“American Idol” executive producer Nigel Lythgoe can be one tricky man. We have yet to even see a single performance by the top 24 contestants (plus one mystery singer who is going to be invited back), but we already know a bit about who will likely shine and who will be sent home early during this week’s live shows.
With all of this in mind (especially since we haven’t even seen everyone perform just yet), talent is only one component in our weekly contestant rankings (which are going to start up now that we’re at this stage ) — we are also looking at the amount of screen time handed out, the nature of the edit, and the past history of the “Idol” voting block. (There are still some factors that we can’t judge at the moment, though, such as where the singers are placed during the course of their live shows. The final hour is always the favorable one.)
25. Brielle Von Hugel – Unless she goes out and gives an “Idol moment” at the end of her first performance show, her overly-aggressive mother has pretty much put her out of the running.
24. Chelsea Sorrell – The fact that there are three country singers this season hurts Chelsea — and despite her talent, she’s the least-recognizable of the three.
23. Adam Brock – Despite seeing a good bit of Adam this season, there’s something about him that comes across as a bit overbearing. Contestants can try too hard at times, and this seems to be a classic case of this.
22. Elise Testone – There is significant talent here, but the fact that Elise has only received intermittent air time coupled with the there being so many female contestants who look like her could be problematic.
21. Creighton Fraker – We would rank Creighton higher if Reed Grimm was not on the list, but the problem is that he is, and this show likely only has room for one quirky character on it this season.
20. Hollie Cavanagh – We’ve always liked Hollie’s voice, but the show is seemingly counting on “Idol” voters to remember that she was on during season 10 and ignore that she had pretty much no air time at all this season. We could see her being the Kendra Chantelle of this season — brilliant, but somehow gets passed over.
19. Jessica Sanchez – There is something that Jessica has in common with Thia Megia besides their past connection with “America’s Got Talent” — we’ve had trouble connecting with what the two parties have performed. We’re just not sure people are going to get behind her.
18. Aaron Marcellus – Despite having a brilliant voice, we are struggling with the men’s lineup at the moment. We see R&B singers navigating more towards Joshua Ledet since he’s a bigger personality, and that could leave Aaron in trouble.
17. Eben Franckewitz – We’re really just ranking Eben this high since he’s got the “aww” factor going for him — but in reality, Eben still doesn’t really seem like he is ready to be at this stage in the competition. His voice just isn’t strong enough.
16. Chase Likens – Chase, meanwhile, is a guy that could make it into the top 12 despite getting no air time at all. Why? He’s a good-looking male country singer — otherwise known as the kind of thing “Idol” voters eat up.
15. David Leathers / Jermaine Jones / Johnny Keyser / Richie Law – First things first, you can eliminate Richie from the list of people who are possibly returning since he’d be going straight out the door again. Based on the fact that Johnny didn’t even make it to the final stage of the competition here (and we’re still freaked out by how he kept singing when Imani fainted), we’re leaning towards Jermaine getting the nod here with David also being a possibility.
But could one these wild cards make it into the top 12 or 13? While we argue that talent-wise they were eliminated for a reason, Jermaine is incredibly likable, has a unique voice, and also has received a great deal of air time (and we expect whoever is the pick here to get some extra play during the live show Tuesday). We could see him getting as far as the tour — meanwhile, David wouldn’t last beyond this coming week.
14. Haley Johnson – Should Haley make it far in the competition? Definitely. She has one of the best voices of the entire season … but is not really too memorable outside of that. We’re not sure casual voters are going to really remember her, but watch out for her as a potential sleeper pick.
13. Reed Grimm – Does acting a bit crazy hurt you when it comes to getting votes? We’re betting on it. Reed it probably actually one of the five most-talented people on this season, but occasionally his manic behavior has comes across as a little bit off-putting.
12. Deandre Brackensick – With Deandre, it’s going to be all about song choice. We loved his vocals (and his hair) during Hollywood Week, but he has to find a song that is going to suit that falsetto. If he does that, we will be seeing him for another week.
11. Jeremy Rosado – We love Jeremy as a person, and he may arguably be the nicest contestant in the competition. But does being likable really win votes? He already has the voice, but he needs to amp up the personality and stage presence to go further than the early stages of the Top 12.
10. Skylar Laine – Skylar made it this far based on talent, but she has also been inconsistent — forgetting her lyrics at one point during Hollywood Week. Scotty McCreery did win “Idol” last year despite making this same mistake, so anything is possible — but she is going to face stiff competition courtesy of multiple other country singers.
9. Hallie Day – Hallie is really a contestant that could go either way. There aren’t any female voices out of the twelve that remain that are quite like hers, and she could end up taking on some rock songs that no one else can. But does being pretty much silent since the audition rounds hurt her at this stage? If she can make it past the first elimination, she could be fine for a while.
8. Jen Hirsh – Is Jen more Pia Toscano or Jacob Lusk? This seems to be the debate, and it’s an interesting one. Jacob actually made it further in the competition, but Pia arguably gave better performances.
There’s no question that Jen has a stellar range and vocal sensibility, but it’s all about control — if you go for the high notes all the time, it’s not as impressive.
7. Erika Van Pelt – Erika is the best singer of the entire field of women this year. She rocked both in her audition and in Hollywood Week, but we saw during her “sing for your life” performance that with the wrong song, she’s not emotionally effective.
Erika is going to need to rely on older voters, though, mostly because her sound won’t like appeal to young viewers.
6. Colton Dixon – Are you really going to root against rock? The genre typically produces one solid contestant, and Colton possesses many of the same talents as James Durbin did last year.
What could actually help Colton out more (to the point that he becomes a potential favorite) is that he can tackle more mainstream music and less heavy metal. With the right songs, he could end up making it into the final rounds of this competition.
5. Heejun Han – If there was a list for “contestant we are the most grateful for this season,” Heejun would no doubt be #1. He may be hands-down the funniest contestant ever on this show, and he brought levity to a tedious group round that was full of illness and subpar singing.
What we’re not sold on with Heejun is if he actually has the voice to make it to the final few weeks. His personality alone should get him to the tour, but unless he improves his diction and expands his vocal range the magic may be over here come Top 8 or Top 7 week.
4. Baylie Brown – Baylie may actually be the closet to a “sure thing” out of the entire top five when it comes to having a career outside of the show. “Idol” has been a good breeding ground for country singers, and she already has some experience working in Nashville.
We do think that one pure country singer will make it far, and we do think she has a better shot vocally than Skylar Laine.
3. Joshua Ledet – To us, it’s between Joshua and Jeremy Rosado for the best male voice in this competition. The only real difference is that Joshua known how to perform a little bit better, and that becomes especially valuable once you get about six or seven weeks into the competition.
2. Shannon Magrane – When we look at what it takes for singers to be successful on a show like this, Shannon has the total package. She is young, accessible, and has a voice that can sing a variety of genres. She’s also received some extensive screen time — even if some of it was for Steven Tyler awkwardly calling her “hot.”
1. Phillip Phillips – We never know if Phillip is going to be known as “Phil” or by his full name, but we do know this — it’s hard to bank against the guy as a favorite right now.
Phillip ultimately has everything that an “Idol” winner has, from a strong voice to some musicianship to (yes) the fact that he is in a similar vein as a performer to past winners Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze. Are we sold on Phillip without his guitar? Not really, but the strength of his “Thriller” audition — coupled with him being a likely target of female voters and a rather fun friendship with Heejun Han — make him someone that we will definitely be seeing for some time.
Who do you think is the current favorite going into the live shows?