10. Scott MacIntyre: (Last week: No. 10) Continues to rule the roost when it comes to personality — “We can move it closer,” said Scott, when Paula insisted that his piano was separating him from the audience — but his lackluster spin on Michael Jackson’s obscure “Keep the Faith” and off-pitch cover of “Wild Angels” haven’t indicated he’s an American Idol champ in the making.
9. Michael Sarver: (Last week: No. 8) No one can say the affable roughneck doesn’t have some talent — not after his heartfelt, tuneful “You Are Not Alone.” But his out-of-breath, extreme-karaoke cover of “Ain’t Going’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)” exposed his limitations. Has neither pure vocal firepower or true originality — and you usually need one or the other (or preferably both) to win the Idol crown.
8. Megan (Joy) (Corkrey): (Last week: No. 11) The Lady CawCaw became the Lady Cough-Cough after the judges excused her iffy rendition of “Walkin’ After Midnight” because of her bout with “Influenza B.” And while we far preferred her whimsical take on the Jackson 5’s ”Rockin’ Robin” the week prior, unless she irons out her ongoing pitch wrinkles, it’ll be a miracle for her to crack the top 5.
7. Lil Rounds: (Last week: No. 7) Lil knows how to belt out the big notes, but as Randy (surprisingly) pointed out, the confident young mother needs to work just as hard on the verses as she does on her choruses. After three live performances, Lil has yet to deliver a truly stellar performance, and that means Motown Week could just as easily be her shining moment as it could be her Waterloo.
6. Anoop Desai: (Last week: No. 9) All together now: “ANOOOOOP!” That’s right, folks, the R&B crooner who floundered badly on his Michael Jackson cover came back with a vengeance on (of all the themes in the world) Grand Ole Opry night. Yeah, his “Always on My Mind” wasn’t exactly country, but it was sung with magnetism and nuance — and it put this early fan favorite right back in contention.
5. Matt Giraud: (Last week: No. 6) Idol loves a slow build, and each week since The “Viva La Vida” Incident, Matt’s been picking up momentum, capped off by his touching performance of Carrie Underwood’s “So Small” on Grand Ole Opry night. Yeah, his performances tend to get a little riff-rific, but his voice is distinctive, and he’s an intriguing candidate for folks who love longshots.
4. Allison Iraheta: (Last week: No. 2) Inexplicably found herself in the bottom three during a Top 11 week in which she performed “Blame It on Your Heart” with power and pluckiness. Which raises the question: Despite the continued success of Kelly Clarkson, why do Idol voters seem allergic to speed-dialing for female rocker contestants? Wake up, America! This girl is the real deal!
3. Danny Gokey: (Last week: No. 3) The judges flipped for his “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” but Randy and Kara were a tiny bit more critical of his “Jesus Take the Wheel,” which wobbled during the verses, and got overbaked on the chorus. (Maybe he should’ve sung “The Spectacles of Many Colors”?) Motown Week should be right in his wheelhouse, but he needs to heed the judges’ constructive criticism to avoid a backslide.
2. Kris Allen: (Last week: No. 5) His understated “To Make You Feel My Love” was the highlight of Grand Ole Opry week, and combined with his jaunty, guitar-playing “Remember the Time,” it helped him score an all-important “you could do well in this competition” from Simon. Add his obvs heartthrob appeal and you’ve got a legit contender for the whole enchilada.
1. Adam Lambert: (Last week: No. 1) Whether you loved or hated his sitar-infused, hyper-theatrical, sexytimes-with-the-camera rendition of “Ring of Fire,” chances are it evoked a strong feeling and got you talking. (Then again, you could’ve said the same for Constantine Maroulis at this point in season 4.) Still, add Adam’s undeniable buzz to the fact that his “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Black or White” sent the judges into fits of rapture, and he remains the front-runner — for now, anyway.