American Idol's Top 9 eighth-season finalists took to the stage and performed during last night's live broadcast of the Fox reality competition's fourth finals round.
The Top 9 finalists -- Danny Gokey, Kris Allen, Allison Iraheta, Adam Lambert, Lil Rounds, Scott MacIntyre, Megan Joy Corkrey, Anoop Desai, and Matt Giraud -- all had the freedom to sing any song they wished, so long as it was a top seller on iTunes, one of the show's primary sponsors.
Prior to the first performance, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest spoke to the judge Randy Jackson about Top 9 was shaping up.

"Dude, last week they brought it, it was really hot. But we'll see who's really got it for the long distance tonight man. The competition's just getting tougher dude," Jackson said.

Seacrest asked judge Kara DioGuardi about her definition of "artistry," a term she had been using often during her comment to the finalists.

"I think artistry is taking a song that you've heard a million times and doing it in a way that's unique, that leaves us with goosebumps and moves us to wanna go out and buy the record," she said.

The following is Reality TV World's recap of the performance broadcast in the order which the finalists sang.  Also included are comments from each of the four judges -- Randy, Kara, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell -- as well as additional information about each performance. Barring the use of the new The Judges' Save twist, one finalist will be eliminated at the conclusion of tonight's results show broadcast.

Anoop Desai, a 22-year-old from Chapel Hill, NC

Song: "Caught Up" by Usher

Jackson said: "You definitely, definitely picked up your swagger. I mean the vocals were really, really good considering I didn't think it was the right song for you. Because Usher's more the dancer singer, and you were just kinda going through it. It's interesting this week, and this theme tonight, because you guys are gonna pick songs that make you seem  current, and currently on the chart. The vocals were good, I'm not sure if that was the right song for you though, so I'm a little torn."
DioGuardi said: "When you pick Usher you gotta go up in your range and do riffs and do crazy stuff, and you kinda just played it safe and did what he did. I didn't' feel there was a big difference. But the other thing is I'm getting the feeling that a bunch of frat guys maybe dared you to get up and start singing Usher, that's what it's starting to sound like."
Abdul said: "Well Anoop I wasn't sure at first, but then I loved the fact that you went back to the playful side and  showed us... because the last two weeks you've shown  us beautiful vocals  as a balladeer. And one thing, your vocals sounded really good on this song. I would just work a little bit more on the stage presence. Create some signature hits with your status  with the band and take more liberties. tell [the band]  maybe I want to break it down or this or that. Just go for it."
Cowell said: "I just thought it was a complete and utter mess if you want my honest opinion. The thing I really didn't like about it is that you came over as a wannabe. I didn't see any originality. It was a little bit like college boy actually trying to be a pop star and failing. The arrangement was a mess. It actually gave me a headache."

Additional info: Anoop disagreed with the judges' criticisms that he had not taken enough liberties with the song, saying that he wanted to be an R&B artist and was simply singing an already established hit of a song in that style. "I'm singing one of the songs from one of the most popular R&B albums ever," he said.

Megan Joy Corkrey, a 23-year-old from Taylorsville, UT who currently resides in Sandy, UT

Song: "Turn Your Lights Down Low" by Bob Marley

DioGuardi said: "Megan. I really like you but I think you're in trouble. Here's the thing, it's just not the song choice for you, Bob Marley. I wanna hear  Adele's 'Chasing Pavements.' That part of your register was even getting irritating for the first time. There was no falsetto. You have a beautiful falsetto and you never use it."
Abdul said: "I think at this stage in the competition you really need to take us by surprise and maybe dig really deep to an area that might not be comfortable, but that's where beauty develops. [I want you] sitting on a stool with just a center spotlight and no distractions. Just sing a sensitive, vulnerable ballad that rips the hearts out of everyone. That's what t you need to be doing at this stage in the competition."
Cowell said: "The problem was is that the song was boring. It was indulgent, it was monotonous and all the things we all liked about you are fading. You are actually becoming indulgent, and nobody's gonna like that song and I agree with Kara -- It just wasn't you, and it is all about song choice . It was just so boring."
Jackson said: "Yeah it was like watching paint dry.  And the funny thing about it, it really was, it took forever and I love the song . But you can love a song and that doesn't mean you have to sing it. I know a lot of songs, you don't see me singing 'em."
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Additional info: Jackson also suggested that Joy look to sing a song from someone like Amy Winehouse, Duffy or Adele. Following her comments, Joy once again pleaded for her fans to come out and support her, despite the judges' comments.

Danny Gokey, a 28-year-old from Milwaukee, WI

Song: "What Hurts the Most" by The Rascal Flatts

Abdul said: "Danny this is where you thrive. You thrive from the first note to the cadence, you leave me wanting more, and this as a performance I'd definitely hit repeat in my car [for]. Congratulations."
Cowell said: "Danny you and I weren't quite on the same page last week, you and I, were we? Whatever, that happens, we have opinions. This week, if I'm being honest, I thought it was your best performance of the series. I know we're only three in, but this was so much better than the first two [performances]. It was like two snails competing with a race horse. You were so far away better than the first two it's crazy. That's what it's about, get a great song, sing it brilliantly and do your version."
Jackson said: "I kinda feel like tonight's show starts right here, because you definitely brought it crazy with the vocals right here. And it's about choosing something at this point -- it's a singing competition -- choosing something that you can really sing and can show your range, share your vocal prowess. The cool thing about you is you can do this, go ahead and move man. Keep that swagger moving man. Because with all that emotion coming out of you Danny, keep it moving.'  Very nice though baby, Very nice."
DioGuardi said: "What you did tonight, you moved everyone in this room emotionally. That's hard to do, and you gave so much of your heart and soul, and that's when you really connect with the audience. And the goosebumps I was talking about, I had some of those."

Additional info: Gokey said that he went "out of his comfort zone" by choosing to sing behind a microphone stand.

Allison Iraheta, a 16-year-old from Los Angeles, CA who currently resides in Downey, CA

Song: "Don't Speak" by No Doubt

Jackson said: "A couple things here. I mean vocally you can sing and you got the voice, the whole thing. You were a little ahead of the beat and kinda rushing the band a little, maybe you were a little nervous or whatever. And I like the fact that you went out and played the guitar, I didn't even know that you played the guitar, that was kinda cool right there. But dude, what are you wearing!? What is with this outfit. Yo, I got mad love for you but I did not get the ensemble tonight."
DioGuardi said: "The rock in you comes out of you no matter what you're wearing. You don't need to dress the part, you are that no matter what. Every song you do you sound that way, you've got that raspiness, that edge, so you don't need to put all that on yourself. And it was a  little distracting, if felt forced. It felt like you were trying to be something and you don't have to try, you just are. You're a great singer. It was a good performance, for me, not your best but good."
Abdul said: "I'm glad to see you brought your axe out with you, it really added an edge that I didn't know you posessed. I also think that your vocal prowess rivals singers that are twice your age, and  your intonation and delivery is masterful and effortless. It shows me that you are serious about this and I think that you're skating by and going right to the finish line."
Cowell said: "We can't ignore the outfit, it was like something out of The Addams Family or something, tonight's theme is Halloween. I'll tell you why it bothered me, because it was a little bit like a slightly precocious daughter trying to dress like a rock star and sound like one. So I just thought it was a bit, I don't know, like dressy-uppy  being a rock star or pop star. Therefore I think we lost your identity a little bit. Plus you shouted the song."

Additional info: The other judges did not agree with Cowell's claim that Iraheta "shouted" the song. Iraheta admitted that playing the guitar during her performance was tough and that she was "nervous" during the performance.

Scott MacIntyre, a 23-year-old from Scottsdale, AZ

Song: "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel

DioGuardi said: "Scott, I think you made some very smart decisions tonight by picking that song. Billy Joel, a singer/songwriter right in the area of what you should be doing, stripping it down and just singing to the audience and this moving performance and coming from an honest place, which is what you really know how to do well. And I love the new look."
Abdul said: "So Scott, I must say that out of all the contestants that have graced the stage I'm most proud of you, and I want the audience to know it has nothing to do about your challenge, but everything to do [with making me] forget about that challenge. It must be a thrill for you to get to sing for one of your idols, and you took a big risk without including the orchestra, which made it more of a loggato kind of performance. But, you know, I think it paid off for you."
Cowell said: "Your best performance by a country mile so far. It's a different Scott. We've got the Ryan Seacrest hair -- that can be sorted. You're very, very lucky that you didn't listen to [Abdul's] advice about not playing the piano...  That is what you do best."
Jackson said: "One of the best of the night Scotty! Nice one, nice one."

Additional info: Abdul claimed that she did not say MacIntyre should not play the piano, while Cowell suggested only that they "rewind the tape." (Two weeks ago, Abdul told MacIntyre: "I really do feel though that the piano may be a bit of a crutch now and that it separates you from the audience. I think that people need to see you as a showman as well.")

Matt Giraud, a 23-year-old from Ypsilanti, MI who currently resides in Kalamazoo, MI

Song: "You Found Me" by The Fray

Abdul said: "I appreciate that you went for a contemporary song and that you love The Fray, but I feel like you aborted the things we love most about you, and that's your magnificent way of riffing and singing in that beautiful falsetto voice that we love. It became more of a sound-alike to [The Fray's lead singer] and I feel it was reminiscent of when you  sang that Coldplay song. We know who you are Matt, we know who you are, but this wasn't a great performance for you, I'm really sorry to say."
Cowell said: "Well you should be happy Matt because we don't like you this week, I didn't get it at all. Again it was somebody trying to be somebody else. it felt very put on, the whole gravel in your voice, very uptight, not a good commercial song. You can frown all you like Matt, but you're becoming like all these different people in the hope of staying in the competition. If you'd had dome something like Danny or Scott where you just choose a great song and do what you do best I think you would have had a better shot. But this was just uncomfortable, I didn't get it."
Jackson said: "Yeah, you know, check it out dawg. The problem for me is just the wrong song for you. We say all the time maybe more like Justin Timberlake, maybe even more like Once Republic than The Fray. I love this band, it's a great song, but it's not you. "Apologize" would've been you. But you got more chops than that, you're not a rock singer. You got all that should in your voice and you gotta let all that flavor out baby. You just gotta ride on something that can stand up to it."
DioGuardi said: "That's the thing, you keep going between the rock side of pop and the R&B side of pop. At some point you're gonna have to commit so we can see what kind of record you're going to make after this. But I want to end on one thing, you are a talented guy and I believe you don't deserve to go home."

Additional info: Giraud said following the comments that he had wanted to show the judges that R&B wasn't the only thing he could do and liked playing rock, but added that he "might try something else next week if [he] got the chance.

Lil Rounds, a 24-year-old from Memphis, TN

Song: "I Surrender" by Celine Dion

Jackson said: "For me for you, once again, this would not have been my song choice because I still want you to have a little bit more swagger. But when I heard this was what you were doing I was like 'Oh no man, this is gonna be kinda rough.' But you know what, you sang it really, really, really well and you showed that you've got unbelievable vocal skills. But young it up a little bit."
DioGuardi said: "I could've heard something that a [Mariah Carey] would've done, or [Mary J. Blige]. But again, I was surprised too because when you go up there it's effortless, it's just unbelievable. I think tonight we got a glimpse of what we say in the beginning, which is this singer who can just let it out and wow us, and I think we need to see more of that. But Lil, you back in the Round."
Abdul said: "All I'm gonna say is I don't want to see an adult contemporary Lil Rounds. I wanna see the joy that you brought to us when we first saw you, and I know that's there. You can sing heavens above."
Cowell said: "I'm gonna echo what the others said. This was, for me, you singing to stay in the competition with a safe song. I found it quite similar to a wedding performance... because the song is too soft. If you'd have chosen something like "One" by U2, which Mary J. did brilliantly, you can sing a song like that and therefore you do a ballad, your voice sounds great but you also are contemporary. This, honestly, was so old fashioned. And again, all of your personality is being sucked out of you. You've got to stop this because you're too good."

Additional info: Seacrest found Rounds' two children in the audience after the judges' comments. While one of them chose not to say anything, the other one went with Seacrest to the judges' table and gave Jackson a big hug.

Adam Lambert, a 26-year-old from San Diego, CA who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA

Song: "Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry

Abdul said: "True genius does not fulfill expectations, true genius shatters it. There are artists that have longevity in this business because of their unique and riveting performance. I'll name a few: Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler and Adam Lambert."
Cowell said: "That was very brave Adam. I've got to hand it to you, at least we get rid of some of this karaoke nonsense we've seen tonight. It was original, I don't think it's going to make you as popular as last week but i don't think it matters with you now. You had a great time, good for you."
Jackson said: "When I heard you were gonna do this song I was like 'Oh my God, this could be a little corny.' But dude, you got that voice and you worked it out dude. You are definitely in the star zone baby. Definitely."
DioGuardi said: "Every week I cannot wait to get to the show and see what you are gonna do next. And that's a big compliment. It was like Studio 57 up in here."

Additional info: Lambert noted in between judges' comments that the performance "wouldn't have been what it was without Ricky Minor and the band because they worked it out" and set him up with a "great arrangement"

Kris Allen, a 23-year-old from Jacksonville, AR who currently resides in Conway, AR

Song: "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers

Jackson said: "I gotta tell you something baby. Right now in this moment for the last couple of weeks you've been slaying 'em dude. I'm telling you you're so in the zone right now. That was definitely one of the best performances tonight, so creative, so cool man. I'm lovin' you."
DioGuardi said: "I got three words for you: 'That is artistry!'"
Abdul said: "You're pacing this competition to play to your strengths. You took a thirty year old song and made it like I'm hearing it for the first time. That could be a first cut from your album. Fantastic. It was your best performance to date."
Cowell said: "When we spoke last week about you showing some confidence that is exactly what you brought tonight. And I have to say, that was a very, very good arrangement of the song, it was very clever, very cool. I liked seeing you behind the keyboards, and I agree with the guys it was your best performance so far. Well done.

Additional info: Allen, who has used a guitar for his performances in the past, used a keyboard for his performance.