I know, I know…this all seems so wrong. A poll about your favorite American Idol contestants featuring Paige Miles and Aaron Kelly, but not Katelyn Epperly, Lilly Scott, Alex Lambert, or even Todrick Hall? I’ll understand if you abstain from the vote as an act of protest, but the show must go on…and it will! Rolling Stone night gets underway in a few short hours; before it does, check out my Very Official Rankings™ then take your own opinion to the poll and comments section below. (Related: American Idol and the Rolling Stones: What should the Top 12 sing?; for more Idol coverage, follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak.)
12. Katie Stevens (Last week No. 13): Definitely not the weakest vocalist in the Top 12, but how in the name of all that’s Mick is she gonna handle anything from the Rolling Stones songbook? Plus, last week’s “Breakaway” debacle exposed a shaky lower register — and a total lack of self-awareness about what material she needs to tackle to be a true contender.
11. Paige Miles (Last week No. 12): I’m not sure what’s more ridiculous: The way Paige used the death of Michael Jackson as an excuse for her poor performance last week on “Smile” or the way Simon Cowell said she had more potential than the vastly superior Katelyn Epperly. Based on her three live performances to date, it’ll be an honor if Paige manages to make the season 9 summer tour.
10. Aaron Kelly (Last week No. 10): Top 16 week cover of “I’m Already There” was a major step backward, as the camera-conscious teen struggled to stay in tune and selected a song way outside his emotional wheelhouse. And while his initial semifinal outing of Rascal Flatts’ “Here Comes Goodbye” proved he’s got some vocal firepower, Aaron has yet to display anything approaching Archuleta-level chops. Will Rolling Stones be his Waterloo?
9. Lacey Brown (Last week No. 16): Visible nerves obliterated her Top 24 cover of “Landslide,” while her followup on “Kiss Me” was just tepid karaoke. By comparison, Top 16 week take on Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” sounded pretty solid, and if Lacey can continue to focus on songs that highlight the pretty, featherweight quality of her vocals, she might be able to stick around till April.
8. Andrew Garcia (Last week No. 8 ): Sure, it’d be nice if dude could get through a performance without referencing his rhythmically adventurous, Hollywood Week cover of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” but in their defense, Andrew lame choice of Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” followed by a mediocre vocal on “You Give Me Something” and an unintentionally creepy spin on “Genie in a Bottle” haven’t given them much to discuss. The fear remains that he’s a one-trick pony — and that one trick ain’t all that grand, either!
7. Tim Urban (Last week No. 15): Two most recent performances (“Come On Get Higher” and “Hallelujah”) were mostly in tune, and in this year’s crop of finalists, that’s good enough for the No. 7 slot!
6. Casey James (Last week No. 7): Cover of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” was rock-solid, if not spectacular, but I’m offering 10 “Save the Rocker” points for anyone who can name his Top 16 week tune without having to think about it for a good 15 seconds and/or go to Google for a reminder. Should be safe for several weeks against weaker vocalists, but needs to ratchet up the excitement level if he wants a chance to win it all.
5. Didi Benami (Last week No. 11): Judges used her for kickboxing training after a folksy cover of Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am” and a misguided (but not terrible) “Lean on Me.” Reversed course with a lovely, lilting “Rhiannon” complete with acoustic accompaniment that not only catapulted her into the Top 12, but made her a legit threat to inherit Kris Allen’s crown and sash.
4. Michael ‘Big Mike’ Lynche (Last week No. 9): “This Woman’s Work” was vocally rock-solid, although the judges’ effusive praise (and Kara’s weeping) felt too enthusiastic by half. Big Mike’s Velveeta-level shtick — the jacket-popping, finger-pointing, lip-licking ridiculata — continue to chip away at his credibility. If he can dial back the hamminess, he’d be season 9’s runaway leading man.
3. Lee Dewyze (Last week No. 4): Hit some bum notes on “Chasing Cars” and “Lips of an Angel,” and while his “Fireflies” was significantly more tuneful, it still wasn’t perfect. So how come the belt-impaired rocker is hanging in at No. 3? Perhaps it’s because he’s forged a distinctive on-stage persona, seems to be improving week-to-week, and knows how to connect on a visceral level with the material he’s choosing. That’s more than most of his male competitors can say.
2. Siobhan Magnus (Last week No. 2): A cappella intro to “House of the Rising Sun” highlighted The Glassblower’s insanely beautiful upper register, and combined with a haunting Top 24 “Wicked Game” and That Note on “Think,” completed a trifecta of performances worthy of an Idol winner. Simon seems to think she’s too dark or too quirky to win it all, but maybe it’s just because she offers a legit threat to his favorite contestant…
1. Crystal Bowersox (Last week No. 1): Speaking of which…yes, Crystal is getting hyped too aggressively by the judges (at this point, there’ll be a ritual worship ceremony on her behalf by Top 8 week), but then again, MamaSox has been operating at an enviable cruising speed all season long. She roared back from a scary medical stay with a clear, confident, and ultimately poignant cover of CCR’s “Long as I Can See the Light,” then offered a vocally ambitious version of “Give Me One Reason” that left us sweating like a glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. So yeah, to reiterate, over-hyped…but not undeservedly so.
Image Credit: Frank Micelotta/Fox