The print edition of the AJC wanted a story about “Idol” for the top 10. So here was my take:
Fox’s top reality show “American Idol” is struggling to maintain its footing as it muddles through middle age.
Ratings in its ninth season have slipped again. Fans are complaining about the lack of depth in this year’s lackluster top 10. Simon Cowell seemed especially peeved after last week’s poor showing by virtually all the contestants.
This top 10 is arguably the weakest since season six, which at least had Blake Lewis’s beat boxing and Sanjaya’s hair to distract us. Maybe the contestants can redeem themselves working with Atlanta R&B star Usher, tonight’s guest mentor.
Let’s review the top 10, from worst to best:
10. Tim Urban: Inserted as a substitute in the top 24, Urban sang a heartfelt version of “Hallelujah” one week but otherwise seems incapable of connecting with the songs he chooses.
9. Andrew Garcia: After an intriguing version of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” Hollywood Week, this bespectacled guitar man has proven to be a pure one-note act with limited range.
8. Katie Stevens: At age 16, she’s a bit of a blank slate who seems more comfortable singing old classics for the nursing-home set than channeling anything remotely current.
7. Aaron Kelly: Another teen, Aaron is a lower-grade version of season seven’s runner-up David Archuleta. But he always gets an A for effort.
6. Casey James: So laid back, it’s almost like he isn’t trying at times. But his easy-going vibe and Teen Beat hot looks will keep the votes comng in for awhile.
5. Didi Benami: Her quivering, cutesy voice melds well with her quirky persona. She’s has “coffeehouse singer-songwriter” imprinted on her forehead.
4. Lee DeWyze: His on-stage charisma remains at low wattage, but he possesses an appealing modern rock voice and has plenty of room to improve, which voters tend to like.
3. Michael Lynche: This year’s velvet teddy bear, he evokes a bit of season two’s Ruben Studdard though critics find some of his affectations a bit on the Velveeta side.
2. Siobhan Magnus: Her weekly “scream” may torture your family dog, but her vocal flexibility and sweetly likable sensibility makes her a solid bet for the finale.
1. Crystal Bowersox: She may resemble those ratty guitarist subway dwellers plying for dollar bills. But she’s also the only contestant who seems ready to cut an album now as a fully-formed recording artist.
Judging the judges:
Simon Cowell: As a lame duck, he appears disgruntled and disengaged at times. But bottom line: he remain the arbiter of tough love and truth. That will be difficult to replace.
Ellen DeGeneres: She’s no music expert and it shows. Her sense of humor remains her saving grace, even if her quips are far more calculating than predecssor Paula Abdul’s often inadvertently strange commentary.
Kara DioGuardi: In year two, the outsider has become an insider, coming into her own as a judge. Her over-the-top hunger for Casey James has been a wee uncomfortable, but she brings genuine passion to the table.
Randy Jackson: Yo, dawg, you say the same six things over and over again. But there’s something oddly comfortable about your utter predictability, especially since you’ll be the last remaining original judge next year.
“American Idol,” Fox 8 p.m. Tuesday, 9 p.m. Wednesday