Sunday, February 19, 2006

ponderances and predictions...

So we have our remaining 24 contestants, some of whom we've met, some of whom we've heard and, as is customary, some of whom we've never seen before ever in our entire lives. And, beginning Tuesday, they're gonna be in our homes, singing their little hearts out, wanting us to fall in love with them, their stories and their personalities.

It's the start of another wonderful relationship!

I've been cruising the Idol blogs and message boards, trying to get an sense of who my friends and fellow Idol junkies think are gonna be the first casualties Thursday night. That's part of the appeal of this show - trying to predict what's going to happen before the first note has been sung, because, even though Randy will remind us countless times that this is a singing competition, it's not. Not entirely. It's a study in manipulation, in behavior and the intangibles that take it beyond a mere talent show.

And we love it.

For those new to the show, the final 12 females will take to a (relatively) barren stage and sing the song of their choice before an intimate audience. Two of those twelve will get the boot on Thursday. On Wednesday, the males will do the same, with two of them being told to hit the road during Thursday's one-hour (?) results show. This process will continue until both genders are pared to six, giving us our final 12 contestants.


First let's dispense with the locks to continue, not only to next week, but to the final stage.

We've been given enough time to get to know that Kellie Pickler lives in a trailer with her grandparents because her mom left her when she was an infant and her daddy spends more time in jail than out of it. She's a given to continue on that backstory alone, but her Carrie Underwood-like looks and talent have already built her a fanbase that will carry her to the final 12.

Yes, we know Paris Bennett and her new hairstyle, referred to by some
as the cocker spaniel look, is the granddaughter of Grammy-winning singer Ann Nesby. And, thanks to extended air time, we know she can sing, even though she did butcher pretty much everything she sang during the Hollywood rounds. The memory of her audition will sustain her, even though a disappointing performance. She also has a reservation to the final round. And probably the final four.

Katharine McPhee is still remembered as the girl with the stagemom/vocal coach, but seemed to separate herself from mama during the Hollywood episodes. Her voice distinguished her during her audition, but her personality - sticking up for ejected contestants and kissing each of the judges on the lips after being put through - probably endeared her to even more voters. It did me. Only a meltdown of Janay Castine proportion will keep her from advancing.

And then there's Mandisa "Just Mandisa" Hundley. Mandisa has proven she possesses a voice as big as the beloved and somewhat martyred Frenchie Davis and, while Simon's snarky weight insult was beyond rude, it just may work to her advantage, already giving her the platform to show the grace that she did in addressing the hurt it caused. She'll benefit from the sympathy vote at first, but so far she's shown the talent to back it up.

That leaves two slots in the final six and a field of eight from which to choose them. Some of them have the pre-performance advantage of considerable airtime. The others, well, have a rougher row to hoe.

Lisa Tucker is a favorite to advance, but I'm not as absolutely certain. While she's very pretty and has extensive stage experience, I can't find an emotional connection with this girl. She's going to have to develop a stage persona that strikes a chord in her audience beyond just hitting all the right notes. We'll call this the DeGarmo syndrome.

Everybody knows that Ayla Brown doesn't need American Idol, because she has a basketball scholarship to Boston College. And she has a father who's a state senator. And a mother who's a news anchor. She's going to have to prove to the viewers that, while she doesn't need Idol, she wants it. After all, if she doesn't really need it, why not give it to somebody else? It may be thoroughly unfair, but she's tough to identify with. We'll call this the Nadia syndrome.

Becky O'Donahue is pretty. She is half of a twin set. She posed for Maxim. Some may say she's hawt. Okay, I'll agree. But I've not heard one ounce of real vocal talent from her. She'll make it through the first few voting rounds, though. But, unless she pulls out a trick from her vocal bag of tricks, I doubt she'll see the big stage. We'll call this the Amanda Avila factor.

Who is Heather Cox? Have we seen her? Have we heard her? She's pretty. She's this year's Celena Rae.

Who is Melissa McGhee? Have we seen her? Have we heard her? Did I blink or something? She's this season's Melinda Lira.

Stephanie (now known as Stevie) Scott is one of my favorite women, just on the basis of her few seconds we were given during group and chair night. She has the potential to emerge from the lack of exposure to secure a spot in the finals if she can pull off at least two memorable performances. She's this year's Jessica Sierra.

Kinnik Sky is another of the women who was given a few moments of air time during group night, but enough to leave a mega-impression on me. I have a hunch she's going to come out of the shadows and blow everybody away. At least once. She's this year's Aloha, who could be this year's Latoya, coming out of absolutely nowhere to stun the nation and leave everybody asking "where's she been?"

So that leaves Brenna Gethers. I don't think there's any question that she's this year's Mikalah. We've not heard a lot from Brenna, but we've been given an earful of personality. Whether the personality is endearing (as was Mikalah's) or grating is yet to be seen. I recall writing at this point last season that "a little Mikalah will go a long, long way." And she went a lot further than I thought she should have. I have a hunch I'm going to think the same this time around.

First to get kicked to the curb? Voice unheard? Barring extraordinary and unexpected vocal performances: Melissa and Heather, because we just don't know who they are.

The MEN ~

First, let's dispense with the ones sure to make the final cut.

Chris Daughtry has been this year's Constantine, front and center
throughout the series, from the moment we met him and his wife. Each aired performance has earned him more and more fans, and there's not a chance he's not going to advance. I think we'll be hearing from Chris well into May.

Even Paula was invoking the name of Ace Young before the first audition episode. His looks and personality will carry him through the semi-finals as the first Justin Guarini since, well, Justin Guarini.

American Idol has never before had a Taylor Hicks
, and that uniqueness is what is endearing him to many people. And it doesn't hurt that he seemingly is not Simon's pet, although neither was Bo Bice at this stage last year. Hicks has shown moments of Joe Cocker brilliance, but his stage mannerisms are a put-off to some.

The women are an easier call than the guys, so I'm going to stick with those three as locks and open the rest of the field to a free-for-all.

Of the Rat Pack, Will Makar is my best bet to advance of the three remaining. His youthful cute looks will appeal to a wide variety of voters, and in the performances that we've seen, he's inched his way into my heart as possibly my favorite of the guys so far.

The other crooners, David Radford and Kevin C
ovais, each have a legitimate shot at the big stage. We've been treated to extensive coverage of both. Each has built a fan base and has the potential of adding to that voting base. Both, as well as Makar, need to prove during the semi-finals that their styles can range beyond the standards to dispel any thought that any of them is inflicted with a terminal case of John Stevensitis, or the inability to adapt to the inevitable theme nights, because, as John Stevens proved, one simply cannot croon a 70s dance tune.

Who is Gedeon McKinney? And is he really as annoyingly cocky as he was portrayed to be?

Patrick Hall hasn't had a lot of air time, beyond his glorious rendition of Bread's "If" during the Hollywood episodes. He says he's not as pretty as Ace, but so far, for me, he's far more vocally talented. Seems he's expected to be one of the first depart. I don't think so, if he sticks with the David Gates-like ballads. After all, there are many of us over-40 voters out there.

Bobby Bennett is kind of coming out of nowhere too, but in one brief instance,
he was able to establish himself as a funny, likeable sort of guy, so, presuming he has a decent introduction, his self-effacing personality will be a refreshing change, reminiscent of George Huff and Rickey Smith.

Who is Bucky Covington? Where did he come from? And does he always wear that hat?

Elliott Yamin is going to be this year's enigma, not terribly handsome, but ripe for a makeover. And everyone knows
how much the voters love a good makeover! Plus, from what we've heard so far, the boy can sing! And, while some people prefer what's easier on the eyes, when my ears are hurting, my eyes tend to water.

Sway Penala, who was much-hyped pre-season, needs to deliver a Hail Mary pass to prove to me why he's even in the final 24. So far, I'm not impressed, but still, I'm basing all of this on the crumbs that they've tossed to us. I was the one, after all, who predicted Bo Bice wouldn't even make the semi-final cut. Shows what I know.

Who's getting punted Thursday? Barring shockers, meltdowns and tight leather pants: Gedeon and Bucky, for the same reason as the girls.

But then again, what do I know?

I do know that this time last season I had my clear favorites (even though they changed throughout), and there were several that I disliked. Strongly. This year I don't have a favorite, although I am leaning in several directions and, for the first time going into the first semi-final, there is no one in this field that, vocally anyway, I detest.

I don't know if that's good or bad. Yet.

I love this show.

Got a favorite yet?

tag: american idol


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't wait to watch! I'm so excited! :) And I love, love, love the songs in the sidebar! How did you DO that?!?!

4:02 AM, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Becky said...

Mandisa and Taylor Hicks are my underdog favorites. Kellie and Ace are my eye candy favorites. Ace...ah Ace. I can't wait to see that boy singing into the camera just for me. I don't know if my heart can take it. LOL

7:02 AM, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Dave said...

I think super-hot Maxim babe Rebecca/Becky/Becca is more like Kimberly Caldwell than Amanda Avila.

Her voice is no where near the same level as some of the other contestants, but she will cruise into the top 12 through the sheer force of her hotness.

Then, after about three or four more weeks, she'll be bounced out when it is apparent that her vocal skills are subpar and more annoying people with larger fanbases push their people through (like Kevin and Paris).

You're analysis is spot-on, Jennifer. I am looking forward to seeing how this year plays out just as much as you are.

8:28 AM, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Nelle said...

Chris is my favorite guy thus far but I like the Joe Cocker wannabee on sheer originality. For the girls I like Paris a lot but I need to hear more from them before making my final decision.

11:34 AM, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Allbrunette said...

It's way to early to see who will make it to the "Big Stage" but it's pretty obvious that the guys are alot better singers this year, my favorite has to be Ace and Taylor.. we will see what happens.....

8:36 PM, February 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So far, I don't really have any strong feelings about any of the female contestants. I definitely love Chris, for the guys, he has the whole package. I also like Taylor, he's funny, authentic, and I'd like to see him advance!

8:18 AM, February 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm thinking we'll see Chris and Ace for the guys, and Kellie and Katherine for the girls, as the final four. But I'm nowhere near as certain this season as I was last season. Last season I said with confidence, "It's going to come down to Bo and Carrie; and Carrie will win it." This year it's much more of a toss up, and I feel as though there are going to be some people who surprise us with their talent...or the lack of it.

9:42 AM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Dave said...

For me, the problem is that the producers seem to desperately want the following people to succeed: Chris, Ace, Kelly, Paris and Ayla.

I think the field is pretty deep and right now, there does not seem to be a single Camile, Carmen, JPL, Scott or Anthony among them. However, I thought Scott would turn out to be better than he was.

Even though the judges put him through, I wonder if Fox really wants Taylor to succeed. And can his style translate to say, showtunes or disco night? Plus, he has an image problem.

Between him and Kevin, the AI makeover people need to be working double-time.

10:49 AM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger jennifer said...

LOL, Dave. You're right, and the pimping has been almost as obvious as last year. And I would add Kellie to that list, but you can really see who the favorites are.

And I thought since Scott started so strong last year, he would be better. But I also had high hopes for David Brown, remember him? He all but imploded during the semi-finals.

And I want makeovers this time. Last year we really didn't have any.

11:01 AM, February 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paris Bennet is THE AMERICAN IDOL!!

12:06 PM, February 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anyone notice that they didnt put any ugly people through???

3:21 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger cathy said...

david isn't exactly mind blowing.

4:52 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger cathy said...

My boyfriend and I watch Idol every night it is on together, and we are leaning toward Kellie Pickler and Taylor Hicks. I love to watch Taylor perform and his voice is very distinctive and unique. Kellie's voice is so sweet and innocent sounding, she reminds me of Carrie Underwood. Let's watch and see, but I'm betting on one of these two.

4:55 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger jennifer said...

Cathy, I agree. Of those three, David has the most to prove. He's the one that I question the ability to expand beyond "crooner mode."

5:00 PM, February 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least the Crittercam brothers are gone.

6:21 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Yvonne said...

First off, let me just say that I am sooooooo glad the twins are gone.

Secondly, I have to say that I haven't got a favorite girl competitor yet. I'm leaning toward Katherine, I think. Brenna has definitely got to go.

Thirdly, for the boys - I like Elliott and William, and maybe David. I liked all the crooners, but that's my kind of music. :)

6:45 PM, February 21, 2006  
Anonymous Jenn said...

My favorite is definately Chris, but I totally understand why people are going for other guys. Taylor has a great voice, but the way he moves when he sings really bothers me, he's just so....stiff. As for the girls, it's hard to tell. I think I have three favorites, Paris, Mandisa, and Lisa. Everyone seems to be forgetting about Lisa, but I think she had amazing talent. I don't think Kellie will win it all, because she's too much like Carrie, but I like her a lot too.

7:01 PM, February 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jennifer!! I feel like such a HORRIBLE idol fan..I havent watched most of the show..since I didnt know when the top 24 were starting..( now I know) and I just stopped at the auditions since they were getting to my head..but now I am EXCITED! I really like Chris, he definately has what it takes.. Will is so incredibly is for the girls, I dont know too much about them, Ill just have to watch and see!! :-D


7:48 PM, February 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How old is this Taylor guy? Was there an age cut off this year?! nettie

9:35 AM, February 22, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Taylor is only 29!!! ;but he is awesome. as for the girls, i think it's Lisa all the way. i like paris but I think all of her movement on Tues made her voice to winded.

10:07 AM, February 22, 2006  
Blogger AlbGlinka said...

Leave Bucky alone! I like him!!! It's the year of cowboys and Brokeback Mountain!!!!!

2:49 PM, February 22, 2006  
Blogger jennifer said...

Holy Bejebus, Albert. Didn't we have enough cowpoke action last season? Maybe you could just go play some Carrie Underwood tunes instead.

Now, on the other hand, if the boy is hawt, well then, I can overlook things.

Just sayin'


2:54 PM, February 22, 2006  

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Thanks Rob for the awesome image!