12. Paige Miles– This ranking reflects her complete lack of airtime. I have no idea what she sounds like.America has no idea, either. My guess is that, by the end of Thursday’s show, she will either be eliminated or she will shoot up in the rankings.
11. Lacey Brown– She should be very proud that she made it to the semis. Her airy, breathy voice isn’t nearly as strong as most of her competition. She will need to be perfect to advance very far. I don’t envision a strong bloc of dedicated speed dialers getting behind her, but you never know.
10. Haeley Vaughn– Haeley, unlike Paige, has been in the middle of everything all the way with several aired performances and interviews. She was terrific in her first Hollywood Week performance, but very uneven elsewhere. Frankly, if it was up to me, I wouldn’t have passed her through to the final 24. She is talented enough to grow into a legitimate contender in a few years. At this point she has almost no chance. She is too inexperienced, and she will make too many mistakes. By making it to the semifinals she won’t be eligible in the future.
9. Kaitlyn Epperley– I was pretty surprised that she made the semis. She fits the karaoke persona more than the musician persona, as far as I have seen. She doesn’t suck, but she will also have to be perfect to get any farther. The speed dialers are not dummies as a group, and they demand something special. Can she be special? I’m not sold yet.
8. Siobhan Magnus– “Sha-Von” has one hell of a voice. She is the lowest listed female that I can see making the tour at this point. Because she is quirky and inexperienced, she could be the first one out as well. I like her a lot, and she is capable of doing something special. She will need to, because she doesn’t stand out in other ways. She’s a cute kid, and she might find a way to make that work for her. She hasn’t so far.
7. Michelle Delamore- I found her online singing church music and gospel, as well as doing an interview about an album that she is putting out. Her voice isn’t big. It’s more of a Diana Ross kind of voice, and she wasn’t perfect. She does have a lot of experience, which is why I have her listed this high. Truthfully, the bottom half of the rankings could be ordered in just about any way. My rankings are an attempt to predict who is most likely to make it to the final 12. In that narrow sense, the separation between 6 and 7 is wider than the separation between 7 and 12.
6. Janelle Wheeler– To coin a sports phrase, Janelle is the “Jamie Moyer” of the competition. She has the moves, the looks, the musicianship, the intelligence and the drive to succeed. All that she is missing is the fastball. She has it all – except for a strong voice. She doesn’t sound or act like Megan Joy from last season, but she is in her boat. She is the one that will be getting internet hate-mail for the heinous crime of not having a strong voice if she makes it very far. I assume that she won’t caw like a crow when she is bounced. I have her ranked sixth, which is in the leather for making the top 12, but she is very vulnerable. As I said none of the 7 through 12 contenders are close to her at this point, but at least one of them is going to bubble up and make themselves a contender. Janelle is the one that is most likely to get knocked out of contention when that happens.
5. Katie Stevens- The difference in vocal power between Janelle and Katie is monstrous, but in almost every other way Janelle has the advantage. Most of them are small advantages (Janelle is older and more experienced, plays the guitar and is more of a ‘Looker’; but Katie plays the piano very well and is plenty cute herself), but cumulatively they close the gap a good bit. It won’t matter. This is a singing competition, and Katie is bringing a howitzer to the battle. My main worry about her, and why I ranked her this low, is that she is 16 and she has made a mistake or two along the way. She has four singers ahead of her that can sing a little, too. They all have a good bit more experience. It won’t be easy.
4. Ashley Rodriguez- She has a big voice; not huge like Katie’s but much bigger than Janelle’s. She also has some major pedigree advantages with her education, but I am not going to give her a pass for that until I see that pedigree demonstrate itself on the stage. She has been cruising so far, and she might just cruise into the final 12 as well. If she is going to be a contender for the title, I think that she is going to have to bring out an instrument or show some vocal chops that she hasn’t shown so far. She is up against three girls with serious instrumental abilities, who have all shown creativity and style. She is good, but not good enough to compete with that by just standing up there and singing.
3. Lilly Scott– She was so good inHollywood with her “Lullaby of Birdland” that it can be argued that she should be at the top of the list. It was the single most amazing performance of the season so far, male of female. If she can back that up with something maybe more contemporary, she will become a huge, huge contender. She looks kind of weird at first glance, which might not help her. If you look closely at her face though, and get past the cotton candy hair and the translucent skin tone (Slezak accidentally called her “Lilly White” in one of his reviews) she has a very pleasing look. It’s a look of amusement, but also of intelligence and confidence. She is just 20 years old but her eyes are much older; the eyes of a mature, comfortable person. She seems like the type that the younger contestants might gravitate to, for advice.
2. Chrystal Bowersox- She has a firm hold on the “Rocker Chick” role, but I don’t see that as a fair representation. She is much more than a rocker. She is full of soul, she has shown the most musical versatility and she might have the strongest voice in the field. She has one major drawback: her teeth. She has yellow teeth, and they stand out when she sings. Can they find her some whitening strips, or something? I would assume that a thorough cleaning would do the trick. She isn’t missing any that I can see. They are just yellow. I would guess that she is a smoker. I can relate, but canAmerica? The kid is too good to blow her chance on something so trivial and easily fixed.
1. Didi Benami– I am nervous about her. She is sooooo emotional. While that emotional intensity will stand out in the eyes of the voters, it also threatens to derail her if she lets it get away from her. She isn’t a belter like Chrystal, and she doesn’t have the huge voice that Katie has. Lilly’s voice is also probably stronger and more developed. What Didi has going for her is amazing command; command of a bucketful of unique and charming bends to her voice and pronunciation. Combine that with her “heart on her sleeve” emotional power and only one thing can stop Didi from contending for the title.
That one thing is PRESSURE. Didi has what I call a high “blow-up” potential. She is sensitive, emotional, and she lacks complete confidence in her intonation. What is she going to do the first time Simon calls her out? There is a decent chance that she will fall into a very common trap:
It could be called the “Brooke White” syndrome, but that’s really unfair to Brooke. She certainly had it, but she didn’t invent it. It’s been around for thousands of years. Lil Rounds experienced it last season. It’s the loss of that fine edge; that fine tuned confidence, that perfect command. It comes after the first bad critique; when a singer no longer has complete confidence in herself. She (or he) starts trying to overcontrol her voice, to keep it in tune. She starts thinking about her mechanics instead of just singing. Once she starts to think when she is performing, she is screwed. The first symptoms are a loss of pitch perfection and some hesitation when deciding where and when to bend the melody. Eventually it gets so bad that it’s like the yips in golf. The victim will even forget the words (in the worst cases), or just lock up inside and become wooden and unable to sing freely.
Simon is the principal protagonist responsible for bringing this out on Idol, but it eventually happens to anyone who wants to sing for a living. It’s part of the education. To be able to deal with the grind and the rejections that are inherent in the entertainment business, a singer has to be salted. This means losing, being rejected. Anyone can be confident if they have never been hit in the face. The winners, the ones that Idol is trying to find, are the ones who can get hit in the face and get over it.
Allie from last year is a good example. They hit her in the face, kicked her, told her that she wasn’t good enough and sent her to the hard chairs over and over. She had been through it before, though, in another large national competition for Latin Idols (she won). She took it all in step, even laughed about it, and moved on. She got stronger and stronger as the competition went on, to the point where she was a few votes short of making the top three. Had she survived that she might have even won. Her momentum was building, and she was no longer even feeling the hits.
Didi seems like she might be a little fragile. If so, she is probably a long shot to survive the hits, hacks and direct attacks on her that will inevitably come when she makes some mistakes. From this angle the survivor candidates might be Crystal, who is very Allie-like, and Lilly. Didi’s advantage is that, if she can take the hits, she will be loved by the speed dialers. It’s almost impossible to listen to her and not be moved. She is unique, and very special.