LOS ANGELES – Inside the slickly produced bubble that is "American Idol," (search) the show went on as smoothly as if gossip storm clouds weren't hanging overhead.
On the eve of an ABC News special examining allegations by ex-contestant Corey Clark about judge Paula Abdul (search), the Fox talent show offered its usual artful blend of performances and color commentary.
Abdul on Tuesday was as upbeat as ever in evaluating the singers vying for a record contract. She has dismissed as "lies" Clark's claim that they had an affair while he was on the show and that she helped him compete.
ABC's "Primetime Live" is airing an hourlong special on the flap at 10 p.m. EDT Wednesday — right after this week's viewer vote is announced on "American Idol" (9 p.m. EDT).
On Tuesday, the performers were largely on their game with one song each from two categories: the works of songwriting team Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller and current Billboard hits.
Scott Savol, a lightning rod for fans who argue that better performers have been voted off while he remains, drew praise with his versions of George Benson's "On Broadway" and Brian McKnight's "Everytime You Go Away."
Never shy, Savol took the opportunity to respond to judge Simon Cowell, who last week advised Savol to pack his bag in anticipation of losing the viewer vote. Instead, Constantine Maroulis was voted off.
"I'm not leaving until I become a star on Broadway," Savol commented before he sang, paraphrasing the lyric to make his point.
Abdul complimented him for his moxie and Cowell called "On Broadway" probably his best performance — after crediting him with "more escapes than Houdini."
Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice both won kudos. She sang Elvis Presley's "Trouble" and Rascal Flatts' "Bless the Broken Road"; he sang Ben E. King's "Stand by Me" and Los Lonely Boys' "Heaven."
The judges said the pair know how to choose songs that suit them and their fans.
Anthony Fedorov and Vonzell Solomon, however, drew mixed evaluations.
Fedorov said wanted to have fun with "Poison Ivy" by the Coasters because "I'm a goofball." But the judges weren't amused, noting pitch problems.
His "Incomplete," a Backstreet Boys song, was "like five out of 10" points compared to the original, judge Randy Jackson said. But Cowell called it the right song, right delivery.
Solomon's performance of Presley's "Treat Me Nice" won over judges Abdul and Jackson, and she scored again with them on her solo version of the "American Idol" group single, "When You Tell Me that You Love Me."
But Cowell called her first performance "a bit of a mess" and said her second left her vulnerable to being voted off unless her fans rallied.