute," countered Randy.  "With all the songs to choose?  There's a lot of songs -- you can do whatever you want."  Michael reiterated why he chose the song and the audience cheered.  "Let me just add that this show is about being the best singer, undiscovered talent we can find.  Not dreams," answered Randy.

Syesha Mercado, a 21-year-old from Sarasota, FL who currently resides in Miami, FL

Song:  "I Believe" by Idol third-season champ Fantasia Barrino
Randy said:  "I have to give you credit.  Again, you took on another tiger this week.  I personally think Fantasia is one of the best singers to ever grace that stage or any stage.  But she has that special connection that I didn't find with this with you.  But it was okay.  Just okay. (Syesha asked him to explain what he meant by 'special connection.')  [Fantasia] -- from the word go, when she says the first word -- it has all of this attitude.  I felt no connection with you. ('So are you comparing me to her?' asked Syesha.)  This is turning into the Randy Jackson hour tonight, right?  I can only compare if you sing Fantasia's song.  You sang that song, and she sang the living daylights out of it."
Paula said:  "Fantasia's her idol, and not many people can take on songs like that.  Fantasia has her own unique style.  You flipped it a little bit and made it all your own.  You know what?  I just think hands down this was one of your most shining nights."
Simon said:  "Look Syesha, to be fair, of course there's going to be a comparison.  She sang that song when she won the competition! So technically, I thought you sang it very well. (cheers)  However, what it lacked for me was that big, big wave of emotion -- which I got when Fantasia sang it.  So of course there's going to be a comparison.  Last week you did [Whitney Houston], this week you do Fantasia.  I actually want to find out who you are all about... But you did sing it very well."
Additional Info:  Prior to her performance, Idol host Ryan Seacrest asked Syesha how last week's eliminated finalist Ramiele Malubay was doing since the two were roommates since Hollywood Week.  "She's really, really exhausted... But she's really enjoying it.  She's in New York right now," answered Syesha... "Pretty much what this song means to me is that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible -- you can do anything.  But it first starts with you," said Syesha, explaining her song choice and adding music is her way of giving back.

Jason Castro, a 20-year-old from Rockwall, TX

Song:  "Over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
Randy said:  "I'll tell you what.  Dude, Jason Castro is back in the hunt.  That was the hottest so far tonight right there!  That was blazing, molten hot!" (cheers)
Paula said:  "I was just saying to Simon that you have the most definitive sound, and the guitar, and that is such a great thing.  Honest to God, it was the perfect song and I love that version of the song.  You did a great job."
Simon said:  "Jason, this is this version that's on the Internet by Israel somebody, right?  The first time I heard that version I wasn't sure.  The second time, loved it.  The third time, fantastic!" 
Additional Info:  "[Israel Kamakawiwo'ole] really captured what the song is about -- and that is hopes and dreams and dreams coming true.  I think that's kind of what this week's all about.  We're trying to make a difference, make a change in the world.  I hope this inspires to dream big," said Jason, explaining his song choice... Like Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, Jason played the ukulele during his performance.

Kristy Lee Cook, a 24-year-old from Selma, OR

Song:  "Anyway" by Martina McBride
Randy said:  "There were a couple of little pitch moments.  But you know what?  I loved that actually.  That was really good for you I thought.  Really good.  Really Good."
Paula said:  "I think you should leave the pitch moments alone now. ('The verses were a little pitchy thought,' answered Randy, which drew a laugh from Simon.  'Just trying to keep it real.')  Okay... Kristy Lee Cook.  I think you outdid yourself tonight.  This was your best. (cheers)  It's so easy singing songs that inspire you.  I remember when Martina McBride sang that on this stage.  Excellent."
Simon said:  "Nothing like being put in a slightly awkward position after that, is there Kristy?  How can I criticize that?  But, Randy made a point earlier on that with a choice this broad, you have an opportunity to show who you really are as an artist.  I thought you were very, very good indeed... Tonight, you look like a star Kristy.  You're appealing to your audience.  It was a smart choice of song."
Additional Info:  "It has a verse in it that means a lot to me.  It's basically saying how you pour out your soul and give everything you have, and if people don't like it, just do it anyway because you're doing it because it's right.  It just basically is a really inspirational verse for me because it's telling me not to give up," said Kristy, explaining her song selection... Prior to her performance, Ryan commented how Kristy was "determined" to stay out of the bottom three this week after being there three out of the last four weeks... After Simon's comments, Paula reiterated she thought Kristy sang it "unbelievably."  "Well, not unbelievably," retorted Simon.  "It was good."
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David Cook, a 25-year-old from Blue Spings, MO who currently resides in Tulsa, OK

Song: "Innocent" by Our Lady Peace
Randy said:  "I'm a huge fan of yours.  Every week you've been like throwing it down, right?  I'm not sure this was one of your strongest weeks right here. (boos)  I didn't quite get it tonight because you've been so good every other week.  I didn't quite get it.  It feel a little short for me."
Paula said:  "Tonight was no exception of you being so good.  I think you are so well-defined of being the whole package -- the whole package.  You've got it all.  You are it.  You are it.  I believe in you."
Simon said:  "David, I didn't like this performance very much at all. (boos)  I thought it was teensy-weensy bit pompous.  I didn't like the whole white jacket. ('I like the white jacket,' commented Randy.)  David we say this week after week after week -- originality, choice of song and something you're going to remember in two or three days.  This was for me was your weakest performance... It just wasn't anywhere near as good as the last two weeks."
Additional Info:  When Idol came back from commercial, Fox reality chief Mike Darnell was seated on Simon's lap.  "Can I just say," said Simon, "the real dark lord of American Idol -- Mike Darnell."... "The message in the song for me is if everybody's got a good side then you have to embrace it to try to be comfortable in your own skin in this world.  It's just one of those songs that speaks to me," said David, explaining his song choice... David added Our Lady Peace is his favorite band.... David wrote "Give Back" on the palm of his hand and showed it to the cameras after his performance.  Paula pointed out the gesture after the judges' comments.  "Well that was a nice thing to do," said Simon.

Carly Smithson, a 24-year-old from San Diego, CA

Song: "The Show Must Go On" by Queen
Randy said:  "It started out good.  In the middle it got a little pitchy when you hit the high notes.  It ended up okay.  It was just okay for me.  It was disconnected for me.  It didn't quite hit the mark. (boos)  Another big tiger to take on."
Paula said:  "There's something I'm actually going to agree with a little bit.  Not to the extent... But your voice as always is totally -- I think -- pretty perfect.  I just didn't feel the connection.  I didn't feel engaged with you.  I usually am.  Your voice sounded amazing though."
Simon said:  "Carly, you look good. (cheers)  Yes, that's out of the way.  I thought it was an unusual choice of song tonight Carly, and if I'm being honest with you, I think you over sang it to the point where you almost -- actually not almost, you did lose control of the song towards the end.  It actually came over, strangely, as quite an angry performance, which kind of felt out of kilter with the evening.  I think again you've chosen the wrong song.  You actually might be in a bit of trouble after tonight."
Additional Info:  "The lyrics of the song are very inspirational to me.  It's all about how life must go on no matter how many times you get bumps and knocks in the road, just use every moment of your life to make every moment count," said Carly, explaining her song selection... After the judges' comments, Carly said she saw Simon's face in the middle of her performance and "lost it."  "Well that will throw anybody off.  Don't focus there," joked Ryan.  "Don't blame me, Carly," answered Simon.  "It's not my fault."  Carly relented and Paula drove home the point.  "Carly you've got to also know that there's a whole audience here and gazillions of people watching [at home] that are connected with you."

David Archuleta, a 17-year-old from Murray, UT

Song:  "Angels" by Robbie Williams
Randy said:  "You know what I loved about this performance other than this is an amazing song?  When you did that little refrain at the end where you stopped and you did those runs, that's the David Archuleta that I love!  That was your hottest moment of the whole season! (cheers)  Crazy!  Crazy!  Crazy, crazy hot!  I loved it.  I loved it."
Paula said:  (A group of girls shouted, "We love you David!" prior to Paula's comments.)  "That sums it up for me.  Fantastic."
Simon said:  "David, best song choice of the night so far. (cheers)  Why this song has never been a hit [in America] is amazing.  This is one of the best pop songs in my opinion.  I'm not going to say it was your best vocal however.  I thought it was a but nasally.  I thought the end part was better than the beginning. (boos)  David, I'm knit-picking here because you are going to sail through to the next round."
Additional Info:  Prior to his performance, Ryan asked David about the "unconventional week" because of Idol Gives Back.  "It's been pretty crazy this week, but it's been a blast," answered David... "This week I had a hard time picking an inspirational song because there were a few I was thinking about.  So I went through a few of them, and when I came to 'Angels,' just something about that song was so different from the other ones.  I felt so strongly what the music -- the part of the song, the message in it where despite what you're going through, there's always a light at the end of the tunnel," said David, explaining his song selection... David played the piano during his performance.

Brooke White, a 24-year-old from Mesa, AZ who currently resides in Van Nuys, CA

Song: "You've Got a Friend" by Carole King
Randy said:  "For me, I don't think it was your best performance.  It was okay for me.  It was just okay.  I wasn't like jumping up and down, but I wasn't mad at you either. (laughs)  It was alright."
Paula said:  "That song, I grew-up to.  My sister -- Wendy -- she played it over and over again.  It was one of my favorite songs growing up.  I think it's a perfect way to close the evening.  I think once again, you're definitive.  You're very definitive, and I love you."
Simon said:  "This was sort of a pleasant walk in the park, wasn't it?  It was nice.  Was it original?  No.  Was it pleasant?  Yes."
Additional Info:  Ryan introduced Brooke from Idol's seventh-season pit while standing next to a security guard, whom he asked if she was still "up for Keno" this weekend... "I think that [King's whole 'Tapestry'] album inspired me to want to do music.  This song, I actually sang at a talent show with two of my best friends.  The song has a lot of meaning to me.  It's just one of those feel-good songs that makes people feel happy," said Brooke, explaining her song selection... After her performance, Ryan asked Brooke if she was okay since she was "shaking."

(Photo credit Frank Micelotta/FOX)