I have a pretty mixed record ranking the finalists at this point in the competition. Naturally, I remember my biggest snafu was 2009, season eight, when I ranked Kris Allen 13th, Allison Iraheta 10th and Adam Lambert 9th. I placed 11th placer Alexis Grace as third. Whoops!
Last year, I did much better, placing eventual runner up Crystal Bowersox at No. 1 and Michael Lynche at No. 2 (he finished fourth). My third place pick Siobhan Magnus finished at No. 6. I placed eventual winner Lee DeWyze at No. 4. Casey James was my fifth pick and he came in third.
Why is it so easy to be wrong at this stage? Because we have not seen truly enough of them. Some people grow and become better (see Elliott Yamin, Kris Allen) while others stagnate and lose steam (Danny Gokey, Justin Guarini). The variables are way too high and given how good this year’s crew is, I anticipate I may be more wrong than right.
So here’s my shot at prognostication redemption, based partially on my own feelings and how I think people will vote:
1. Casey Abrams. I know the leader at this stage of the game almost never wins. I had David Archuleta season 7, Danny Gokey season 8 and Crystal to win season 9. But I love this guy and he should finish top 3 no matter what happens. He has a unique, vibrant personality. He has mad vocal skills, as Randy said. He seems really savvy, especially for a 19 year old. I’m placing him here simply because it’s hard to guess who else is going to win.
2. Scotty McCreery. He may draw the teens and the middle-aged Middle America moms. He’s charming in a heartfelt innocnet way and a rare bass singer in a competition that has never had one. Sure, he’s imitation Josh Turner and may or may not have much range beyond that, but he’s fun and “Idol” will likely allow him to stay in his wheelhouse week in and week out.
3. Lauren Alaina. She has the voice, the persona and the confidence to win. She has a country tilt like Scott but may have potential for more stylistic range. She is also very young, like Scott. So this is very much a guess.
4. Pia Toscano. A smoking beauty with depth and intensity, she could be this year’s Katharine McPhee with a bit more pop potential. She came out of nowhere last week to grab the “pimp” spot. She has sudden momentum, especially with Julie Zorrilla out.
5. Jacob Lusk. He is clearly the type of person you either love or hate. You love him for his pure passion for singing and his vocal calisthenics. You could find that very essence of him equally annoying. I don’t know if he will be able to grow a big enough voting bloc to get much further than this no matter how well he sings.
6. James Durbin. Like Jacob, James is a divisive figure, which is the type of person you like to have on “Idol” rather than forgettable. (I’d take Constantine Maroulis or Adam Lambert over Michael Lynche or Casey James any day). He has an incredible voice and an intriguing stage presence. Others think he mis-uses his voice for absurdist screeches and his hard rock tastes may turn off a good portion of the voters as well.
7. Stefano Langone. He has sex appeal. He has heart. He seems likable. He stumbled a bit last week with Bruno Mars but redeemed himself during his “sing for your life” segment to get a wild-card spot. He could go much further than this, but the competition is tough this year. This is Michael Johns/Ace Young territory here.
8. Naima Adedapo. I’m placing Naima here because Nadia Turner, who had a similar sensibility from season four, finished eighth. Turner’s song picks were sometimes suspect. I’m curious to see if Naima’s song selections will hurt her or propel her further. She isn’t the best vocalist in the top 13 but sings with maturity and depth.
9. Thia Megia. She is a bit like Lisa Tucker from season 5, who finsihed 10th: an extremely precocious young singer without any discernible “personality” off the stage. But from a vocal standpoint, Thia is far better than Lisa. She is also far better than third-season third-place finisher Jasmine Trias, too. So I could be way off placing her this low but again, it’s a rough year and simply a good voice won’t get you too far.
10. Paul McDonald. He is quirky. Quirky works sometimes. (See Taylor Hicks.) Quirky doesn’t always get you too far. (Megan Joy anyone?) He has an unusual voice and some level of hippie charm, which again provides plenty of good/bad debates. I love those! I’m not fully convinced he’ll be mass appeal enough to last more than a few weeks.
11. Haley Reinhart. She reminds me of folks like Gina Glocksen and Amy Adams who have big voices but hard-to-define personas. She knows the technical aspects of singing but does she really know the meaning behind what she’s singing? We’ll see.
12. Karen Rodriguez. She clearly knew how to market herself as the Latino girl in the competition by singing bi-lingually and referencing her heritage incessantly. Again, she has a pretty voice and is arguably better than many who landed in the 11th-12th place region (Lindsey Cardinale, Stephanie Edwards, Leah Labelle). This says a lot about the talent this year.
13. Ashthon Jones. Cannon fodder. She’s all attitude and has the least interesting, least engaging voice in the top 13. Randy Jackson was clearly enamored by her so there ya go. We’ll see if the voters beg to differ. As you can tell, I would have preferred Robbie Rosen, Kendra Chantelle or Lauren Turner in this slot.
I mentioned my early picks at this point of the competition for seasons 7 to 9. Here they were for seasons 1 to 6 at this point based on my semi-faulty memory: Justin Guarini was the favorite season 1, with Tamyra Gray second. People didn’t even notice Kelly Clarkson until the top 10 performances. Clay Aiken season 2 was an early favorite though Ruben was already getting plenty of love. Fantasia was an early leader season 3 but hardly a guarantee with others rooting for LaToya London or Jennifer Hudson season three. Season 4, I had my eye on Bo Bice at this point, though Carrie Underwood already had lots of fans. Season 5, Taylor Hicks was hardly a shoo-in to win, with Daughtry fingered to win. Season 6 was not a year with an obvious leader at this point though Lakisha Jones and Melinda Doolittle were standing out and Blake Lewis had already caught our eye. I don’t think Jordan became a serious contender until we got to the top 10 portion.
MJ’s power 13 isn’t that different from mine – except she’s far more optmistic about Paul McDonald’’s pull.
-She also saw that the show will be pre-taped again this week on Tuesday for airing Wednesday. Nigel Tweeted that this is because of the new judges and a new director. So one thing’s for sure–Wednesday will finish on time!
-Last week, I handicapped the top 24. I placed 7 as guaranteed in unless they really screwed up. Julie Zorrilla and Robbie Rosen were the two that I thought were shoo-ins and didn’t make it.
I placed 11 in the fuzzy middle. 7 of the 11 made it through.
At the bottom, I placed six goners for sure. I got five of them right. The only one who made it through was Karen Rodriguez.