Idol sets its final 24 mostly by pure merit, but also in part as a casting of varied and unique styles and cultural niches. The producers try, if they are able, to get the most varied cast that they can without tossing someone that will get the fans howling. They want white and black, but also Hispanic, Asian, Jewish and Muslim, short, tall, thin, fat, rockers, blues singers, church singers, balladeers, young, old, cute and sweet, hard and edgy, as much of the gamet of styles and looks that they can get. Because of this need they might choose between the Jermaines instead of letting both of them through, as they did this season.
I was mostly happy with their choices, but they did make one glaring mistake. They chose Haeley Vaughn over Angela Martin; not letting both of them through because they had already decided to keep Paige Miles and Michelle Delamore. It’s easy, from my chair, to see how they should have managed the demographics and made the best decision. They should have told Haeley to come back in a couple of years when she is ready to contend, and keep Angela. Haeley is not going to make it to the final 12. She is too young, and she is just not ready yet. She is talented, and in a few years she is going to be a monster performer.
Angela is ready NOW. I can see what they were thinking, though. Haeley fits more than one criterion. She is 16, a country artist of sorts (they are short of country artists this season because they prematurely dumped too many of them early), and they spent too much airtime on her because she was such good TV. They got caught in the process, forced to make a bad decision because of past mistakes. The bummer is that it screwed both contestants. Angela has to deal with one more rejection and she has to reset herself and go back to the beginning AGAIN. She has to slog through it all next year withAmerica’s eyes on her, maybe getting tired of her before she ever gets to be on the big stage. Haeley is burning her best vehicle for making it, several years before she is ready. Does anyone remember Jasmine Murray? I don’t want to belabor the point. Idol did very well this season with their picks, and gave us a varied and talented group of performers to see live.
The judges are human beings. They root, just like we do, and sometimes (Tim Urban, Lacey Brown) they might fudge the judging a bit to get someone through that the rest of us might not be all that high on. They probably missed out on several performers that we would have loved, but by the time it’s down to the tour (top 10) the remaining contestants will all be formidable performers, all worthy of our attention.
Ok, enough of that. Here are my lists. It’s early. By the end of next week all of them will have gotten the opportunity to show their talent on the big stage, and we will have a better idea. I expect the top four in both genders to make the final 12 fairly easily. The bottom six (of both) are very hard to figure, mostly because they haven’t had much of a chance to show us anything. Some of the lower ranked contestants will shoot up next week. Four of them will go home, two from each side of the gender split.
12- Tim Urban- His aired performances have been so bad that I have to believe that he will be the first male out. Simon loves him, but let’s get real. It’s up to the speed dialers now, and this kid has not been very good. He only slipped in to the top 12 men because Chris Golightly (remember him?) was deemed to be ineligible.
11- Joe Munoz- I heard him once, and he sounded karaoke to me. He looks a lot like Anoop, from last season (he is a lot shorter than Anoop, if that matters). Idol probably cast him in that role, tossing the very large and lumpy Thaddeus Johnson, who was a better singer. I won’t assume that he will be an easy out. He is cute as a button, total catnip for the teenaged girls that are the backbone of the voting process. That might be enough to get him past the first round.
10- Alex Lambert- I’ve heard very little from him. He has that singer/songwriter vibe, but he isn’t consistent. Frankly, I was surprised that he made the semis. I do like his voice. It’s pleasing, and he has some style. If he wants to make it past the first week he needs to be almost perfect, because he has no buzz at all going into the semis.
9- Aaron Kelly- He would be higher on the list, but he keeps messing up his lyrics. He is being compared to David Archuleta, but that’s a reach. Archy was a solid, experienced musician before he auditioned for Idol. If Aaron can hold it together he can make the final 12, but can he hold it together? Idol might have been better served if they had told him to come back next year, much like Haeley Vaughn. Aaron has a huge voice, and tons of talent. He is 16, though, and this is the major leagues. Idol would be wise to take a page from pro sports, and set up a development program.
8- Michael Lynche- I have a hard time finding his proper ranking. He has been so overexposed that I fear a backlash from the speed dialers, but he has been so likeable when he isn’t showing baby pictures that I can see him making the tour (top 10). He looks ridiculous with his guitar strapped on, because he is so big, but he also looks like a big teddy bear. I really like him, but he isn’t a contender for the title. His upside is the tour, and he is one bad performance from going home. He is what he is, and I don’t expect any surprising artistry from him. I do expect to be entertained, and happy to see him. If, however (this applies to all of the contestants), he can do something unique and surprising, he will shoot up in the rankings.
Kara gets hammered for talking about “artistry” all the time, but we are past the point of “can you sing?” and “can you handle pressure?”. These cats can all sing, and they can all handle the pressure. Artistry, power, and sheer intensity of emotion are the tools that will set them apart from their competitors. The contestants that surprise us will be the ones that survive. Can Papa Bear surprise us? I don’t expect it but I will be paying close attention, in hopes that he can.
7- Jermaine Sellers- He has big pipes and huge, huge range. He has imagination, and the vocal chops to create the “surprise” that I am talking about. The question for the last Jermaine left standing is this: Can he put it together and get through everything without pissing everyone off? I like the guy, but he is a frigging diva. He uses too many vocal trills, he overdoes it when he climbs the mountain, and he tossed the band under the bus at his last performance. If he doesn’t show some humility, and SOON, he will get tossed like last week’s fruit salad.
6- Tyler Grady- He has a strong, powerful voice and there are some deep rumblings in there. I still want to see him pull the drums out on the live stage. Man, wouldn’t that be cool? I am thinking that he is very close to a lock for the final 12. He fits a niche perfectly, and he is so likeable that I have a hard time seeing him losing out to most of the guys below him in the power rankings. Six of the men will make the final twelve.Tylershould be one of them, and from there he will get every chance to show that he is unique.
5- Lee Dewyze- He might not be as obvious a candidate asTyleris for making the final 12, but Lee is my male sleeper to win it all. He has more of a smoky voice rather than a barn burner, but it is soooooo thick and sooooooo scratchy and he has some good high range to go with it and tons of experience in how to work it. Lee isn’t a screamer, or someone that you would expect to get attention for his theatrics. He is a pure singer. He is “The Voice”. Mike Lynche is “Papa Bear”. Lee is “The Voice”.
4- John Park- Deep undertones, a solid college background, a nice guy image, and Shania’s undying love. We haven’t heard him since his audition so I keep dropping him, but he has been the internet frontrunner for weeks. He might be #1 next week. He might be #12. It’s time for the kid to resurface and show off.
3- Todrick Hall- Tod (should I call him Tod or Rick?) will probably be the most interesting contestant on the male side as long as he survives. I will expect surprises every night. The next few weeks will give all of us a chance to hear him, and decide if his voice is good enough. He has everything else that he needs to win. He might have to tone down the perception of arrogance a bit, but I don’t really think that he is arrogant. I see more confidence, enthusiasm and impatience than arrogance.
Slezak went over the line accidentally in his own critique, getting angry at Tod (who is black) asking a group of bikini clad sunbathing contestants if they would marry him if he made the semifinals. Slezak was angry that the girls were all white. Well…….
Does Todrick Hall really have to care what color his own skin is, or what color their skin was? We have come a long way, but we still have miles to go before we sleep. Tod didn’t seem to care. Why should we?
2- Casey James- He is a stone lock for the final 12, and his demonstrated musicianship makes him a candidate for the title. Can he be original? He is so good that it can be forgotten that he will need to show some originality to win it. I am a believer in his talent. I am going to hold back my opinion on his ability to amaze us with his artistry.
1- Andrew Garcia- He has the voice, and he has the creative gene. Andrew has the killer combination of confidence in his abilities and the driving need to get better every single time that he straps on his guitar. He sounds good automatically, because he has already taken the time and effort in the woodshed to get this good. He is so far removed from the borderline candidates that he will be spinning his wheels for the next two months, waiting for the real competition to start.