It’s a very confusing week to rank the American Idol Top 11. The Idoloonie Nation put Stefano Langone and Casey Abrams in the bottom two for their crimes against music during Motown Week, but could the former front-runners experience upticks in votes following their brushes with doom (and that dramatic Judges’ Save)? Naima Adedapo, meanwhile, conquered her pitch problems and added a dramatic dance interlude on “Dancing in the Street,” but will the inconsistent diva continue her forward momentum on Elton John Night? And what to do with polarizing vocalists like Paul McDonald and Jacob Lusk, neither of whom has ever faced the bottom three?
I had to consider all those angles when building this week’s Idol Leaderboard. So check out the fruits of my labor, then head to our 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.
11. Thia Megia (Last Week No. 10) | Nothing wrong with her chops, but Thia performs with all the passion of a kid filling out her practice SATs. Running out of time to get the voting public to view her as a legitimate threat.
10. Stefano Langone (Last Week No. 1) | Could easily bounce back to the Top Five with a killer performance on Elton John Night, but his bottom-two showing after a hammy, weirdly paced “Hello” shows his fan base is still somewhat fickle.
9. Naima Adedapo (Last Week No. 9) | Created plenty of buzz with African dance break on “Dancing in the Street,” but her vocal — while much cleaner than prior weeks — was still a tad pedestrian. Could start to look like a major threat if she focuses her creative energies on a full-scale musical rearrangement.
8. Jacob Lusk (Last Week No. 11) | Despite little-to-no constructive criticism from the judges, Jacob course-corrected from caterwauling catastrophes on “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Alone,” and showed a decent amount of restraint on “You’re All I Need to Get By.” Does he have the inner strength to pull it back for two straight weeks? The answer will determine whether he’s a legit Top Five contender or simply living on borrowed time.
7. Casey Abrams (Last Week No. 5) | Growly McAngryface has shown very little variety in four live performances to date, but he’s bound to at least get a huge one-week boost from that dramatic Judges’ Save. Time to rediscover the winning melodic sensibility he showed in Hollywood Week on “Georgia on My Mind” or he’ll be back on the Silver Stools of Doom faster than J.Lo can say “sexy.”
6. Haley Reinhart (Last Week No. 8 ) | Okay, so the producers’ punching bag is probably higher up this list than she has any right to be, but there’s no denying she misses very few notes, and her growling, bluesy tone gives her one of the season’s most easily identifiable voices. Minus her awkward crouch-and-twist body language, “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” was actually quite good.
5. Paul McDonald (Last Week No. 7) | Paul’s guitar is a little like Sampson’s hair — he’s powerless without it — or so it seemed after he delivered a tender (and awkward dance-free) cover of “Tracks of My Tears” for Motown Night. Still would like to see this sensitive songwriter type forge a greater emotional connection to the material he’s tackling, but seems headed in the right direction.
4. Lauren Alaina (Last Week No. 6) | Week after week, she’s in the upper half of the season 10 pack, and her country-ish “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” proved she’s got excellent vocal control and some intriguing musical instincts. That said, she’s overdue to prove she can completely inhabit a song and ignite the passions of the Idoloonie Nation. Song choice is crucial for Elton John Week.
3. James Durbin (Last Week No. 4) | One of the season’s most consistent vocalists bounced back from a tepid Top 12 “I’ll Be There for You” with a heartfelt “Living for the City” that even included a bit of jaunty dancing. Boyish glee during results-show interlude with Hulk Hogan didn’t hurt him, either.
2. Pia Toscano (Last Week No. 2) | Yeah, she performed another ballad while standing still at center stage, but “All in Love Is Fair” was by far her most emotionally gripping performance of the season, falling to an intimate whisper then rising to bombastic/awesome heights. She’s perhaps one uptempo success away from opening up a commanding lead in the competition.
1. Scotty McCreery (Last Week No. 3) | Managed to countrify Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life” without even a whiff of “Eight Days a Week” stink, continuing his impressive string of hard-to-fault performances. Still, while it’s clear what kind of artist he wants to be and where he’ll fit in at radio, a little variety in tone and tempo will eventually be necessary if he wants a confetti shower at the Nokia in May.
Okay, TVLine readers, it’s your turn. Vote for your favorite in our Idol Leaderboard poll, then post your personal ranking for the Top 11 — and tell me where I got it right, and where I got it wrong — in the comments. Ready, set, prognosticate!