SPOILER: American Idol 7 Top 24 Revealed!
Let's face it -- after the "thousands" who audition, the 164 who make it to Hollywood, the 24 semi-finalists, and the 12 finalists, the success or failure of an American Idol season comes down to 3 or 4 contestants.
Every year since the show's inception there have been a few truly gifted performers, and a whole bunch of mediocre-to-good performers. It's not the Haley Scarnatos and Phil Staceys that make a season work or not work -- it's the Fantasia Barrino's, the Melinda Doolittle's, and the Elliott Yamin's that do.
Consider the past seasons -- most of Season 1's finalists were, quite frankly, pretty bad (AJ Gil, anyone?), but the season was totally driven by Kelly Clarkson vs. Tamyra Gray (with Justin Guarini thrown in for good measure). Though Constantine was a factor early on, Season Four was, from the get-go, a contest between Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice. The top contenders challenge each other to raise their game, while the others are there for, let's be honest, filler.
In fact, even those seasons of Idol that are considered the deepest (in terms of talent pool) only had three or four singers really in contention for the title -- Season 2 had Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, and Kimberley Locke (with Josh Gracin and Trenyce representing the second tier), while Season Five, considered by many to the be the deepest season ever on Idol, had only five legitimate contenders (Taylor, Katharine, Elliott, Chris and Paris).
Yes, all it takes is a handful or truly special performers to make a season soar or collapse, and as far I can see, there is at least . If even 2/3 of the contestants I discuss below make good on their potential, I feel confident that we may actually have, as the judges and producers have promised, the best season yet.
Here are seven reasons why:
1. Carly Smithson
Ladies and gentlemen, I think we've found a frontrunner. This girl is amazing! Part Kelly Clarkson, part Pink, she sounded awesome singing "I'm Every Woman," hitting notes that most of the other girls we've seen so far wouldn't even dream of trying to hit., a capella no less. And how lovely and genuine does she seem? Speaking up for her tattooed boyfriend, and declaring how hard she's going to work and how she hopes that this is her year? I love her already.
2. David Cook
Laying down "Living on a Prayer" flawlessy (and without breaking a sweat), this rocker has a quirky appeal, and based on what I've heard, I'd guess he'll actually be able to tackle different style of music with ease.
3. Amanda Overmyer
Idol has never really had a genuine rock'n'roll gal (I'm sorry, Kimberly Caldwell or Gina Glocksen don't count), so this Joplin-esque diva may be the unique, original talent this show is looking for. I love the huskiness in her voice, and she seems like a real, natural talent.
4. Chikezie Eze
Quite simply the best male voice I've heard this season.
5. Kristi Lee Cook
After the success of Carrie, Bucky and Kellie, you'd think last year would have been flooded with country hopefuls, but there was nary a country crooner in the bunch. Perhaps this year will be different, especially with Kristi, who is a bit like Carrie Underwood with more of an edge, in the mix. Clearly the producers think she's something special, as they teased this "cage fighting singer" throughout the Philadelphia episode. It was worth the wait -- her gorgeous rendition of "Amazing Grace" easily made her the city's best audition. Expect to see this girl in the Top 10.
6. Perrie Cataldo
Sure he has a rap sheet, but who cares when he's got a voice like that! In fact, this single father's voice as he sang "I'll Make Love To You" vaguely reminded me of Elliott Yamin, which I mean as a very high compliment. His heartbreaking backstory (and his adorable son) won't hurt him one bit -- this guy seems like a definite Top 10 contender.
7. Michael Johns
I've never heard Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long," so I have no idea if that is what the song is actually supposed to sound like, but to my ears (and eyes), this guy is the real deal. He also seems like he'd be versatile -- he'd nail the country and soul themes, and could probably rock out as well. And that Australian accent? I approve.
And lets not forget Joanne Borgellas, Danny Noriega, Robbie Carrico, Ramiele Mulaby, Syesha Mercado, and David Archuleta, who could also make a serious dent in the competition.
Yep, I'd say we have a potentially very exciting season on our hands!