“I don’t know what America wants to hear.”
With that single quote, Lilly Scott got to the essence of what’s turning into a very odd season of ‘American Idol.’
You might remember that last week I had Lilly Scott as the top-rated girl in the competition. For those scoring at home, that’s twice in the early round that my top pick failed to last another week. (Go ahead, let me have it). Alex Lambert was my No. 3 guy, and I felt he was ready to make a push for the Top 5, overall. Now they’re both gone and we’re left to sort it all out.
But the real question is why is this happening and, as Lilly so eloquently put it in the midst of her shock, “I don’t know what America wants to hear.”
With that said, there’s really no telling where this season is headed. At this rate, Tim Urban could win the whole thing because, as Philly DJ and avid ‘Idol’ fan Spike Eskin (twitter.com/SpikeRocks) told me, the voting is now done by teenage girls with unlimited texting and nothing else to do.
So America now has to decide: Are we going to let the forces of fast-fingered texters reign over this season, or will quality prevail?
On that note, here’s a look at the Top 12 Power Rankings, with guys and girls combined for the first time this season as they will begin performing together next week. Let’s get to it:
CLICK THE PHOTO BELOW FOR A SLIDESHOW OF THIS WEEK’S POWER RANKINGS, OR KEEP READING
The Top 12
1. Crystal Bowersox (Last week: #2, girls): The best thing that could happen to Crystal was Lilly’s departure. Whether Lilly was a legitimate threat to Crystal or not can be debated, but they were clearly being pitted against each other and now that Lilly is gone, Crystal has that niche all to herself. All that remains to be seen now is whether America is looking for something like Crystal.
2. Siobhan Magnus (Last week: #3, girls): With each week, Siobhan has gotten stronger and is hands down the biggest remaining competition for Crystal. Her a capella opening to “House of the Rising Sun” was a bold choice for such a high-stakes week and it paid off huge. The rest of the performance continued to show the remarkable control she has over her voice, and she should only continue to get more comfortable.
3. “Big” Mike Lynche (Last week: #2, guys): OK, fine. Michael skips ahead of Casey this week, but only because he made Kara cry. (I’m kidding — that isn’t why). Michael is undergoing a transformation of epic proportions. He came in as this guitar-playing, smiling big guy, and now he’s the big-voiced R&B man who is trying to become a force. I still don’t know whether he can sustain it, but I have to give him credit for two consecutive weeks of success.
4. Casey James (Last week: #1, guys): Casey knows exactly who he is and what he wants to be. This week’s song choice was a safe one, but it was miles better than his electric guitar situation from the previous week. I think Casey has a chance to easily finish in the Top 5 and if he can solidify his image as the weeks go on, I think he’s the guys’ only hope at winning the whole thing.
5. Didi Benami (Last week: #6, girls): Didi bounced back huge on a pressure-filled week, and there’s definitely something to be said for that. She put a nice touch to Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” and proved that she belongs in the top half of the group. Her issue is going to be consistency and really establishing an identity.
6. Katie Stevens (Last week: #4, girls): I had a good feeling Katie was going to be alright this week, despite her first really bad performance of the season. She has a great voice — although “Breakaway” showed how weak her lower register is — but she has absolutely no idea what kind of performer she wants to be, and her voice is far more mature than any 17 year old’s should be. Her voice is more along the lines of a Norah Jones, but if she takes that route, she’ll bore the viewers and judges quickly. She’s in a tough spot.
7. Lee Dewyze (Last week: #5, guys): I’m still not a big fan of Lee’s, and I didn’t really enjoy what he did with “Fireflies.” But he’s clear on the type of “artist” he wants to be, even though it’s as if he’s reading straight from the pages of “Getting Your Music on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ for Dummies.” If it’s consistency the judges and viewers are looking for, then Lee is in great shape, because he will sound exactly the same every week.
8. Paige Miles (Last week: #6, girls): I didn’t want Paige to leave this week, but she probably should have. Based on her performances, thus far, Paige hasn’t come anywhere close to reaching her potential. She’s shown some flashes of brilliance, but hasn’t pulled it all together in one memorable song. She’s probably running out of time to do that, so I hope she’s thinking long and hard as she browses the Rolling Stones’ song list for Tuesday night.
9. Andrew Garcia (Last week: #4, guys): It’s been all about denial for me with Andrew. I wanted to believe he wasn’t a one-trick pony, but this week he proved that all he’s got is an ability to put guitar and male vocals to a female singer’s pop song. And this week it was terrible. Andrew needs to learn that what made the “Straight Up” performance so memorable was the surprise factor. But the element of surprise fades after the fourth or fifth you see something. He has talent, but needs to tap into it quickly to get back in the race.
10. Lacey Brown (Last week: #8, girls): I like Lacey as a personality, but when she starts to sing, the whole thing falls off the rails. She’s trying to do the pixie thing, but it really isn’t working. It was a little better this week with “The Story,” but for the most part she’s had trouble finding ways to make the quirkiness work for her rather than against her. She’s going to fade into the background quickly, and with the next two guys on this list apparently having the backing of many a screaming girl, she could be gone sooner than you think.
11. Tim Urban (Last week: #10, guys): Mostly because I’m getting tired of keeping him in the bottom spot, Tim moves up because of a decent performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Still, all this talk about it being a brave choice and a difficult song is completely overblown. It’s actually one of the easiest “Idol” classics to sing, and it isn’t entirely difficult to make it sound believable. The song itself does most of the work. He gets credit for picking the right song, though.
12. Aaron Kelly (Last week: #8, guys): One thing I don’t understand is the judges’ impression that Aaron looks comfortable on stage. I understand he’s only 16, but at this point every contestant needs to be judged equally, and he seems terribly awkward and uncomfortable on stage. He’s wise to continue on the country track. Even if Casey plants himself there, there’s something about Aaron’s general cuteness that will probably keep him around longer than he should stay.