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American Idol: Top 12 Breakdown and Predictions

In Music, Television on March 17, 2011 at 7:18 am

The Top 12 American Idol contestants were given a wide variety of songs to choose from this week as they each performed songs from their birth year.  Once again, the song choices were not always great, and though the judges seemed to be pleased overall with this week’s show, it was actually a huge disappointment, and a big step down from last week’s performances.

As the weeks progress, it is becoming clear that the contestants fall into a handful of different categories.  There are those who are loved by the judges, those who are loved by the voting public, those who are loved by both, and those who are likely to be leaving the show sooner rather than later.

The contestants who are loved by the judges and the fans have the liberty of taking big risks, knowing full well that they are unlikely to go home in the next few weeks.

Here is the Top 12 Breakdown (in reverse order):

[12]        Paul McDonald – A favorite of the judges and of many fans, but it’s hard to understand why.  His vocals are unique for American Idol, but they are nothing more than a poor man’s version of Rod Stewart.  His stage presence continues to border on absurd.  Although it was partly due to being under the weather, his version of Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” simply was not very good.

[11]        Casey Abrams – As one of the favorites of the fans and the judges, Abrams was able to take a huge risk by performing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.  His performances to date have been stellar, so he’ll likely get a pass on this week’s performance, but it was not good at all from a singing standpoint.  The bass playing was cool, but American Idol is not a competition to find the best musician.  Hopefully Casey will return to form next week.

[10]        Haley Reinhart – This far into the competition, contestants should have carved out an identity, but Reinhart has not.  Performing “I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston was not a smart decision.  Her voice is too weak in the lower register and she screams to hit the high notes.  As usual, her performance was nothing special.  If you had to compare her to another contestant, the closest one would be Lauren Alaina who consistently outshines Reinhart, so there is nothing to make her stand out in the crowd.

[9]          Karen Rodriguez – If not for the fact that fans never seemed to like Ashthon Jones on a personal level, Rodriguez would very likely have gone home last week.  Her saving grace is that she has positioned herself as the Spanish singing contestant, so she has a niche audience of voters to help keep her around.  It was a mistake to try and tackle “Love Will Lead You Back” by Taylor Dayne because her voice is far too weak to do the song justice.  Once again, Rodriguez awkwardly crammed Spanish singing into a song that didn’t need it.  Aside from appealing to JLo and Spanish-speaking fans, Rodriguez does not do anything to inspire the average Idol fan to pick up the phone and vote for her.

[8]          Naima Adedapo – Last week, Adedapo’s stage presence was so good that you were able to give her a pass when the vocals fell short at times.  This week, the stage presence was no better than average, and neither was her version of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”  Adedapo cannot compete vocally with the top girls, so she must rely on delivering memorable stage performances if she plans on sticking around in the competition.  Simon Cowell surely would have called this week’s performance “forgettable” if he were still a judge.

[7]          Jacob Lusk – Once again, Lusk’s passion keeps the judges firmly in his corner, but his risky choice of “Alone” by Heart did not pay off.  It almost doesn’t matter what Lusk sings now because he’ll get votes based on his personality and the judges’ praise.  While his performance this week had its moments, objectively speaking, it was no better than average.

[6]          Thia Megia – With one of the best voices in the competition, Megia should be soaring, but her consistent bad song choices are keeping her from putting her best foot forward.  At some point, when there are less contestants, Megia is going to have to step up and showcase her talents with the right song choice, or find herself leaving the competition while singers that don’t have her talent remain.

[5]          Scotty McCreery – The judges seemed to think that McCreery pushed himself beyond his comfort zone this week, but in actuality, it was just more of what is expected from him every time that he takes the stage.  It made perfect sense for McCreery to sing Travis Tritt’s “Can I Trust You With My Heart?” because it is right in his wheelhouse.  As usual, McCreery was solid but not spectacular.  He may very well be the most middle-of-the-road performer in the show’s history.  He never has the kind of performance that blows you away, but also never does a bad job.  He’ll stick around until he has to face the top singers.

[4]          Lauren Alaina – Another contestant who performed under adverse conditions with the flu.  However, aside from some weak spots in the lower register, Alaina did an admirable job with Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m The Only One.”  After weeks of choosing questionable songs, she finally got it right this time.  It would have been interesting to see how well she would have sang the song if she were healthy, but it was one of her best despite the challenge of singing with the flu.

[3]          James Durbin – One of the biggest problems with American Idol is that contestants must condense songs into a very narrow window so that there is time for useless banter.  As usual, Durbin did a great job with song selection, singing “I’ll Be There For You” by Bon Jovi, but it seemed a bit awkward because he started in the middle of the song.  However, he is looking more and more comfortable on stage each week.  And though this was not even close to his best performance, he definitely remains one of the favorites to win it all.

[2]          Stefano Langone – Although he still has not carved out a niche for himself, Langone delivered one of the best performances of the week with Simply Red’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.”  His voice is always very solid, and he has moments of greatness.  His stage presence is fine, but he needs to learn how to deliver the big notes while keeping his eyes open to connect with the audience.  Langone is definitely a sleeper who can be there at the end as long as he remains consistent.

[1]          Pia Toscano – Arguably the most powerful female vocalist in American Idol history, Toscano continues to impress with her performances.  It is clear that there isn’t another girl in the competition who can come close to her, as evidenced by her rendition of Whitney Houston’s “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.”  Toscano is the total package, which makes her wardrobe choice this week particularly puzzling.  One can’t help but wonder who came up with the idea to have Toscano dressed like Latka Gravas on Taxi.  Was it done on purpose to help level the playing field for the other girls?  Maybe, maybe not.  But the fact remains that no one has delivered as many memorable vocal performances as Toscano, and unless she slips up along the way, she should cruise into the finale.

BOTTOM THREE PREDICTION:

Haley Reinhart

Karen Rodriguez

Naima Adedapo

WHO GOES HOME?

Naima Adedapo – She is the best of the bottom three, but she doesn’t seem to have enough of a dedicated fan base to carry her when her performance isn’t great.  It wouldn’t be a shock to see any of the three go home this week, however, Rodriguez appears to be the safest based on supportive comments by the judges and the connection to the Spanish community.

WILL THE JUDGES USE THEIR SAVE?

There is an outside chance that the judges will be forced to use their save this week on Casey Abrams after his terrible performance.  If they are lucky, Casey’s fans will not force them into using it.

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  1. Once again you are right on the money. Unfortunately, I can’t always read your post in a timely manner, as we DVR Idol and may watch it a day later. I agree with most of you assessments only I’m not as high on James Durbin, to me his voice is simply good, not great, but good. And of all the contestants I think that Scotty, no matter what the outcome will have a very successful country music career. He could quit the show today and land a contract. Not sure any of the others could do that at this point.

    Great work as always – you have a knack for picking bottom three. I’ll be looking to see if you stay hot.

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