Idol Leaderboard: Rank the Top 12 Finalists!

We’re down to a dashing dozen, Idoloonies! Tonight the American Idol season 10 finalists will tackle the ever-clunky “Songs From the Year They Were Born” theme, but before they do, check out my latest 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.

12. Karen Rodriguez (Last Week No. 11) | Hammy, pageant-style “Hero” during the semifinals didn’t mark her as a relevant radio star, but brutal Top 13 Selena cover took away her one strong suit — hitting her notes. Faces an uphill battle to make the Idol Tour, let alone survive into April.

11. Jacob Lusk (Last Week No. 9) | Robust semifinal cover of “A House Is Not a Home” drew Luther Vandross comparisons from J.Lo., but his subsequent “I Believe I Can Fly” was a screaming disaster — whether or not the judges called him out for it. In a fairly evenly matched group of guys, he’s a candidate to be first man out.

10. Thia Megia (Last Week No. 8) | Came off like a caterpillar in the path of a steamroller when she got stuck with a ridiculous arrangement of “Smile” for Top 13 night, and nothing she’s done so far indicates she has the artistic sensibility to play anything more than producer puppet. Her tears, moreso than her vocals, may have kept her out of the bottom three last week, but that’s not a winning long-term strategy.

9. Haley Reinhart (Last Week No. 13) | Landed in the bottom three last week after a strongly sung but dimly interpreted “Blue.” (Not everything is a slurry come-on, girl!) Still, she seems to have a stronger hold on pitch and stage presence than Thia or Karen, and that might be enough to make the Idol Tour.

8. Paul McDonald (Last Week No. 2) | We’d have overlooked the preposterous side-shuffle during his Ryan Adams cover if his vocal hadn’t been such a pitchy, out-of-breath disappointment. Here’s hoping Uncle Nigel lets the early front-runner have his guitar back, and that Paul takes back the power from Bandzilla and allows his smoky, sandpaper-y tone to shine through.

7. Lauren Alaina (Last Week No. 5) | 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 pouty response to judges’ critiques after a karaoke cover of “Any Man of Mine” highlighted her weak spots: Bratty on-stage demeanor and lack of standout interpretive skill.

6. Naima Adedapo (Last Week No. 6) | She’s been all over the place in her three live performances — a supper-clubby semifinal “Summertime,” a gut-busting Wild Card take on “For All We Know,” and a stunningly current but vocally middling “Umbrella” for Top 13 night — but she’s never, ever been forgettable. And with a crowded field of 12 singers still left in the competition, her ability to stand out is a huge asset.

5. James Durbin (Last Week No. 10) | 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 both live performances — a rockin’ “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” and a heartfelt, strongly sung “Maybe I’m Amazed” — have turned him from pretender to legit contender. Needs to pay attention to his on-stage antics, though, as it’s way too early in the season for “incite the crowd” arm-waving during critique time.

4. Stefano Langone (Last Week No. 4) | That disco-style arrangement of “Lately” was wretched, but if you could get past it, Stefano’s vocal for Week One of the finals was actually pretty terrific, and he acquitted himself brilliantly during the Michael Jackson medley on results night. Add to that his Wild Card rendition of Smokie Norful’s “I Need You Now” — one of the top two or three vocals of the season — and you’re looking at a sneaky-quiet contender for the whole ball of wax.

3. Scotty McCreery (Last Week No. 7) | Who’d have thought “nuts of wonder” could reverse course and look like a legitimate contender for Lee DeWyze’s crown and sash on the basis of three straight rock-solid performances: Hollywood solo (“Long Black Train”); Top 24 (“Letters From Home”) and Top 13 (“The River”). Needs to be careful not to drop ends of phrases, but as J.Lo said, the kid knows his lane, and that counts for a lot in a season where viewers are hungry for a radio-ready champ.

2. Pia Toscano (Last Week No. 3) | Okay, this week she absolutely cannot bring us another Big Diva Ballad, but it’s pretty hard to fault the booming and emotionally spot-on chops she showed off on “I’ll Stand By You” and “All By Myself.” Plus, she showed she can do more than stand still and belt when she rocked “Grenade” in the group rounds. Humble, likeable, and talented, she’s the decisive leader among the season 10 ladies.

1. Casey Abrams (Last Week No. 1) | Like Pia, this scruffy-lookin’ dude needs to show off a different flavor this week after back-to-back growling soul on “I Put a Spell on You” and “A Little Help From My Friends.” Still, if Nigel lets him break out the upright bass, Casey could solidify himself as the season’s mortal lock for a top-five finish.

Okay, TVLine readers, it’s your turn. Vote for your favorite in our Idol Leaderboard poll, then post your personal ranking for the Top 12 — 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!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. I think if Casey didn’t yell as much, and sang and performed like he did during Hollywood week with his bass, I’d put him number 1. As of now the most consistent singer, is Pia. She has proven that she can handle the big stage, she has the pipes, she has a lot going for her right now, and can ride this for awhile. I agree that she can’t do the same thing every week, but even if she has a “bad” week, these past few weeks will help her get through the tougher weeks.
    I think that Lauren just needs to work on her post-performance interviews. Ryan isn’t going to help her become less awkward, because he himself is the same way (as we’ve seen over the years. If she can put that together with her voice she’ll rise back to the top.

    • Eolra says:


      Rumor has it that he has chosen “Smells Like Teen Spirit for tonight. If this is true, I really hope he goes with the Tori Amos arrangement instead of Nirvana.

      • Millie says:

        Can someone please tell me who the guest producer was on the March 16, 2011, episode? I tuned in late, and this guest took a mentoring approach to the contestants – I’m assuming he’s a producer. Thanks!

  2. Marta says:

    Naima is an interesting Idol case study– by no means is she the worst of the bunch- but you’re right in saying she is “all over the place”- While the best Idol contestants are encouraged (and basically expected) to try out different styles and tempos on the Idol stage, she many have tried to switch lanes too soon. Many have gone home in the past when they can’t quite display what kind of artist they want to be. It’ll be interesting to see if she sticks with the style of her Umbrella performance. My guess is she won’t draw in votes from singing a lounge-y ballads this week again.

  3. Jazzy says:

    Agree with previous post about Casey. Right now I think it’s Pia, maybe James.

    There is no way Msr.Slezak that Jacob is not going to be in the top 10, mark my words!!!

    Also, he will stay longer than Paul because America doesn’t get him. (I do!)

  4. L says:

    My favorite now is Pia. It was Casey and he is still a contender, but she has been best overall.

  5. Raksha says:

    I love Pual McDonald! His quirkiness is really awesome. And his dancing skills are..well, really enduring, somehow!

  6. Sharon says:

    “Nuts of wonder.” That will continue to make me laugh all season.

  7. darclyte says:

    Lauren “the chosen one” could be in some trouble going forward. While there certainly is some “cannon fodder” that SHOULD be cut before her, she hasn’t done herself any favors these past 2 weeks. Her childish, pouty reply about not wanting to talk about possibly being eliminate, then her baby voice like “I’m just Lauren,” and finally the way the show “coddled” her last week when they were to reveal the fate of each contestant (she started crying so Ryan told her she was safe while leaving the other 2 unspoken to) does not seem to be winning her any votes. I’ve read many blogs, websites, and articles about this year and her stock has really fallen. AI should have told her to come back at 18 when she’d maybe be mentally tougher and have more to offer in her performances.

    • MSD says:

      I agree– To me, the best teenage contestant doesn’t constantly remind me (in many different ways) of their age. Jordin Sparks is a great example- she was young and used that youth to her advantage- but never clung to it nor used it as an excuse. Lauren is really talented- but she hasn’t done much to prove she can be an endearing teen contestant.

  8. Skitty says:

    Michael, I agree with all of your rankings with the exception of Casey and Scotty. I would switch their spots and maybe even move Casey down one more to just below Stefano (who I don’t even like). Casey is not that good; his last performance was shouted and far too full of Cocker/Hicks schtick.

    Naima is inconsistent in performances but she was memorable last week especially. Pia needs to get out from under the diva-type songs or she risks losing some of her popularity. The other contestants are all in a pack for me.

  9. CzarekM says:

    Thia is for me the most talented of the entire group. The problem is she came to Idol probably 5 years too early. She is too young to have a relevant message and personality and she is so undeveloped as an artist.
    It’s funny – too old to be another Jackie Evancho sensation, too young to be an artist….

    • MSD says:

      Where oh where do young adult females of America turn to where they are no longer “cute” but not yet “hot”? Just ask the many teenage entertainers who have tried to answer this question!

      • CzarekM says:

        I don’t care if a singer is hot or cute. It’s the immature voters who do care about this nonsense and this is why people like Lee win the competition, and true artists like Crystal don’t.
        I don’t look at Thia as “hot” or “cute”. I look for artistry.
        Thia is not Jackie Evancho in terms of natural pure talent, and she is not developed as an artist to have a relevant message. Not to mention Jackie Evancho addresses the adult audience, while Idol attracts mostly immature adolescent voters who have no clue about artistry and vote with their ADHD driven hormones only.
        I wish Idol was oriented towards the true potential marketability of the contestants and took the power from those ADHD infected power-voting kids.

        • S. Lee Stack says:

          “I wish Idol was oriented towards the true potential marketability of the contestants and took the power from those ADHD infected power-voting kids.”

          uh, exactly who do you think are buying records, er I mean discs, er I mean downloads these days?
          the cast of GLEE and the Black Eyed Peas are the most downloaded artists of all time! (yes, those are the 4 horsemen you hear approaching in the background)

          • CzarekM says:

            ADHD adolescent kids made Lee the winner over Crystal, and now who is Lee (what is his last name again?) and how does he compare to Crystal now?
            So are those kids really the true market?

  10. Mooshki says:

    The real question is whether Casey’s health is going to allow him to continue in the competition.

    • CzarekM says:

      Crystal was struggling with her diabetes for the entire competition last year and still made the final. And definitely should have been the winner!

  11. Chmarin says:

    Michael, what about Idoloonies? :( I need my fix…!

  12. Wyatt says:

    Stefano??? Michael, I usually put a lot of stock in your opinions but Stefano is nothing special. He sings well, he’s bright and happy, he’s got a great attitude, and he conveys enjoyment in song (hello Thia?), but… there just isn’t anything extraordinary about him musically. Nothing. Sorry to dissent but I just don’t see Stefano as being anywhere near the top.

  13. briguypdx says:

    I agree with you, Michael, regarding Stefano. So far, he has flown under the radar of most people, but the upper register of his tenor voice is breathtaking, his melisma is effortless (at least to my ears), he has a contemporary sound and look, he has a great back-story, and he has movie-star good looks. If you could get past the disco beat of “Lately” (WTF?), there was a great vocal that got better as the song went on.

    Vocally, I think both Pia and James (and probably Casey) are more talented than Stefano. Pia’s first two performances blew me away. As long as he can keep his inner metal rocker reined in, James is impressive. I love Casey, but will his health (ulcerative colitis) allow him to compete week in/week out?

    Scotty is tough to handicap: to me, his performances have sounded like competent-to-excellent C&W karaoke and his range seems very limited, but America seems to love this kid; I think at this stage he’s a lock for at least Top Three unless he kills a puppy on national TV or announces that he’s a Democrat.

    I think Paul is toast (I predict he’ll be the first guy booted). His performance last week was a trainwreck and I find his stage presence to be distracting (I often have to look away). Jacob’s tendency to go (way) over the top will be his downfall, though I loved both “God Bless the Child” and “A House Is Not a Home”. I like Naima, but she’s very rough around the edges, and I don’t think she has the consistency to go very far, but I’d love to be proven wrong.

    Lauren, Haley, Thia, and Karen have each left me cold; I think Karen will likely make an exit this week unless she really brings it.

  14. Lizbeth says:

    I think your rankings are pretty spot on this week. However, I think the producers will probably move little Lauren A to the top tier as time goes on. Don’t know if Casey can win fighting a double country/southern vote (Lauren and Scott)–but he sure is the best all-around talent. Plus–he’s very entertaining.

    I hope he does get to bring out the bass and slow it down for a jazz type song soon. Of course, he plays about 10 instruments–so it would be fun to see him play something else as well

  15. CVisca says:

    If you’re going to say “Rank the Top 12!” – then let me rank them! It’s so much more fun that way.

  16. shelbar53 says:

    Namia: I love her style and she has the most beautiful eyes but ahhh just so so on the singing. Hopefully she will learn to control her voice as times goes by.

    Paul: a crazy little troll, make that adorable troll. I love him. he has a great upbeat personality and his voice is very unique. I like it! He has great confidence. Gave him some votes.

    Thia: Oh my my my, she sang beautifully. I loved her voice and she was not boring. Kind of classic. I voted for her.

    James, I can’t help but really like this guy. He seems down to earth and very quick and witty. He sings good and he is getting his notes under control. Cool dude lol. I threw him a few votes.

    Pia, I’m sorry but she made my ears bleed with all the screeching. She thinks she hitting power notes but it sounds terrible and I thought she was pitchy. Where is all the love for her. I wont buy a cd of her trying to screechy every note. She should listen to thia…now that girl has nice vocals and easy on the ears.

    haley, she can sing, she has a nice voice but she needs to stick to bluesly type songs. She took the lipstick all over her face in stride. I would of been mortified and held my hand over my face. I like her.

    Stephano, he did good and wow he could handle those high note runs. The song was a little to sappy for me, unless I was on the lido deck on some cruise ship dancing with my hubby. Do someone where he doesn’t always sing looooooog runs. Good voice. He has been told twice to keep his eyes open to no avail, next time staple them open.

    Karen, was TERRIBLE then she made it more terrible by singing in spanish. What was up with her hair? Is she a bee keeper? Please be the first to go.

    Scotty fish hook mouth was ok. All his songs sound the same to me. He is boring, he needs to show he can do more or something different. Everytime he starts a new line/sentence, his voice goes real low for a second until he reels it up. He’s OK.

    Lauren, look at my baby picture, “i’m so cute”, conceited much? Oh yes, she thinks she is the greatest. After her song.. “I’m back I’m back”. She is so full of herself, that’s a big turn off. she is fake and she think she’s all cutesy with her southern charm, oh gag me. She’s a goof and so is her crybaby father and mother with a goofy hat oh her head.

    Jacob, he has a beautiful smile but dam, learn how to control those notes. he wonders all over the place, he is not consistent.

  17. bong says:

    I still believe in Thia…Try to replay her 3 previous performances is a good indication of becoming a superstar..she has it already.It’s just that she needs only to reinvent herself and show to the people that other side of her as pop ballader to R&B…She had it actually,it’s just that people are too in a hurry to see what they want…let’s wait and she’ll gonna show us later…be patient :D