American Idol‘s Season 11 Top 10 is the perhaps the deepest, most evenly matched in the show’s history. Yet while that’s great news for the Idoloonie Nation, it’s got to be more than a little intimidating for the remaining vocalists. Indeed, with such intense competition, pretty much anybody could be one subpar performance away from winding up on the Silver Stools of Doom (TM), or even walking the plank to wherever Shannon Magrane and Jeremy Rosado disappeared.
Before the Idol Summer Tour participants tackle the Billy Joel songbook tonight, check out my pre-performance night rankings, then vote for your three favorite vocalists in our scientifically infallible poll!
10. Heejun Han (Last Week No. 10) | Has a solid, soulful voice, but in a particularly deep crop of finalists, he desperately needs to find a way to make his musical performances as interesting as his undeniably amusing sound bites.
9. Deandre Brackensick (Last Week No. 8 ) | No denying he’s got huge breakout potential — see his loose, funky Top 13 “Master Blaster” — but his other live performances this season haven’t generated much buzz.
8. Erika Van Pelt (Last Week No. 9) | Holy clarified butter, this woman’s tone is smooth. But the ’80s rock-influenced contestant keeps falling shy of a major moment: “I Believe in You and Me” was too sleepy, “Heaven” was too forced. Showed Top 5 potential on “Edge of Glory,” but running out of time to remind America she still has it. (Hurry, grrrrl, hurry!)
7. Elise Testone (Last Week No. 7) | Her “One and Only” and “Let’s Stay Together” represent as strong a body of work as nearly any Season 11 contestant, but results-night snafus (failing to applaud Erika, forgetting to hug Skylar) have hindered her progress in a competition that, like it or not, is partially based on popularity. Whatever it takes — deep meditation, boxing classes, prayer, whiskey — she needs to come across as relaxed as her languid singing.
6. Colton Dixon (Last Week No. 5) | It feels weird having a guy at No. 6 who hasn’t hit a sour note all season, and who had the cojones to defy conventional wisdom by choosing a little-known White Lion song for Songs From the Year You Were Born. Could easily vault to No. 1 on this list, but an undeniably buzz-worthy performance on a song with an undeniably memorable melody would help his cause.
5. Hollie Cavanagh (Last Week No. 6) | Steadily building buzz in the Idoloonie Nation thanks to her ability to hit home-run notes on “Reflection,” “All the Man That I Need,” and “The Power of Love.” Now, however, she needs to prove she’s more than just a Big Ballad Diva by working the stage, working a serious groove, and working out the occasional stiffness in her body language. Legit chance to inherit Scotty McCreery’s crown if she can clear those hurdles.
4. Jessica Sanchez (Last Week No. 1) | May have had the first “Idol Moment” of the season delivering a pitch-perfect “I Will Always Love You” on Top 13 night, confirming that the Vegas Week breakout is a serious threat to become the show’s first female winner since Jordin Sparks. Got lambasted by the judges for using too much vibrato on “Turn the Beat Around,” but is it possible she’s already being held to a higher standard because of her outsized talent? That said, J.Lo and Randy could douse her in pig’s blood, and she’d still be a near mortal lock for the Top 5. Just needs to ramp up the artistry and sense of spontaneity to secure a “This Is My Now” future.
3. Joshua Ledet (Last Week No. 4) | Followed up his fierce and flawless “I Wish” with an absolutely astonishing Top 11 night cover of “When a Man Loves a Woman” — the performance to beat in what’s been a stellar Idol season. Can’t go all the way without some variations on the full-throttle Gospel setting, but the good news is, with a voice like his, there’s really no genre or style Joshua shouldn’t be able to master.
2. Skylar Laine (Last Week No. 2) | Amazing semifinal cover of “Stay With Me” marked her as one of the most natural entertainers in recent Idol history, and she confirmed that with a freewheeling, bluesy Top 11 “Love Sneakin’ Up on You.” Sandwiched in the middle was a cover of Whitney’s “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” that proved she can match just about anyone in vocal firepower and storytelling ability, and perhaps just as important, she’s the sole Season 11 singer courting the country vote.
1. Phillip Phillips (Last Week No. 3) | Scorching, acoustic, auditon to “Thriller” remains his personal best, but his gritty Top 11 “Hard to Handle” (performed less than a week after surgery) was pretty darn impressive, too. He’s willing to take risks with his arrangements (see “In the Air Tonight”), has a solid idea of who he wants to be as an artist, and ain’t too hard on the eyes, either. If he can rein in his tendency to get overly shouty, he should still be standing when May rolls around.
Who are your Season 11 favorites? Vote for your Top 3 in the poll below, then explain your picks in the comments!Follow @MichaelSlezakTV