We’re down to single digits when counting the number of folks who have a chance to be American Idol‘s Season 10 champ, yet it’s still a pretty tightly bunched group. Check out my ranking of the Top 9, 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.
9. Stefano Langone (Last Week No. 10) | Bizarre cadences and pronunciations marred his Motown and Elton John Week covers of “Hello” and “Tiny Dancer,” leaving him as the most vulnerable male contestant in a week where it seems likely a guy will be getting the boot. Needs to channel the depth of feeling and vocal excellence of his Wild Card “I Need You Now” to have any hope of returning to front-runner status.
8. Jacob Lusk (Last Week No. 8) | Jacob’s two latest efforts — “You’re All I Need to Get By” and “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” — were studies in restraint compared to the caterwauling catastrophes of “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Alone.” Still, he’ll need to conquer his penchant for strained facial expressions and iron out his overly quavery tone if he’s going to have any chance of taking a confetti shower at the Nokia next month.
7. Paul McDonald (Last Week No. 5) | Has looked like a more viable contender since he’s picked up his guitar and put the kibosh on those drunken-uncle dance moves. Still, his gruff, sentimental “Rocket Man” landed him in the bottom three, and if his voice fails to hold up to the rigors of the brutal Idol schedule, he could soon go the way of Ashthon Jones.
6. James Durbin (Last Week No. 3) | He’s never been in the bottom three, he’s got a massive voice and, as the sole season 10 rocker, he maintains a real point of differentiation from his rivals. Still, two of his last three performances ( “I’ll Be There for You” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”) have been been a tad sloppy from a vocal perspective. Can’t sacrifice his singing on the altar of showmanship if he wants to go all the way.
5. Haley Reinhart (Last Week No. 6 ) | Miracle of miracles, Uncle Nigel gave the much maligned growler the pimp slot for Elton John Week, and she absolutely killed it with a joyously soulful cover of “Bennie and the Jets.” Her awkward crouch-and-bounce stance will need work if she wants to transform into a true contender for the season 10 crown, but the Idoloonie Nation loves a talented underdog, and Haley brings tons of momentum into Top 9 performance night.
4. Casey Abrams (Last Week No. 7) | Needed the Judges’ Save to avoid an eleventh-place finish, then wisely put the kibosh on his Growly McAngryface antics when he returned to the stage with a tender, strongly sung “Your Song.” Would still love to see him break out the upright bass and give us a vocal on par with his terrific Hollywood Week work — something he’d be wise to do sooner than later.
3. Lauren Alaina (Last Week No. 4) | Week after week, she’s maintained her position in the upper half of the season 10 pack, and last week’s slightly twangy twist on “Candle in the Wind” was her best effort yet. If her passion can begin to match her vocal horsepower — and she keeps the wittle guwl whining to a minimum — she could make Steven Tyler’s audition-round predictions come true.
2. Scotty McCreery (Last Week No. 1) | Not only did he survive Motown and Elton John Weeks without even a whiff of “Eight Days a Week” stink, he managed to choose songs that fit his down-home country style and maintained his rock-solid fan base in the process. Still, if Pia has to take hits for her reliance on ballads, it has to be pointed out that Scotty has done little to mix up the tone and tempo of his performances over the last five weeks.
1. Pia Toscano (Last Week No. 2) | Queen of All Ballads promised on air she’d mix it up this week with “River Deep, Mountain High,” and that bit of variety ought to go a long way in spicing up the poised beauty’s Idol run. Has yet to hit a bum note in five weeks of live performances, and while her personality seems a little low-key, from a vocal perspective, her “All in Love Is Fair” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” are two of the season’s high points.
Okay, TVLine readers, it’s your turn. Vote for your favorite in our Idol Leaderboard poll, then post your personal ranking for the Top 9 — and tell me where I got it right, and where I got it wrong — in the comments. Ready, set, prognosticate!