Hollywood Round continues on American Idol this week, which means there’ll be plenty of tears, infighting, and forgotten lyrics — hopefully mixed in with at least a couple of star-making performances. And as if the season 10 hopefuls don’t already have enough to stress about, I thought we ought to ratchet up the pressure by counting down the top 20 singers based on talent and buzz from the previous eight episodes. Falling off the TVLine.com Idol Leaderboard from last week are
Sarah Sellers and Travis Orlando (bumped off during last Thursday’s telecast), Thia Megia (sounded pretty rough in her Hell Week a capella), Devyn Rush (has gone MIA from our screens since her audition), and Scott Dangerfield (rumored to have dropped out of the competition to finish his college degree).
Which five singers have joined the fray? Check out my countdown below, then head to the comments to share your own rankings. (And if you’re an Idol rumor junkie who’s got scoop on which contestants have already cracked the top 40, please keep don’t ruin it for your fellow readers by posting spoilers!) Oh, and for all my Idol-related goodies, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.
20. Hollie Cavanagh (new this week) | British teen was a nervous, sobbing mess at her audition, but surprised with a clear, confident Miley Cyrus cover on Day One of Hollywood.
19. Chris Medina (last week No. 14)| He’s more of a household name than any other season 10 hopeful, mainly because of the devastating package Idol ran about his fiancee’s tragic accident and subsequent brain injury. Still, he’ll have to do better than his pedestrian Hollywood Week rendition of Jason Mraz’s “You and I” if he expects to convert early fans into speed-dialers.
18. Clint Jun Gamboa (new this week) | Karaoke host with peculiar spectacles proved to be an adroit, appealing vocalist when he covered “Billionaire” at the San Francisco auditions.
17. John Wayne Schulz (last week No. 20) | Cowboy, take us away! Yes indeed, this dyed-in-the-homegrown-wool Texan melted viewers’ hearts with his rugged/pretty looks, his ten gallon hat and his open love for his mama. Of course, his earnest rendition of Brooks & Dunn’s “Believe” wasn’t half bad, either.
16. Paris Tassin (last week No. 19) | Gorgeous young mother of a special-needs child brought J.Lo to tears on her audition to “Temporary Home,” then followed up with a solid Celine Dion cover in Hollywood (except for one noticeably sharp note, that is).
15. Sarah Ames (new this week) | Idol producers didn’t even bother to identify this powerhouse diva when she slayed Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name” in San Francisco, but we tracked her down on the show’s official site. Here’s hoping the initial snub is merely the first step on her road to appealing underdog.
14. Rob Bolin (last week No. 18) | Scruffy, low-key guy auditioned with his ex-girlfriend (Chelsee Oaks), but his goosebump-inducing “What’s Going On” left a far stronger impression than any gimmicky backstory. Hollywood Week cover of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” confirmed both his vocal prowess and his excellent taste in tunes.
13. Scotty McCreery (last week No. 13) | Clean cut teen with a super-deep voice and an all-American story (he’s from a small town! he plays baseball!) has potential to be Idol‘s first true country male front-runner — but decision to cover Josh Turner’s “Your Man” at both audition and Hell Week a capella rounds makes us wonder if he’s literally a one-hit wonder.
12. Julie Zorrilla (new this week) | Gorgeous gal didn’t miss a note — musically or fashion-wise — at the San Francisco audition, causing J.Lo to wonder aloud if she’d just been in the presence of the season 10 winner. Will need to dial back the pointing and hair-flipping to get there, however.
11. Janelle Arthur (last week No. 10)| Comely country gal — as in she’s from a country town in Tennessee and she fancies country ditties — displayed enviable vocal control on the one-two punch of “Syrup and Honey” and “No One Needs to Know.”
10. Paul McDonald (last week No. 5) | Handsome, bearded fella gave off shades of Maroon 5′s Adam Levine and made a strong positive impression with a smoky, cool cover of “Maggie May” that lasted all of 20 seconds. Total lack of screen time since his audition, however, reduces his chances of following in the footsteps of Lee DeWyze.
9. Molly DeWolf Swensen (last week No. 8 )| Harvard grad and White House intern will probably suffer with the speed-texting crowd for being brainy and ambitious (how dare she!) but her “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” was gloriously smooth and controlled.
8. Lauren Alaina (last week No. 9) | Nigel Lythgoe’s “chosen one” closed the Nashville audition episode with a big voice and an appealing personality, but even previous adult contestants have had trouble living up to king-sized early hype, let alone perky teenagers. Her “Unchained Melody” in Hollywood was solid, though not quite the stuff of Idol legend.
7. Robbie Rosen (last week No. 12)| Polite 16-year-old dressed a little better in Hollywood than he did for the New Jersey auditions, but in both cities, he showed a lovely, buttery tone while tackling stylistially different “Yesterday” and “Moody’s Mood for Love.”
6. Jordan Dorsey (last week No. 7)| It’s been too long since Idol has allowed viewers to vote for a talented black male contestant with sex-symbol potential, but Dorsey’s swingin’ “Over the Rainbow” proved he might be all that and a bag of Funyuns.
5. Adrienne Beasley (last week No. 6) | Striking beauty with a subdued but sweet personality has a winning backstory — she’s the adopted black daughter of soft-spoken white farmers — and a crisp, clear voice that would fit right in at country radio. Hard to find any fault at this stage of her Idol “journey,” but absence of screentime during initial Hollywood episode has us moderately worried.
4. Stefano Langone (new this week) | J.Lo said he had “movie-star looks,” and his cover of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” was soulful and sexy. Backstory about a terrifying car accident was enough to get folks to remember him, without being overblown enough to overshadow his skills.
3. Casey Abrams (last week No. 4) | Aggressively scruffy-lookin’ fella went to town on the melodica while waiting in line in Austin, but his “I Don’t Need No Doctor” displayed smokin’-hot vocals, as did his “Lullaby of Birdland” in Hollywood. The guy has soul and energy — but is he primetime-ready? Time — and the Idol stylists — will tell.
2. Naima Adedapo (last week No. 1) | Milwaukee contestant was shown scrubbing toilets at SummerFest while fantasizing about performing at the venue’s main stage, and her potent, unfussy Donny Hathaway cover showed it’s not just a pipe dream. As J.Lo said, Naima’s got the whole package, but even better, it’s the kind of package we aren’t really seeing on today’s Billboard charts.
1. Brett Loewenstern (last week No. 3)| Red-headed teenager became a Week One breakout after his audition package explained the way he overcame schoolyard bullying, then showed him nailing “Bohemian Rhapsody” with equal parts power and restraint. Hollywood rendition of “Let It Be” had both emotional depth and vocal nuance. Clay Aiken-esque potential — if he can deliver the goods when he gets to the high-pressure live shows.
Okay, TVLine readers, it’s your turn. Post your own early favorite — or your personal Top 10, even! — in the comments. Ready, set, prognosticate!