The American Idol finals are so close to their kickoff, Ryan Seacrest is Twittering about the potentially X-rated “Idols-13” phone number. But before the baker’s dozen of contestants takes to the stage to do their best (or worst) to Michael Jackson’s songbook, it’s time to vote for this week’s Idol Power ranking. Jorge Nuñez finally cracks the countdown, after being ignored by yours truly for the last three weeks (sorry, Jorge!) and there’s one surprise contestant who’s clinging to the No. 13 spot on a combination of talent, good looks, and pure unadulterated outrage. Do read on, and then vote for your own favorite in our wildly popular Idol Power Poll at the end of this article. Also, if you haven’t yet signed up for our EW.com Idol Prediction Challenge, whatcha waiting for? Go to EW.com/idolpredict and do the damn thing!
14. Jasmine Murray: (Unranked last week) Somehow scored a slot on the Wild Card show after eviscerating Sarah Bareilles’ ”Love Song” in the semis, then cracked the top 13 after going flat on a song from the Mulan soundtrack. Judges keep calling her a ”package artist”…but are they talking about the art of singing?
13. Ricky Braddy: (Last week: No. 8) Yeah, the judges gave him the boot during the Wild Card round. So what? His “Superstition” was note-perfect and chock full of personality, and so we’re making him the poster-boy for shafted contestants like Kristen McNamara, Mishavonna Henson, Ju’Not Joyner, and Felicia Barton. It’s a protest ranking, y’all!
12. Michael Sarver: (Last week: No. 12) Laid-back ”roughneck” faces an uphill battle. Not only has it been three weeks since he last took the Idol stage, but his “I Don’t Want to Be” is widely considered one of the weakest vocals to propel a contestant into this year’s top 13. How far can likeability and Simon’s endorsement carry him?
11. Megan Corkrey: (Last week: No. 16) The judges keep saying she’s ”original,” but her cover of ”Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” was pretty karaoke — unless you count the big notes where she went badly off pitch — and her dancing was Rated J…for Jank! Still, she brings a different vibe from the ”big vocalists” in the top 13, and picks interesting songs.
10. Jorge Nuñez: (New this week) Stormed into the public consciousness with a good but bombastic take on ”Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” and built on those good vibes with an amusingly tearful response to the judges’ positive comments. Still seems a cut below the top-tier contestants for now, though.
9. Scott MacIntyre: (Last week: No. 14) Breakthrough personality of the season, what with the way he high-fived Ryan and worked his cane during the “Group 3″ danceoff, but vocally, he’s got work to do. ”Mandolin Rain” showcased a pleasant enough tone, but way too many wonky notes if he’s hoping to go all the way to the Nokia. Will he be stronger behind the piano?
8. Matt Giraud: (Last week: No. 19) Erased memories of that grisly semifinal “Viva La Vida” with an over-the-top, riff-filled “Who’s Lovin’ You” during Wild Card week. Still, the hat, the scarf, the overripe swagger is all a little too Justin Timberlake this early in the competition. Another one, though, who might improve behind the piano.
7. Lil Rounds: (Last week: No. 10) Folks who hate producer pimping were predisposed to root against Group 3’s most hyped contestant, but her take on “Be Without You” was pretty powerfully sung, even if it too closely mirrored Mary J. Blige’s original. How will the judges treat her compared to fellow pimp-slot recipients Danny and Adam? The suspense builds!
6. Kris Allen: (Last week: No. 6) Seeing how he chose (and did pretty well with) a Michael Jackson track in the semifinals, he’s got to be psyched by the top 13 week theme. And considering how Kris managed to advance to the finals despite getting maybe 30 seconds of screentime (once, as part of “White Chocolate”) before the semifinals, he (and his puppy-dog eyes) can’t be underestimated in the competition.
5. Adam Lambert: (Last week: No. 4) Thankfully, the brief Internet furor over those leaked pictures of Adam kissing a guy has pretty much died off. (Welcome to 2009! Yay!) Still, the real controversy remains: Was Adam’s “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” shrill and overbaked, or energetic and powerful, or all of the above? Will likely be around for weeks to come; polarizing contestants always make the Idol tour, at the very least.
4. Allison Iraheta: (Last week: No. 5) Did anyone catch her amused response to the failed high-five between Megan and Jasmine during Wild Card results night last week? It was almost as awesome as her semifinal rendition of “Alone,” the one that helped her conquer an early screen-time deficit and almost made us forget Carrie Underwood’s signature Idol cover.
3. Danny Gokey: (Last week: No. 2) Has had two weeks to stay under the radar following viewer backlash over his relatives’ decision to display a photo of his deceased wife for the cameras. Still, while he’s been overhyped by the judges, it’s hard to deny his talent, particularly that fine “Kiss From a Rose” during Hollywood Week.
2. Anoop Desai: (Last week: No. 11) Was his “My Prerogative” the most flawless vocal of season 8? Nah, but it was definitely among the most exciting and energetic. Definitely needs to concentrate on hitting all his notes, but there’s no denying his swagger, sex appeal, and stage presence make Anoop a serious threat — even if he had to rely on the judges to get him to the top 13.
1. Alexis Grace: (Last week: No. 1) Hasn’t gotten as much hype as The Chosen Trip of Rounds-Lambert-Gokey, but that could actually help her. Remember, Idol voters love a slow(ish) (see Cook, David; Sparks, Jordin; Clarkson, Kelly), and Alexis has a chance to explode into the public consciousness on Michael Jackson night — as long as her vocal’s as strong as it was on Group 1 results night.
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