March 10, 2009

Standout voices round out Idol’s solid top 13

American Idol is off to a pretty solid start this season. The knowledgeable new judge, Kara DioGuardi, is a welcome addition; Simon’s usual curmudgeonly antics are as delightful as ever; and Paula has been mostly lucid this season, an improvement over most years. Granted, there have been some snags: the odd throwback performances by last season’s rejects during results shows and the nightmare histrionics of Tatiana del Toro spring to mind. But the top 13 are a pretty strong bunch, despite a wide range of vocal ability and star potential. Read on for predictions on who will sink and swim in season eight.

Most likely to get booted in the first three weeks:

The smart money’s on Matt Giraud, Kris Allen, and Jasmine Murray. Matt and Jasmine were both judge’s picks, which means they haven’t built a voter base. Plus, Giraud’s difficult to remember at all, and a quick Google image search reveals that he’s awful to look at. Jasmine and Kris are each insanely adorable, young, and likable, so they each have a shot at minor staying power if backed by the all-powerful pre-teen girl vote. But is that enough to buoy them in a pool of stronger singers?

Most likely to rake in the Mom vote:

Another powerful voting bloc is your mom, all her book club friends, and everyone they’re on the PTA with. The Mom vote traditionally goes to someone with talent, guy-or-girl next door looks, and a sympathetic story, so this year it’ll either be Scott MacIntyre, the talented and attractive blind phenom, or Danny Gokey, the more-talented, Robert Downey Jr.-looking widower. As one of my friends pointed out, the Idol choreographer may be cursing his life now that Scott made it through—will every dance routine have to be handicap accessible?—but nevertheless, it won’t matter to the Moms, who are sure to love Scott—and Danny—anyway.

Most commercially viable: Megan Joy and Lil Rounds are two talented young women who could probably make it on their own, even without 13 weeks of Idol boot camp. Megan is gorgeous and quirky—note the intensely tattooed arm despite her pretty girl looks—and she seems to have a better sense of who she is as an artist than some of the younger contestants. The same goes for Lil Rounds, whose mature performances have already won over the judges.

Most normal/Most quirky: Anoop Desai, the surprise 13th contestant, seems like someone you’d meet at the Reg. He’s a 22–year–old student at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and he just seems so normal that you kind of have to like him. He’s laidback when he talks to Seacrest, he doesn’t put on a crazy act, and as it turns out, he has a really strong voice. His low-key manner could win him votes—or prevent him from making an impression. The opposite is true for Adam Lambert, who wears eye makeup, is a former child actor, and has a background in theater. His attention-getting ways and edgy looks will get him noticed, but is that something the Idol voter—who loves country music and easily-processed identities—will go for?

Standouts: The three best vocal talents, Alexis Grace, Allison Iraheta, and Jorge Nuñez all deserve a shot at winning. Allison is a 16–year–old with an off-the-charts voice—she can out-sing anyone on the show. But she’s painfully awkward when she’s not performing, so she’ll have to get past that—fast—or she risks putting off voters who expect their entertainers to be the full package. Alexis Grace is a down-to-earth 21–year–old with a young daughter and a fiancé in Iraq. America will gobble that up, along with the fact that she’s incredibly cute, a mega-talented singer, and manages to project a surprising amount of sexiness when she’s performing, despite her humble manner. But Alexis and Allison will have to fight it out with Jorge Nuñez, the hot Puerto Rican crooner with genuine talent who, very adorably, speaks in Spanish when he gets overwhelmed. He has more sex appeal than any other guy in the competition, which makes him another candidate for the Mom vote. But is America ready for a Puerto Rican idol? Ya veremos!