David Archuleta retains his position as Michael Slezak's No. 1, Jason Castro comes out of nowhere to nip at his heels, and Chikezie and Kristy Lee Cook tumble out of the Power List top 10 all the way to the bottom four

”Idol”: The new Power List

1. David Archuleta
Cuddly former Star Search winner destroyed the competition in our latest reader poll, and his rock-solid performance of ”Shop Around” last week only cemented his front-runner status. One potential weakness at this point might be a whiff of false modesty. We know you know you’re good, kiddo! (Last week’s Power Ranking: No.1)

2. Jason Castro
How do you go from invisible contestant with no pre-semifinal airtime to the week’s buzz-worthiest hopeful? By taking the stage with your guitar and delivering a sweet, understated take on the Lovin’ Spoonful hit ”Daydream,” then showcasing a delightfully hippie vibe in your post-performance interview. (New this week)

3. Asia’h Epperson
Wowed the judges with her first live performance — a bubbly, soulful take on Janis Joplin’s ”Piece of My Heart” — and stole the spotlight again during Thursday’s otherwise woeful group medley. Certainly looks the part of an Idol, and if she can improve her diction, she’s a threat to go all the way. (Last week: No.4)

4. Amanda Overmyer
”Rock & roll nurse” delivered a gin-soaked take on ”Baby Please Don’t Go,” establishing herself as the antidote to the scads of Disney-esque teens in this year’s top 20. Still, that results-show fake-out suggesting she might be in the bottom three was scary, and questions remain about the depth of her vocal talent. (Last week: No. 2)

5. Michael Johns
Choosing to repeat his Hollywood-week song choice, the Doors’ ”Light My Fire,” struck us as highly unimaginative, but there’s no denying the Australian rocker has a potent voice and a polished, sexy stage presence. He’s already a lock for the top 12, but he can’t afford to play it safe as the competition heats up. (Last week: No. 3)

6. Ramiele Malubay
The judges went bananas over her cover of ”You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” and indeed, it was refreshing to hear an R&B diva show some restraint on the Idol stage. Still, we need her to prove she’s more than just a great karaoke artist, and seriously upgrade her fashion choices, in the next couple weeks. (Last week: No. 11)

7. Carly Smithson
News of her MCA solo release a few years back dominated Idol headlines all week, but she got the focus back on her powerful vocals on Wednesday. Too bad her ”Shadow of Your Smile” came off so dated and dreary, proving the importance of song choice in the competition. (Last week: No. 6)

8. Robbie Carrico
All the leather cuffs in the world won’t convince us that deep down, this former boy-bander isn’t more A.C. than AC/DC. That said, his on-key, emotionally connected performance of ”One” on Tuesday night was one of the week’s nicest surprises. Looking forward to seeing what else is under his head kerchief. (Last week: No. 18)

9. Alexandréa Lushington
Her version of ”Spinning Wheel” was the week’s most polarizing performance. Randy and Paula loved it; Simon loathed it. For once, though, we’re siding with Paundy. To us, Alexandréa’s jazzy, inventive delivery (and wicked falsetto) proved she’s got a shot to outlast some of her more hyped foes. (Last week: No. 12)

10. Alaina Whitaker
Carrie Underwood look-alike flew under the radar for Idol‘s first five weeks, which made it all the more unexpected when she nailed ”More Today Than Yesterday” with a confidence beyond her 16 years (and 364 days). This week should tell if she’s the female answer to Archuleta, or a one-week sensation. (Last week: No. 17)

NEXT PAGE: Nos. 11-20 on Michael Slezak’s Power Ranking

11. Syesha Mercado
Her ”Tobacco Road” last week dialed back the full-throttle shouting that made her audition and Hollywood Week performances such a chore, but she flashed just a hint of stank attitude when explaining to Ryan how she tried to avoid flu-infected competitors. Needs to show some warmth, especially when she’s not singing. (Last week: No. 15)

12. David Hernandez
His voice was on-point as usual covering ”In the Midnight Hour” on Tuesday; unfortunately, all the passion and soul of his Hollywood Week cover of ”Love the One You’re With” was missing. Gets a pass, seeing how he was the first semifinalist to perform this season, but needs major improvement next week. (Last week: No. 9)

13. Danny Noriega
Snap-tastic teenager got slammed by Simon for his breezy take on ”Jailhouse Rock,” but cracked up the notoriously cranky judge with his saucy comebacks. Still, to paraphrase Elvis, we’d like to see a little less conversation and a little more action the next time Danny takes the stage. He’s got the voice; why not use it? (Last week: No. 13)

14. Brooke White
The G-rated nanny has built a fan base by playing up the tender folksiness both in her vocal performances and her interview packages. But considering her reedy instrument pales next to her big-voiced rivals’, she’ll need to deliver far more inventive arrangements than that middling karaoke cover of ”Happy Together.” (Last week: No. 14)

15. David Cook
Simon predicted this season’s resident rocker dude might be vulnerable once he puts down the guitar — and indeed, David’s emo-lite take on ”Happy Together” was hampered by pitch problems. Still, if he keeps taking risks with song arrangement, and gets some help with his jank hairdo, he could be a top 12 threat. (Last week: No. 5)

16. Kady Malloy
Got brutalized by the judges after a somnambulant rendition of ”Groovy Kind of Love,” and her crabby demeanor in the face of a tough critique probably didn’t help her. There was a nice tone hidden in the pitchy mix, but it’s troubling that she’s still best known for her wicked Britney Spears impersonation. (Last week: No. 10)

17. Luke Menard
A mellow-bordering-on-dull rendition of ”Everybody’s Talkin”’ wasn’t the blazing first-impression the 29-year-old needed after getting blanked for airtime during Idol‘s first five weeks. Lucky for him a pleasant timbre and a resemblance to Orlando Bloom and Matthew Fox helped him survive the week. (Last week: No. 16)

18. Chikezie
Dropped his super-cool last name between Hollywood Week and the semifinals, and most of his vocal prowess seemed to go with it. Indeed, his ”More Today Than Yesterday” was both flat and dated, and whether or not you agreed with Simon that his orange suit was a faux pas, defensive snapbacks are never in style. (Last week: No. 8)

19. Kristy Lee Cook
Audition-round front-runner may have been battling a flu bug, but her soulless rendition of ”Rescue Me” — complete with bizarre, crazy-eyed facial expressions — didn’t sound (or look) like the performance of a future Idol champ. We’ve only heard her nail ”Amazing Grace” to date; is she a one-hit wonder? (Last week: No. 7)

20. Jason Yeager
Fun fact: Paula noted after Jason’s performance of ”Moon River” that her first ballet recital was set to the same classic ballad. Hey, we’re trying out the ”if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” philosophy for a minute here. Yeah, okay, it’s totally not working. (New this week)

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American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

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