Idol Leaderboard: Let's Rank the Top 13!

Get ready, Idoloonies! Tonight will be your first chance to vote for the American Idol season 10 finalists, and the good news (or bad, depending on your viewpoint) is that the field remains pretty closely matched among its 13 combatants. Below, I’ve taken the liberty of ranking these would-be successors to Lee DeWyze, so check out my rankings, then head to our Leaderboard Poll to vote for your favorite and hit the comments to justify your pick. And for all my Idol news and views, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.

13. Haley Reinhart (new this week) | Curvaceous blonde has a big, brassy voice but has yet to show she’s got any idea what to do with it. Her semifinal take on “Fallin'” was mostly in tune, but was marred by shameless mugging, gyrating, and showboating (issues that marred her almost unrecognizable “God Bless the Child” in Hollywood Week, too). Needs a crash course in enunciation, restraint, and lyrical comprehension from mentor Jimmy Iovine.

‘American Idol’ Exclusive Video: Check Out a New Shoot With the Top 13!

12. Ashthon Jones (last leaderboard, No. 8 ) |Didn’t get any screen time till Hollywood Week, but made a positive impression with her jaunty choice of “Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops)” in the Group Round. Bizarre choice of Monica’s “Love All Over Me” made her a complete non-threat with Top 24 voters, but squeaked out a Wild Card berth with a passionate but far-from-perfect “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” Vocals must catch up with the hair and swagger — pronto!

11. Karen Rodriguez (new this week) | Her bilingual semifinal performance of “Hero” was pure pageant cheese, and her previous efforts (including the butchering of “You Give Good Love” in her audition) were melismatic messes. Yet while her relevance is questionable, I’m not certain she’s hit a bad note during her entire time in the competition. If she continues courting the Latino vote, we can only hope she’ll dig a little deeper than, say, the Gloria Estefan songbook.

10. James Durbin (returning this week) | Went into the Top 24 on a negative note after he compared his unbridled wailing to Adam Lambert then gave an overwrought performance of “A Change Is Gonna Come,” but his semifinal version of Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” was energetic and well sung. His momentum hangs on his Top 13 performance.

9. Jacob Lusk (last leaderboard, No. 4) || His borderline-possessed interpretation of “God Bless the Child” was the buzziest solo performance of Hollywood Week. Showed a little more restraint on Top 12 Guys’ Night when giving a robust rendition of “A House Is Not a Home” that drew Luther Vandross comparisons from J.Lo. Still, need to see some ability to wrap his voice around fresh, unexpected material before we’re willing to call him a major threat for a confetti shower.

8. Thia Megia (returning this week) | Brilliant semifinal strategy found her muting Bandzilla and instead aiming for a stripped-down, piano-driven version of “Out Here on My Own” that kicked off with a lovely a capella intro. This quiet Idol moment helped separate her from the pack, but the season’s youngest contestant still needs to prove her emotional range matches her technical proficiency.

7. Scotty McCreery (returning this week) | Was on the verge of self-parody with his “nuts of wonder” debacle in Hollywood, but got back on track with his final Hollywood solo (“Long Black Train”) and a terrific Top 24 take on “Letters From Home.” As J.Lo said, the kid knows his lane. Is he good enough to ride it all the way to the Kodak in May?

6. Naima Adedapo (last leaderboard, No. 2) | Still can’t shake the image of this young mom scrubbing toilets at SummerFest while fantasizing about performing at the venue’s main stage. And while her jazzy semifinal rendition of “Summertime” was perhaps a bit too supper-club-esque to inspire Idol speed-dialers, she sang her guts out on “For All We Know” in the Wild Card round to secure a Top 13 slot. If she always remembers to sing like it’s her last time on the stage, she could be with us for a long time.

5. Lauren Alaina (last leaderboard, No. 9) | No doubt, the spunky 16-year-old has pipes — and she proved that with a rollicking cover of Reba’s “Turn on the Radio” in the semifinals. But her overfamiliarity with the judges and Ryan (“Peaches”? No!), her less-than-enthusiastic response to a Tweet from Kelly Clarkson, and overhyped status with the show’s producers are all working against her in the always fickle Idolverse.

4. Stefano Langone (last leaderboard, No. 6) | J.Lo said he had “movie-star looks,” and Randy said his semifinal cover of “Just the Way You Are” proved he’s radio-ready. Still, it wasn’t till Stefano was singing for his Idol life — with a Wild Card rendition of Smokie Norful’s “I Need You Now” — that the kid proved he’s capable of a truly awesome vocal. That was among the first performances of the season to stir our souls with pitch perfection and emotional depth. Not cracking the top 10 may have been the best thing to happen to Stefano’s Idol fortunes.

3. Pia Toscano (returning this week) | She brings stunning beauty and a sweet humility to the Idol stage, but more importantly, she’s got powerhouse diva pipes that she used to draw a semifinal standing ovation on the Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You.” Idol voters love a slow build — and the feeling that a contestant hasn’t been forced on them by producers — and Pia could ride that dark-horse vibe well into spring.

2. Paul McDonald (last leaderboard, No. 14) | Uncle Nigel kept him locked in the Idol basement after his hot “Maggie May” audition, but the last week of Hollywood and the first week of semifinals quickly catapulted him to front-runner status. His good musical sense and soulful, smoky tone make him unique — although the “chicken arm” dancing and pulling of faces could dampen his appeal in another six or seven weeks. Time will tell.

1. Casey Abrams (last leaderboard, No. 1) | Scruffy-lookin’ dude made the Idoloonie Nation sit up and take notice with his rich, soulful “Georgia on My Mind” (performed with an upright bass in Hollywood Week), and he’s been riding a wave of good vibes ever since. Needs to be careful about emphasizing personality over pitch — as he did briefly during “I Put a Spell on You,” but this 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 ranking for the Top 13 — and tell me where I got it right, and where I got it wrong — in the comments. (And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.) Ready, set, prognosticate!

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42 Comments
  1. Erik says:

    Casey FTW!

  2. Marta says:

    I’m really looking forward to tonight- Knowing that we’ve only seen ONE “live” performance from each of them, I think they all have a lot to prove- which is exciting to watch. I’m particularly rooting for Pia to do well. Will be interesting to see of performances tonight keep the general consensus about the Top 13 in tact, or if a few will come really come out to play and shake things up. We’ve seen both happen at this stage of the game.

    I’m still not completely on board with any of the teenagers….it takes a lot for teenagers to prove they are mature and prepared to hang with the crowd. We’ve seen both teenage professionals (Sparks, Archuleta, Iraheta) and teenage puppets (Trias, Sanjaya, A. Kelly) on that stage before.

    • Alienate says:

      I WAS looking forward to tonight’s broadcast BUT, I just read that it WILL NOT BE LIVE !?!

      WTF?

      Why the hell not?

      • ErixN says:

        It’s due to them wanting to make sure they don’t go over time. That was the reason given anyway. They’ll probably edit judges comments again. They are also doing some enhancing of the voices so that the band does not drown them out.

  3. Anne Hedonia says:

    You got it precisely right Michael, n’Dear! Them’s my top three – might switch the Casey/ Paul order – dunno yet. And the bottom two too. Thnx. You’re ALWAYS right! ;~) and funny-snarky and entertaining.

  4. Michael says:

    Voted Paul, I also like Casey and Thia. I’m surprised about Naima – she has just not connected with the audience, much the chagrin, I’m sure, of the producers.

  5. Alina says:

    My favorites are indeed Paul and Casey, but I’m pretty sure America has other ideas… I would see Scotty, Pia and Lauren as early frontrunners for a Top 3. Also, no matter how much I like Naima, she’ll probably be gone soon… people peeking at song choices know what I mean.
    However, here’s hoping that Haley gets the boot first… if I have to listen to one more massacred song from her, my TV is in danger of getting thrown out the window.

  6. Wyatt says:

    I like to call Casey the UN-American Idol, which I mean in a good way, as in unscripted, unmarketed, unpolished, and unpredictable. Not to mention very creative and talented. Go Casey Go!

  7. Lior says:

    I voted for Lauren, even though I honestly don’t know who my favorite is yet. That won’t happen for another few weeks. But I voted for her first of all because obviously I like her and think she’s got tremendous talent, but also because of the negative vibe she’s getting on these pages. I agree that she’s not very mature yet, but she is 16 after all. But I don’t really think she’s conceited as some people say, as a matter of fact I think she’s got some self esteem issues. And I also think her “I’m just Lauren” comment was diplomatic and nicely put. I also didn’t mind the snippet they showed last week when she said she didn’t want to think about being cut. I thought it was cute :) It was obviously just for laughs.
    I am worried though about the pimping she gets from the production, and I’m afraid it might backfire on her. People don’t like to be told who to like and will rebel against it.

    • Wyatt says:

      Lauren is a very special young talent regardless of the pimp factor. She will continue to shine musically in the weeks to come and America will continue to vote for her in large numbers. Deservedly so. She is such a natural. I look forward to hearing more, more, more from her.

      • amy.. says:

        Wow, amazed at the likability Lauren is giving out to some. This is why I’m worried I’ll be seeing her for awhile. Looking forward to hearing everyone but Lauren & Jacob. Hey I’m even interested in listening to James’ performance.

        • Lior says:

          I care less about likability and more about her natural, effortless singing with that sweet tone, and great stage presence.
          I only care about likability if it’s on the negative side of things (Danny Gokey?), and I really don’t think that’s the case with her.

        • Lior says:

          I care less about likability and more about her natural, effortless singing with that sweet tone and her great stage presence.
          I only care about likability if it’s on the negative side of things (Danny Gokey?), but I really don’t think that’s the case with her.

    • WhiteLady says:

      Please keep voting for her, I can’t do it from Europe!

      I hate that they’re pushing her since it could well backfire, and I also don’t like how she was obviously the only one looking awful in the photoshoot. :( Fine she might not be a size 4 like Thia or Pia but the stylists could’ve made more of an effort…

    • Eolra says:

      I’m not a Lauren fan, but I agree that her “I’m just Lauren” wasn’t meant as not being grateful for Kelly’s tweet, or that she doesn’t want to be like Kelly or Carrie. I think she just meant “I can’t even begin to talk about the comparison – to me, I’m just me”, sort of like Harry Potter said disbelivingly “I’m just Harry. Just Harry” when he found out he was a wizard. I do, however, agree that the pout face is NOT CUTE, it is annoying, and I had better not see it again. NO RAMIELLE POUT-FACE!!!! Not. Cute.

      PS. Looking at YOU this week on the pout-face HALEY. Any more and you are DEAD TO ME (not that you weren’t already).

  8. Louie says:

    I hope that Ashthon and Haley are in this week’s Bottom 2 and as Ryan reads the results and says “The person going home iiiiiis… Both of you!” And Kendra Chantelle comes out to take her rightful place in the Top 12.
    Honestly, if the judges had put Kendra in, she might have benefited from her WC performance the same as Stefano. Such a shame that still smarts even now

    • Rose says:

      I’m with you 100% Louie. I was hoping they were going to surprise us with Kendra last night. I’m still bummed. She sooooooooo deserved to be in the Top 10. I know the group is very talented, but she was definitely stronger than a couple of them. I voted for her, but obviously not enough. I hope someone noticed her and offers her a great record deal!

  9. stepmom says:

    Can’t vote, my favorite went home last week. Bye, Kendra.

  10. andhowarewe says:

    Heh. At first I mistakenly thought you were going to include Lee DeWyze in your rankings, “Below, I’ve taken the liberty of ranking these would-be successors to Lee DeWyze”…

    Anyway, it’s still an interesting exercise. I’d probably place him at number 11 between Karen and James – and he would have been in my top three at the beginning of the season 9 finals! Isn’t it great to feel this excited about the contestants again?

  11. Lior says:

    By the way, I love how this season I’m finding myself loving quite a few contestants. Usually I will like 2 or 3 and won’t really mind the others or sometimes even “hate” them if they get on my nerves (Haley?) but this season i’m liking 7 or 8 of them and almost any one of them can make it or break it for me depending on what they do further on!

  12. Sally says:

    While I am very disappointed about Lauren T. and Kendra (Ashton?…give me a break!), this is the best Idol line-up in years, and could be really great.

    Michael, why didn’t you talk more about Lauren T?

    Sally

  13. Sally says:

    While I am very disappointed about Lauren T. and Kendra (Ashton?…give me a break!), this is the best Idol line-up in years, and could be really great.

    Michael, why didn’t you talk more about Lauren T?

    Sally

  14. CnSF says:

    Casey and Paul will not sell albums and will just become the new Lee DeWyze… Pia, Lauren A., Scotty, and Thia are the only artists that I can see actually selling albums when this is all done.

  15. Lali says:

    Michael, I’ve followed you here from EW. You always say just what I’m thinking… Thank you, it’s therapeutic! But, I’m definitely not feeling the hate for Lauren Alaina. And that Tweet from Kelly Clarkson was insulting!

    • WhiteLady says:

      Thanks for saying what I think! As much as I love Kelly I didn’t like that tweet at all and I think Lauren handled it as graciously as a media-untrained 16 year old can

  16. Boo says:

    What’s depressing about this poll is it proves yet again that it’s just girls voting for white male singers on Idol. If you don’t fit into that grouping, you’re only on the show for a few weeks.

    It saddens me how much women really hate and can’t support other women trying to make it unless they are “quirky” and “different”.

    Sad.

  17. Mayra says:

    Hard to choose between Paul and Casey. I voted for Paul, but I really like them both.

    I like Lauren. I think the reason why she wasn’t so excited about Kelly’s tweet, I don’t… maybe she didn’t like the person Kelly compared her to. She’s entitled to it. She wasn’t thinking, it just came out ‘I don’t know… I’m just Lauren, you know?’
    Or maybe she doesn’t think she’s as good as them, I don’t know. Looks like a good girl to me.

  18. Joseph@rtvc says:

    This ranking is absolutely bad except for Casey Abrams as number one. Naima Adedapo and Stefano in the top 6? Really? This seems to be a completely subjective ranking based on your personal tastes Slezak, not on the objective perspective on America’s voting. Need I remind you, at this time in Season 8, Slezak ranked Alexis Jones in first place, and she went home a week later. Slezak, besides Fantasia, you have never been right with the rankings. Try being objective for a change.

    • Calli says:

      Do you really not understand that he’s paid to give opinions? If you find that objectionable, perhaps you should be reading a different publication.

  19. Teena says:

    Interestingly, the top 13 have Idol Twitter accounts. The followings are:

    Scotty: 16,529
    Paul: 14,502
    Thia: 12,626
    Lauren: 11,990
    Durbin: 10,163

    Pia and Stephano are almost at 10,000 and the rest are well below.

  20. Lana says:

    This looks to be a good year for idol. I love the new judges, Tyler is so personable and seems to really like people and has a great sense of humor. JLo is great too but both of them are being too sweet, they need to deliver the truth even if it hurts. So I guess I’m saying I miss Simon!! I normally don’t have a favorite this early, in fact the only times I picked and stayed with an idol favorite from the beginning was Adam Lambert and Clay Aiken. Maybe Casey, Paul and Scotty? I’ll have to see.

  21. Steven says:

    Why is everyone jumping on this Casey Abrams band wagon? He is a good kid and he is a decent singer, but if he wins, this season will be compared to the season Taylor Hicks won. Everyone thought Taylor’s “soul patrol” screaming on stage was cute and he rode that “I am the underdog” wave all the way to victory. People love to vote for the underdogs on American Idol, but in reality all you are doing is patronizing them. How so you ask? Because you give them your votes and then you do not buy their albums. Taylor Hick’s season was a very popular season in the ratings. If high percentage of peopel who voted for him actually bought any of this stuff, he would be a very successful selling artist. As we know, that isn’t the case. Obviously some people will buy Casey’s album, but it would never go platinum. The type of music he would want to create, is not mainstream. He will be performing in jazz clubs with his bass, and that is not a bad place for him.

    Don’t vote for Casey, and then not buy his album. Pick the people you would actually buy records from. You are doing these kids an injustice making them feel special now, to then watch them crash when their label drops them because 5% of the people who voted for them actually bought their work.

    • Jennifer says:

      Casey is the only singer so far that I know for sure I’d buy his album. As much as I enjoy the rest the jury is still out for me.

    • Mary says:

      I whole-heartedly agere with you Steven! You really did hit the nail on the head with your comment. I will never for the life of me understand why America loves to vote for the underdog when they already know IN ADVANCE they are not gonna buy the winner’s records. Now why don’t well all get real for a second and I want everybody reading this post to answer me honestly – provide Casey Abrams (The Underdog) were to take the crown this year, could any of you voting for the boy imagine him selling out huge arenans in, say, Malaysia (Yes, you Adam Lambert <3)? I don't think so and as you've said the only venues Casey will be performing at are jazz clubs! And while I ejoy Casey's live performances I have to point out that he is severely struggling with pitch, the 'soulfoul' screaming can go off pitch a lot faster than people would like to think! I am not hating on anybody as the only thing I despise is hate itself but I would give an appendage to see America get it RIGHT for once and in case we've all forgotten about the glorious days of American Idol, it was us, the voters who made Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood possible! There is absolutely no need in lifting these kids up just so they can have their bubble burt when dropped by their record label!I can see most of America buying records from Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery (Yes, he might just end up as the Opry's youngest member), Thia (she could be the next big thing with a little more polishing – minues the dismal second half of her 'Smile' performance)! Based on last night's performance Ashthon will be sent packing tonight and please Ryan, handle it gracefully she was Randy's favorite after all (Don't worry Kendra, you will get your vindication eventually). I would be the happiest girl in the world if you cut down on the snarkiness a little Michael as some of us were led to believe you've lost your mojo. ;-) Just a piece of friendly advise, I still love reading your work even though I don't agree with you 100%.

  22. Jane says:

    I really love Scotty McCreery. For someone who is his age he is really great. He is not a professional singer or didn’t go to music schools like some of the other contestants. He is just a raw talent.

  23. Mary says:

    I am really sorry about all the typos. ;-)Y’all are gonna have to figure them out on your own as it would take too much time to go over all of them. ;-)

  24. BillJ says:

    I just wish Casey would have VIBRATO in his voice.

  25. thetruth says:

    Man, are you wrong! Taylor Hicks has a platinum certification and has sold over 800,000 albums of his post Idol album. Kris Allen has sold 325,000 and poor Lee Dewyze has sold 116,000. Store that away in your deluded memory banks.

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