By the end of this week, when it leaves Las Vegas, “American Idol” will be down to its 24 finalists, and the real work will begin as to who will make it to the end.
If you’ve been following the show from the start, it’s fairly obvious who the front-runners are—they’re the ones with the most camera time.
That category includes soul belters Ashton Jones and Jacob Lusk, fauxhawked, operatic Freddie Mercury aspirant James Durbin, moon-faced Cajun teen Jacee Badeaux, red-headed bully victim Brett Loewenstern, nice L.I. Jewish boy Robbie Rosen, melodica and upright bass scat singer Casey Abrams, 15-year-old Georgia cheerleader Lauren Alaina, cutthroat competitor Clint Jun Gamboa and deep-voiced country crooner Scott McCreery.
It’s no surprise all of them made it to the AI site joesplaceblog, where the usually reliable site has picked 22 of the finalists, with an added caveat they are 99% of two of them. So consider this a spoiler alert, as we analyze the blog’s tally going into this week’s two shows, Wednesday and Thursday nights.
There are 12 males, 10 females among the designated finalists, with New Orleans the audition sporting the most (5), followed by Nashville (4), New Jersey, Milwaukee, Hollywood and San Francisco (3 apiece) and Austin (1).
The group includes two 15-year-olds (Badeaux, Alaina), a pair of former contestants (Pia Toscano and Rachel Zevita, both of whom tried out during Season Six), a Cuban shipbuilder (Jovany Barreto) and a Colombian émigré (Julie Zorilla).
Among the high-profile favorites who didn’t make the cut on joesplaceblog are Chris Medina, the barrister with the wheelchair-bound fiancé; Thia Megia, the 15-year-old Filipino phenom who captured J. Lo’s attention; John Wayne Schulz, the real-life cowboy who sings to his mother; and Ashley Sullivan, the drama queen with the Liza Minnelli complex.
So far, only Medina’s ousting has been reported in the press as those 378 some-odd candidates are whittled down to a manageable two dozen.
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Here are my favorites at the moment.
Jacob Lusk: The 23-year-old spa concierge from Compton, CA, wowed the judges with his scintillating, multi-octave, game-changing version of “God Bless the Child.” Odds: 3-1
Lauren Alaina: Nigel Lythgoe’s pre-season favorite, this full-figured 15-year-old Georgia cheerleader has the Christian voting bloc behind her, which is reason enough to make her a favorite. Odds: 7-2
Ashton Jones: This 24-year-old from a small Tennessee town has the charisma of a young Diana Ross, and her version of Dreamgirls’ “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” recalls former Idol reject Jennifer Hudson. Now’s the chance to make up for that mistake. Odds: 4-1
James Durbin: Still smarting from Adam Lambert’s runner-up status, the “AI” judges could find in favor of this glass-shattering shouter. Odds: 5-1
Casey Abrams: He may not have a shot at the final prize—he seems too much of a novelty entry in the style of Taylor Hicks, but this garrulous, effervescent entertainer could have a long career in show business if promoted the right way. A long-shot, but it’ll be fun to see how he competes. Odds: 11-2
Robbie Rosen: He could take that Billy Joel/Gavin DeGraw vibe a long way. Seeing him at the piano was a revelation. Odds: 6-1
THEY COULD BE CONTENDERS
As anyone who’s watched the show knows, sometimes the early favorites falter in the stretch and dark horses emerge. The following could be in the mix as we near the finals.
Jacee Badeaux: Round, cuddly, and a sentimental favorite, could he be this year’s Sanjaya, except he can sing? Odds: 10-1
Naima Adedap: Neo-soul singer with Erykah Badu vibe. Odds: 15-1
Brett Loewenstern: A unique, eclectic talent, with a style all his own, he could turn into a sentimental favorite. Odds: 20-1
Julie Zorilla: This Colombian beauty could lose some public sympathy just because she’s such a beauty. Still, it sounds like she can sing, too, which is a plus in this competition. Odds: 20-1
Scott McCreery: That country basso profundo could make him the first male country singer to win American Idol, but it’s a long shot. Odds: 25-1