In seven short weeks, Lee DeWyze will give up his sash and crown, and pass it on to one of the eight singers remaining in American Idol‘s tenth season. The pack is still pretty tightly bunched, a point that was driven home when Pia Toscano (No. 1 last week in both my Leaderboard rankings and in our TVLine.com reader poll) got the unexpected boot. Check out my ranking of the Top 8, then head to our poll to vote for your favorite, and hit the comments to justify your pick.
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8. Jacob Lusk (Last Week No. 8 ) | With a male contestant almost certain to be on the chopping block, Jacob’s going to need a major Idol moment to overcome last week’s unbearably pompous pre-performance comment: “If I end up in the bottom three, it won’t be because I sang the song bad, it won’t be because I sang the song wrong, it will be because everybody in America wasn’t ready to look at themselves in the mirror.” Sorry, kiddo, but “Man in the Mirror” was filled with sharp notes and hard-to-watch hip-thrusting. That’s why you ended up in jeopardy last week. And unless you can get your vocal house in order, you’ll be there again in less time than it takes you to sing a one-syllable word.
7. Stefano Langone (Last Week No. 9) | He put the kibosh on his crazy newfound accent tackling “When a Man Loves a Woman” last week, but his screechy falsetto nearly derailed the whole performance. The guy who looked like a front-runner killing it on “I Need You Now” back in the Wild Card round seems like a distant memory today. Might be nice to hear him do something uptempo for a change — even if the judges haven’t called him out on his ballad-heavy repertoire.
6. Casey Abrams (Last Week No. 4) | Needed the Judges’ Save to avoid an eleventh-place finish, and made the most of his second chance on his first trip back to the stage with a tender, strongly sung “Your Song.” Last week’s “Have You Ever Seem the Rain?”, however, contained fleeting moments of the Growly McAngryface antics that J.Lo warned him against after vetoing his elimination. Needs to focus on musicality and musicianship — not irrelevant “you’re so sexy” hype.
5. James Durbin (Last Week No. 6) | He’s never been in the bottom three, he’s got charisma to spare, and he’s got the rocker vibe that Idol voters seem to love. That said, three of his last four performances ( “I’ll Be There for You,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”) have been a little rough around the edges, vocally speaking. True, that never stopped Lee DeWyze, but with seven long weeks ahead, there’s definite room for improvement.
4. Paul McDonald (Last Week No. 7) | Has looked like a more viable contender since he’s picked up his guitar and put the kibosh on those drunken-uncle dance moves. Gruff, sentimental “Rocket Man” landed him in the bottom three, but got the pimp slot — and a huge crowd response — for last week’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” Flashes of brilliance and had moments of utter ridiculousness (i.e. that whispered “long, long time” at the end of “Rocket Man”) could carry him to the Top 3 or get him ejected by Thursday.
3. Lauren Alaina (Last Week No. 3) | Week after week, she’s maintained her position in the upper half of the season 10 pack, and her twangy twist on “Candle in the Wind” was one of the highlights of Elton John week. Took a step backwards on “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” but it’s hard to hold it against her considering she was forced into a hideous L.A.M.B-branded diaper by Gwen Stefani and was tackling a song that wasn’t entirely age-appropriate.
2. Haley Reinhart (Last Week No. 5) | Two weeks running, Haley has given joyously soulful (albeit a little unpolished) performances of “Bennie and the Jets” and “Piece of My Heart” that have captured the imaginations of Idol viewers who love a talented underdog. That said, as a contestant who spent the first two weeks of the finals on the bottom-three stools of doom, she desperately needs to put an end to her awkward crouch-and-bounce stance and figure out what to do with her wayward arms while she’s performing. Those issues, though, can improve with time; the core talent is already there.
1. Scotty McCreery (Last Week No. 2) | Sailed through Motown and Elton John Weeks without even a whiff of “Eight Days a Week” stink, then slayed the competition on “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” Night with a corny-but-scorching cover of Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right Mama” that proved his ability to go uptempo and work a crowd into a frenzy. One of only three contestants left in the competition (along with Lauren and James) to not visit the bottom three.
Okay, TVLine readers, it’s your turn. Vote for your favorite in our Idol Leaderboard poll, then sound off in the comments on how you’d rank the whole Top 8. Ready, set, prognosticate!