1 Crystal Bowersox
Age 24 Why She’ll Win With a voice as rich as foie gras, Crystal made Tracy Chapman sexy and CCR current, and inspired spontaneous backing vocals from her competitors. Now all she has to do is rescue Idol’s ninth season. Why She Won’t Early hype from the judges can backfire (just ask the magnificent Melinda Doolittle). And her grim-and-bearing-it stage demeanor doesn’t scream ”Vote for me!” But don’t expect her to change: ”I’m not changing anything for anyone except for myself,” she says.
2 Siobhan Magnus
Age 20 Why She’ll Win She earned respect with her take on the Aretha Franklin classic ”Think,” but what truly sets Siobhan apart is her offbeat personality, as evidenced by the mohawk she once sported. ”I really want my septum pierced, too,” says Siobhan. ”I think a little bone, you know, like kind of Pebbles style.” Yabba-dabba-doo! Why She Won’t She may simply be too quirky for mainstream America. Yabba-dabba-boo!
3 Michael Lynche
Age 26 Why He’ll Win Beyond his obvious charm and winning backstory, Big Mike’s version of ”This Woman’s Work” established him as arguably the most credible male R&B voice on Idol since Ruben Studdard. Why He Won’t His performances have dipped a bit far into the Velveeta tub. And his unapologetic love for Jason Mraz-y pop — ”I love all sorts of music,” he says, ”and I don’t want to get pigeon-holed” — could cause some to wonder what kind of artist he really is.
4 Lee DeWyze
Age 23 Why He’ll Win The former paint-store clerk from Mount Prospect, Ill., has a growly voice that has served such contestants as Chris Daughtry well, the ability to make an insipid pop song like ”Fireflies” interesting, and a sex appeal that led one YouTube poster to write ”I wish I was that guitar pick at 5:27.” (At that moment, said guitar pick was lodged in Lee’s mouth.) Further, he seems genuinely psyched to be on stage. ”I’m on the biggest show in the world, doing what I love to do, so I don’t have much to complain about,” he says. Why He Won’t To paraphrase that wise sage Randy Jackson, ”Dude, you’re pitchy.”
5 Didi Benami
Age 23 Why She’ll Win Didi and her lovely warble proved unflappable during Hollywood Week. Plus, she already had her first Idol moment when she delivered a breathtaking acoustic performance of Fleetwood Mac’s ”Rhiannon.” And she’ll fare pretty well if she channels a certain season 7 contestant. ”Everyone [back then] was like, ‘Dude, you look like Brooke White.’ I’m like, ‘Who’s Brooke White?’ And I looked her up. She made me cry. I love her energy and her spirit,” Didi says. Why She Won’t The girl who brilliantly covered Katharine McPhee’s ”Terrified” has been, well, quite terrified on the Idol stage. We can’t blame her: Didi has somehow become the judges’ punching bag of the season. Will her nerves — and emotions — get the best of her?
6 Tim Urban
Age 20 Why He’ll Win Because he’s the underdog who keeps getting better. And yes, some of his notes have fallen flat, but you have to admit that his heartfelt take on ”Hallelujah” was winner-worthy. Plus, have you seen those shirtless pics online? ”They were taken at a swimsuit competition last year,” he confesses. ”I was like, ‘I hope nobody does anything crazy with them.’ But what’s the saying? Any publicity is good publicity.” Why He Won’t Well, there’s that whole issue of not always singing on key.
7 Aaron Kelly
Age 16 Why He’ll Win His stage confidence is soaring by the week, he has a radio-friendly voice, and — let’s face it — the kid’s pretty darn cute. And if the judges’ sometimes-contradictory advice ever confuses him, Aaron has a backup plan. ”I have my mom here, so she can explain it to me,” he laughs. Why He Won’t His vocals may lack the oomph required to expand his voting base beyond the cat-sweatered-granny set.
8 Andrew Garcia
Age 24 Why He’ll Win His stripped-down rendition of Paula Abdul’s ”Straight Up” was the highlight of Hollywood Week. If only Abdul herself had been around to witness it. ”I would have been like, ‘Paula, girl, this one’s for you!”’ says Andrew. Still, it thrust him into the front-runner position… Why He Won’t …which he quickly squandered with his stale performances in the semis. And telling us we have to rub him the right way while he warbled Xtina’s ”Genie in a Bottle”? Kinda creepy, man.
9 Casey James
Age 27 Whe He’ll Win We didn’t complain when he took off his shirt during auditions, but it’s when he straps on his guitar (see: his alt-country take on Bryan Adams’ ”Heaven”) that we really swoon. And he knows it: ”I never play a show without my guitar,” he says. ”I’m a musician. I’m not a singer.” Why He Won’t Sitting on a stool and strumming may not play as well on the bigger top 12 stage — and the likes of Crystal Bowersox could beat Casey at his own game.
Tied for last place…
With Alex Lambert, Lilly Scott, and Katelyn Epperly getting the (undeserved) boot, it’s hard to get excited about these final three
10 Katie Stevens
Age 17 Why She’ll Win The sympathy vote (those tears!) plus praise from Kara for having ”a current voice” equals a shot at the top. Why She Won’t The show isn’t called American Identity Crisis. ”I need to stay true to who I am, and that’s what [the judges] are kind of missing from me,” Katie says. She’d better hurry: After a deflated attempt at Kelly Clarkson and a forgettable cover of Alicia Keys, the fact that Katie’s still here is a bigger mystery than why Simon constantly leans in toward Kara.
10 Lacey Brown
Age 24 Why She’ll Win Lacey is always camera-ready, and her gentle twang makes the Texas native a contender for the country slot. Why She Won’t In her own words: ”I’ve never done country before. I want America to hear my voice [and] figure out what type of person I am so they can connect with that.” Ah. Well. Good luck with that.
10 Paige Miles
Age 24 Why She’ll Win Once she gets used to singing in front of a live audience, she could live up to the potential Simon is always nattering on about. Why She Won’t The way she couldn’t stop smiling during Kelly Clarkson’s defiant anthem ”Walk Away” suggested a severe lack of connection between Paige and whatever she’s singing. Perhaps a theme night will keep her in check. ”The only thing I fear is rap,” she says.
Written By Jennifer Armstrong, Annie Barrett, Henry Goldblatt, Dalton Ross, Missy Schwartz, Jessica Shaw, Michael Slezak, Adam B. Vary, Kate Ward, and John Young