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The Ladies:

Lotta Barbie Dolls this year….

It’s too soon to make very many judgments. We just haven’t heard much of them, other than Nigel’s Girl Lauren Alaina. There are a couple I know and like, a couple who I think are fodder, and several that I can hardly tell apart with my eyes closed, and in a couple of cases even with my eyes open.

I adjusted the ages, since the listed ages were from last summer. It seemed strange to keep saying that Lauren and Thia are 15, when they are both 16.

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12- Kendra Chantelle, 22- Her voice is really weak and her phrasing is messy for a national competition. Her “blackbird” rendition was almost painful to listen to. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when Randy told Kendra, “I liked your harmony choices”. Choices? She sang the %&#$ing MELODY an octave higher and three times as loud as Paul’s lead.

Wait… was Paul supposed to sing the harmony? Hmmm….. That would explain it. We’ll probably never know. If it’s true, it doesn’t change the fact that Kendra doesn’t have much of a voice, or very good phrasing. It does amplify something else that I noticed about Kendra, something positive: Kendra is pretty dammed professional on the stage. If Paul “blowed the Open” on the harmony, Kendra didn’t flinch one bit. It speaks volumes about her professionalism, and it might explain how she slipped into the field despite her lack of vocal strength.

I don’t think she’ll make it to the finals, but the female side of the draw is wide open. She has more going for her than great legs and a pretty face. She won’t shrink from the stage, and we might get her best performance yet. I’m not sure that I can say that for the rest of the ladies.

11- Haley Reinhart, 19- I have loads of respect for this kid, who didn’t give up after being rejected without even getting a Golden Ticket. She used her personal “woodshed” to develop a wide array of skills and vocal tricks, came back, and made it all the way to the big stage. This is a big part of why I love Idol so much. Haley doesn’t have to do anything else to be considered a smashing success, does she?

Her bandwagon might get rolling if she’s great on Wednesday, but she is always going to be one less than perfect performance from getting bounced. She will be fun, at least, with her theatrics and that fun, funny Louis Armstrong growl that she does.

10- Thia Megia, 16- She has a ton of voice, one of the strongest voices left among the females. She is years away from completely harnessing it, though. She is getting all that power despite inconsistent breathing, and she is still pretty much a melody singer. She tends to run out of air at the end of her phrases, and she doesn’t phrase well without having it all blocked out in advance.

She can sound really polished at times, but the fact is that she is a young, wild talent more than a finished product. She’s already been onAmerica’s Got Talent, and now she is in the final 24 of Idol. She ain’t going to win Idol this year, and she didn’t win AGT either. She is still a high school student. Is she going to accept going back to school, and getting her sorely needed education outside of the spotlight? She’s in an awkward spot; too good to be just another kid, but too much of a kid to be good.

This is something that bothers me about Idol. They use these young kids, give them a taste of the spotlight and the good life, make a fortune off of their talents, and when it’s over they just give them a bus ticket. When we are talking about the adults, the 21 and older contestants, I’m fine with that. When they give this false hope of stardom to teenagers who have virtually no chance in hell of getting a recording contract, though, I feel that they can and should do more.

Why can’t they set up scholarship programs for these kids, or even better yet why don’t they establish a junior Idol program? I’ve called my idea the Idol D league before (D stands for Developmental; like the NBA’s program). They could get intense coaching from experts, finish their traditional education, write songs (and learn how to write songs from experts), make records (and learn how to make records from experts) and tour. I’m sure they can make it pay. It would give the kids a step below the ledge to stand on, and move forward.

9- Tatynisa Wilson, 21- Has she sung anything impressive yet on air? There must be something about her that the judges love. If they love her so much, though, why did they make her look like such a fool on group night? I’m actually looking forward to hearing her sing a full song. There must be something there, right?

8- Naima Adedapo 25- I love the girl, and I hope that I have her ranked way too low. I don’t know. Michael Slezak, who knows aLOT more about Idol than I do, has her ranked number one. She isn’t polished at all, though she has a lot of voice and the maturity to be believable when she gets emotional.

7- Rachel Zevita, 22- She came back from 2006, when she got tossed in Hollywood Week. Like Haley, I have to admire her drive and her hard work in the ‘shed. Also like Haley, she is working with a limited amount of natural talent. Her voice is reasonably strong, but her phrasing can really get away from her. She does the huh-huh thing sometimes when she is changing notes without a new word to sing. That always sounds really amateurish to me. She also tends to overdo her vibrato, like Madelyn Kahn in a Mel Brooks movie. I ranked her ahead of Naima to get her listed together with the next three singers:

6- Karen Rodriguez, 21- Lots of vocal tricks, but not the strongest voice. She will need to be perfect, and not overdo the vocal calisthenics.

5- Pia Toscano 22- I tend to lump Pia, Karen, Julie (below) and Rachel together in my mind. They are all dark skinned and dark haired, and they all love to turn a single syllable into a 30 second departure, to the point where they need to leave bread crumbs to go back and find the melody. Karen and Pia are old friends, who went to school together inNew York.

4- Julie Zorrilla, 20- Burner now on 3. She hasn’t figured out how to fake sincerity yet, I’m sure she’s working on it. She might not be the most emotional contestant, but she might be the hardest worker. In that way she reminds me of Siobhan from last year. Siobhan worked her butt off, but she never really connected emotionally to her songs. Like Siobhan, I think that Julie is focused more on competing than she is on finding her artistic vision. They also share a similarly rough background, and despite the rough background both are surrounded by a strong family.

They ain’t twins, though. In many other ways, Julie and Siobhan are barely the same species. Julie could spend the next twenty years playing the slutty girl who gets killed in bad horror movies, and maybe she could play the nice one who lives. Siobhan would be wearing the hockey mask, swinging the machete.

3- Ashton Jones, 25- She doesn’t have the strongest voice, or the strongest intonation, but she isn’t a weakling and she sings in tune. She emits more of a performer vibe than the beauty pageant types, though she is every bit as attractive as they are. She is 25 years old, older than all but Naima among the female contestants.

Lauren Turner
Lauren Turner

2Lauren Turner, 24- I might be out on a limb alone here, but I believe that this Lauren has the best female voice left in the competition. It sure as hell is the strongest. She is lacking a bit in several other categories, including looks maybe (compared to the Miss Idol pageant going on around her), though she is miles from ugly. I personally think she’s adorable. Her main worry will probably be her phrasing and her stage persona.

She can sound incredible for long stretches, and then just lose it and go off on some trill when she really doesn’t need to. If I was her coach I’d tell her to keep it fairly simple, and trust her huge voice to do the impressing. If she tries to out-trill the vocal gymnasts, she will be giving up her natural advantage. Her body language can be very cool while the song is going on, but she tends to just shut down when the music stops like the frog that ate Kenzie Palmer (who?)…

1- Lauren Alaina, 16- She might have peaked too early, and the producers might have overdone it in pimping her so blatantly. If she doesn’t do something fairly amazing on the first live show she could be in for a tumble ala Andrew Garcia. It’s pretty obvious that Nigel loves the hell out of her, but he doesn’t get to vote anymore. Lauren is good, but is she good enough to overcome the inevitable backlash that will come if she blows her performance next Wednesday? I’m not saying that she will, just pointing out that she is in a delicate position. She isn’t in as much danger as most of the lower tiered contestants are of getting bounced, but she really needs a strong performance to get the focus back on her singing, and off the pimping and the creepy flirting with Steven.

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The Gentlemen:

The male side of the draw is stacked. At least a couple of singers who would have made the tour last year will be cut right off the bat. If I were to rank Lee Dewyze in this group, he would be closer to Tim than he would be to Casey.

I’ve heard that they won’t automatically go 6 and 6. If so, it might be as much as 8-4 in favor of the males. The talent separation between the genders seems massive this season. I prefer an equal mix, though, even at the cost of a bit of talent. It’s a TV show. Attractive young women make for good TV, and good ratings.

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12- Scotty McCreery, 17- He really shouldn’t be here. He is a one trick pony, and his one trick is imitating Josh Turner. We already have a Josh Turner. His name is Josh Turner. Give the kid a contract, send him toNashville, and get on with it.

11- Jordan Dorsey, 22- He is going to get a heaping dose of reality soon.

10- Jovany Barreto, 23- He has a very strong upper range, and he might get some demographic help to the finals, but I don’t like him at all. His music bores me, and he seems like an arrogant ass.

9- Tim Halperin, 24- It gets tough in a hurry for the guys. This guy would have made the tour in 2010, and probably in 2009 as well. In this crowd, though, he is up against it. Tim sounds almost as much like Jackson Browne as Scotty sounds like Josh Turner.

8- Stefano Langone, 21- I’ll quit talking about how tough the male draw is. Stefano’s task, if he chooses to accept it: Do a song that gets him noticed for something other than overdoing his vocal tricks. All of the next several on the list (other than Brett) are going to be trilling like crazy and showing off their range. The ones who can move a melody will be the ones who will survive the carnage.

7- Brett Loewenstern, 17- The online pundits have Brett breezing into the top 12. I’m optimistic, but I just don’t know how the voting is going to go between the range rovers.

6- James Durbin, 22- It’s not too late for JD to re-establish himself as a contender, but he needs to quit fooling around and sing.

5- Jacob Lusk, 24- I wonder if his act is so over the top that it will get old in a hurry? Restraint, my man. Do these guys all have too much voice? Who will bring the musicianship, the polish, the timing, and the restraint to the table?

4- Clint Jun Gamboa, 27- I ranked him over Jacob and JD because he has a more commercial sounding high range. Their high ranges are theatrical. Junebug’s is more powerful and scratchy. Honestly there ain’t much separation between them right now. It’s going to come down to who puts together a great performance, over who has the most tricks.

3- Paul McDonald, 26- In a night full of vocal calisthenics, Paul’s soft, scratchy voice is going to stand out like soft rain in the midst of a hurricane.

2- Robbie Rosen, 17- I didn’t drop him from the top spot for anything that he did. He’s been amazing, and he’s gotten better with every performance. Is he cute, or is he a cross between Jerry Seinfeld and Alfred E. Newman? Seriously, dude has a really big nose.

1- Casey Abrams, 20- He doesn’t have nearly the best pure voice, but it doesn’t matter. He towers over everyone else anyway, and he is clearly the favorite to take down the title. It’s a long process, though. Will we still love him as much after several weeks of hearing him? His health scare apparently passed without disqualification, but he got a blood transfusion. Bleeding ulcer? David Cook in 2008, Crystal last year, now Casey. Is it required that the best singer in the competition ends up in the hospital at least once? Let’s just hope Casey is ok.

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Loose Ends:

A couple of early contenders dropped off the map without any notice. I tracked them down:

Scott Dangerfield- Scott didn’t go toHollywood. He was in the midst of finishing up his teaching degree, and he decided that it was more important to do that then to pursue Idol. I have no idea if he will come back next year or not. I’m pretty sure that he’s going to be just fine either way. The rumor is that he auditioned on a lark, to win a bet from his students.

Kenzie Palmer– Kenzie made it to Group Night before getting bounced. She is back in high school, where she is in a highly regarded performing arts program. She was interviewed, and she had nothing but positive things to say about her Idol experience other than getting bounced (duh). When asked about that, she said that she didn’t know why she was bounced, and that she didn’t get any feedback from the judges. She has her sights set onNashville, and her long term dream is to be a country singer. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see her back on Idol in the future, and she will go much further once she grows into her considerable talent.

Janelle Arthur– Parking break girl was bounced on Group Night.

Adrienne Beasley– Bounced in the first round; scheduled to compete in a country music talent show Nigel is producing.

The Guiterrez brothers– One bounced on Group Night, the other was in the wrong room and got bounced in the next round of cuts. How freaking bad was that LA audition show? Only Tim is left, though Jacob Lusk also came from LA.

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Snubs and other nonsense:

Shoulda been gone: Scotty McReery (toNashville), Jordan Dorsey (to reality school), Jovany Barreto, Kendra Chantelle, Thia Megia, Tatynisha Wilson

Shoulda been in: John Wayne Shultz (for Karen) or Deandre Brackensick, Carson Higgins (I know, he can’t sing but I wanted him on the show), Colton Dixon, Casey Shuber, Molly DeWolf, Erin Kelly.

Please come back and try again: Casey Shuber, Symphony Music Howland, Kenzie Palmer, Scott Dangerfield, Jacee Badeaux, Colton Dixon, Erin Kelly.

Oh, and of course the “little red haired girl” Kelsey Madsen from season 9. I really hoped that we’d get to see her this year. I even looked to see if she tried out. There is no news on her since last year.