American Idol will name its season 10 semifinalists this week, which means it could be our last opportunity to wave a fan flag for under-the-radar contestants like the White House Intern or the hot, bearded guy who sang “Maggie May” in Nashville. Yeah, I know, a number of dark-sided sites have posted spoilers about the top 24, but I like to approach Idol with eyes as innocent as little Jacee Badeaux (who, incidentally, doesn’t make the Idol Leaderboard cut today). Falling off the countdown from last week are Adrienne Beasley, Paris Tassin, Rob Bolin, Sarah Ames, and Janelle Arthur (all booted during last week’s Hollywood round telecasts), as well as one-song wonder Scotty McCreery and annoying diva Jordan Dorsey. So baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low, our leaderboard’s done and it’s all good to go…
20. Sophia Shorai (new this week) | It says a lot about her big, beautiful voice that she’s made the countdown based on 10 seconds of “Georgia on My Mind” that were punctuated by weird, herky-jerky dance moves.
19. Chris Medina (last week No. 19)| Devastating package about his fiancee’s tragic accident and subsequent brain injury made him a household name, but all three Hollywood Week performances were mediocre at best — particularly his lethargic, breathy “My Prerogative.” Screen-time edge over competition won’t be enough.
18. Clint Jun Gamboa (last week No. 18 ) | Proved to be an adroit, appealing vocalist when he covered “Billionaire” at the San Francisco auditions, but got the “villain edit” during group rounds when he ousted cherbic Jacee from his team. Subsequent rendition of “Georgia on My Mind” was overwrought in the extreme.
17. Da’Quela Payne (new this week) | Showcased a muscular instrument on an a capella rendition of “Get Ready” (alongside Naima Adedapo and Jacob Lusk). Blanked on screen time since then, so her current status in the competition remains murky.
16. John Wayne Schulz (last week No. 17) | Dyed-in-the-homegrown-wool cowboy melted viewers’ hearts in the auditions, but a minuscule snippet of his group performance sounded rough, and his followup take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” didn’t exactly ooze star power.
15. Hollie Cavanagh (last week No. 20) | British teen was a nervous, sobbing mess at her audition, but surprised with a clear, confident Miley Cyrus cover on Day One of Hollywood. Murky editing of her group-round rendition of “Grenade” made it seem like the judge weren’t thrilled with her, but I thought the kid sounded better than all right.
14. Paul McDonald (last week No. 10) | 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. So how come Uncle Nigel’s kept him locked in the Idol basement ever since?
13. Jalen Harris (new this week) | Showcased a strong, clear voice on “Somebody to Love” as part of the much ballyhooed “The Minors” on Group Day. Can he keep the momentum going without his stage mom in the mix?
12. Julie Zorrilla (last week No. 12) | 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. Hasn’t made a misstep since while quietly tallying up a decent amount of screen time in Hollywood, culminating with a perfectly fine rendition of “Love Song” behind the keyboards.
11. Molly DeWolf Swensen (last week No. 9 )| 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. Has gotten the Witness Protection Edit ever since, though. Why The Face?
10. Deandre Brackensick (new this week) | Nailed “Somebody to Love” along with Minors teammate Jalen Harris (see No. 13), but left the most lasting impression of his group with some impressive falsetto runs and equally memorable mane of hair.
9. Lauren Alaina (last week No. 8 ) | Nigel Lythgoe’s “chosen one” closed the Nashville audition episode with a big voice and an appealing personality, but Idol’s subsequent efforts to “make her happen” have been as subtle as a brick to the head. Her “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” in Round Three of Hollywood Week was solid, but we’re not quite ready to dub her Jordin Sparks 2.0.
8. Ashton Jones (new this week) |Made a positive first impression with her jaunty choice of “Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops)” in the Group Round, then gave a passionate (if not overwhelming) reading of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” in the solo round. Buzz is building quietly but steadily.
7. Kendra Chantelle (new this week) |Managed only a few seconds of airtime during Hollywood Week’s third round, but showcased a mature, silky tone on “Georgia on My Mind.” Here’s hoping she’s not another “blink and you’ll miss her” victim of the producers’ whims.
6. Stefano Langone (last week No. 4) | J.Lo said he had “movie-star looks,” and his audition of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” was soulful and sexy. Followup on “Sir Duke” was pitch-perfect and showcased his ability to work the stage, if not completely deconstruct a classic ditty.
5. Brett Loewenstern (last week No. 1)| 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. Nothing wrong with his Group Round rendition of “Mercy” or followup cover of “The Story,” either.
4. Jacob Lusk (new this week) || His borderline-possessed interpretation of “God Bless the Child” was the buzziest solo performance of Hollywood Week. No doubt his “throw everything on the stage” style — with runs and scat and falsetto and crazy faces — won’t appeal to everyone, but it’s at least separated him from the crowded pack for now.
3. Robbie Rosen (last week No. 7)| Polite 16-year-old dressed a little better in Hollywood than he did for the New Jersey auditions, but his lovely, buttery tone has been a constant during auditions and all three rounds of Hollywood Week. Piano-led version of “Gravity” was terrific, and he’s been consistently showcased by producers without feeling ridiculously pimped.
2. Naima Adedapo (last week No. 2) | 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. Her accompaniment-free version of “Get Ready” in the Group Round was overshadowed by Jacob Lusk’s showier vocals, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t as good — if not better.
1. Casey Abrams (last week No. 3) | 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. Still, it was his emotionally rich “Georgia on My Mind,” performed with an upright bass, that catapulted him to the top of the heap. Needs to be careful not to go off pitch when he’s feeling the music, but unassuming 19-year-old is tough to root against.
Okay, TVLine readers, it’s your turn. Vote for your favorite in our Idol Leaderboard poll, then post your personal Top 10 — and sound off on my rankings — in the comments. Ready, set, prognosticate!