Who is the natural successor to reigning American Idol champ Scotty McCreery? We’ll get one step closer to answering that question after American Idol‘s Season 11 Top 12 tackle “Songs From the Year You Were Born” tonight. Before they do, though, check out our pre-performance night rankings, then vote for your three favorite vocalists in our scientifically infallible poll!
12. Jermaine Jones (Last Week No. 13) | Reportedly will be disqualified from the competition tonight. (Read all about it here.)
11. Shannon Magrane (Last Week No. 11) | Her Top 13 week rendition of “I Have Nothing” was a hot, buttered mess, but even more problematic, Shannon thought there was only a problem with one note! As Lucille Bluth would say, “this does not bode well.”
10. Heejun Han (Last Week No. 9) | His rendition of “All in Love Is Fair” was rock solid, but Jimmy Iovine continues to paint him as a jokester who’s not a serious contender for the crown. If Heejun can pull off an uptempo number, though, it might remind Uncle Nigel & Co. that dude is more than a sound bite-spewing, bromance-pursuing wiseguy.
9. Erika Van Pelt (Last Week No. 8 ) | Quite possibly has the most sublime vocal tone of Season 11, but mawkish Whitney Houston ballads aren’t really the right flavor. A harder rock edge could differentiate her from buzzier contestants like Jessica and Hollie — and stop Randy from questioning what type of artist she really is.
8. Deandre Brackensick (Last Week No. 10) | His semifinal Earth Wind & Fire cover and even his Wild Card performance hinted Deandre might be one of those Idol teens whose talent is too raw to truly contend for the crown. And yet his Top 13 “Master Blaster” was so loose and funky, now we’re thinking that perhaps he’s a quick enough learner to obliterate our first impression. After all, it’s never good to peak too early in the House That Kelly Clarkson Built.
7. Elise Testone (Last Week No. 2) | Has a gorgeous sandpaper-y tone and a real ability to connect with the lyrics of the songs she chooses, but got hammered — somewhat unfairly — by the judges for what was at least a decent attempt at making “I’m Your Baby Tonight” her own. Glum response to near-elimination on results night did not win over any new fans, but don’t be shocked if she roars back into contention this week.
6. Hollie Cavanagh (Last Week No. 7) | Quietly building buzz in the Idoloonie Nation thanks to her ability to hit home-run notes on “Reflection” and “All the Man That I Need.” A little more nuance, a little less nervousness, and a lot hipper choice in material could catapult her from live longshot to legit front-runner.
5. Colton Dixon (Last Week No. 6) | Whether or not you think he takes himself a little deathly seriously, and whether or not you’re a fan of his hot/ridiculous hair, you can’t say Colton’s really missed a single note in two weeks of live performances. Plus, he’s shown an early knack for tailoring songs to fit his voice — a must if he jopes to keep the show’s white-guy winning streak alive.
4. Joshua Ledet (Last Week No. 4) | May have wound up in the Bottom 3 guys on Top 13 results night, but that might have been more a product of his treacherous show-opening performance slot than a referendum on his fierce and flawless cover of “I Wish.” And while Joshua admitted the uptempo Stevie Wonder jam was outside his comfort zone, it’ll be these exact kind of boundary-pushing risks that will make the Gospel-influenced contestant a true Season 11 contender.
3. Phillip Phillips (Last Week No. 3) | Immediate contender based on his scorching, acoustic, auditon-round cover of “Thriller,” and he’s done little since to dissuade his legions of fans. That said, Top 13 take on “Superstition” skidded into the intersection of cacophonous and shouty. A little restraint will go a long way toward keeping him in the competition till May.
2. Skylar Laine (Last Week No. 5) | Amazing Top 12 ladies night cover of “Stay With Me” marked her as a natural entertainer with spunk and firecracker energy. Followup rendition of Whitney’s “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” proved she’s got serious vocal chops to go with her fun, flirtatious persona — and a real knack for reworking an unexpected song to her country storyteller specifications.
1. 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. Add that to “Whoa! Who’s this girl?!” Buddy Holly and Celine Dion covers in Vegas, and a hot J.Hud ditty in the semifinals, and you’re looking at a near mortal lock for the Top 5. Will need to ramp up the artistry and sense of spontaneity, but for now she’s closest to the crown.
Who are your Season 11 favorites? Vote for your Top 3 in the poll below, then explain your picks in the comments!