(New This Week)
Provided a memorable (if too brief) ending to the men’s subpar Season 12 Group Round with an outstandingly rich vocal on "American Boy." The show’s producers chose to spend more time on his groupmate Frankie Ford’s dramatic meltdown, but it was Charles’ fresh, rhythmic delivery that made the lasting impression.
20. Seretha Guinn
(Last Week No. 18)
Brought jazzy deliciousness to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme — all while propping up her adorable 3-year-old daughter. (Side note: Little London bringing a bear called Dun-Dun for her idol Nicki, whom she'd also dubbed Dun-Dun, has to be among the Top 10 most unabashedly adorable moments in Idol history, yes?)
19. Lazaro Arbos
(Last Week No. 13)
The most emotional moment of Season 12 thus far came when this Cuban-born cutie wowed the judges with a spotless “Bridge Over Troubled Water” right after revealing the crippling stutter he faces when he’s speaking. His Group Round performance and subsequent solo on "Edge of Glory," however, was more like “Edge of Maybe Finishing in Ninth Place — if He’s Lucky.”
18. Cortez Shaw
(New This Week)
Returning contestant from Season 11 left Nicki “disgusted” with his strained cover of “I Will Always Love You,” but followup rendition of “Sunny” was a study in understated gorgeousness. (Oh, and the vocal was pretty great, too!)
17. Isabelle Parell
(Last Week No. 16)
Lured Keith Urban into a sweet duet of "Baby It's Cold Outside” that showcased a smoky-jazzy tone and an appealing hitch on her high notes. Youngster will need nerves of steel to survive Hollywood Week, though.
16. Ashlee Feliciano
(Last Week No. 12)
Part of a family that fosters medically challenging children brought a delicate upper register and groovy lower tone to the often overdone "Put Your Records On." Hasn’t been seen since the Season 12 premiere, however, and will need a strong Hell Week showing to avoid fading from viewers’ memories.
15. Charlie Askew
(Last Week No. 21)
Adorably awkward teen has major raw talent, but I heard a couple wobbly notes on his "Breakthru"/"Nature Boy" audition. Hollywood Week rendition of “Somebody That I Used to Know” showcased a similar blend of passion and slight imperfections, but his flirty banter with Nicki hinted at the kind of big, likable personality that often appeals to Idol voters.
14. Ashley Smith
(Last Week No. 14)
Dubbed “Blondie” by Ms. Minaj, Ashley looked like she was getting set up as a joke contestant when the show's producers introduced her eating a sandwich and praising its deliciousness. But her "Cowboy Casanova" had effortless soul and rhythm — and Mariah was right, girlfriend's got an "effervescent" personality to boot.
13. Jimmy Smith
(New This Week)
Didn’t make a particularly strong impression in the audition rounds, but his Hollywood Week cover of “Landslide” was an excellent example of how to play around with a classic melody without disrespecting it. Plus, Jimmy has the rare ability to stretch his upper register without sounding in any way strained.
12. Angela Miller
(Last Week No. 20)
Likeable beauty with partial hearing loss in one ear didn’t miss a note on Jessie J's "Mama Knows Best," even if her delivery could’ve used a little less blasty-ness and a little more finesse. Has been featured prominently in Fox’s ad campaign for Part 2 of Hollywood Week, though, and said footage sounds fantastic.
11. Megan Miller
(Last Week No. 9)
Pageant queen + crutches = joke? Think again! Her "Something's Got a Hold on Me" was spring-water clear. And her righteous sense of humor didn’t hurt, either.
10. Burnell Taylor
(Last Week No. 8)
Reticent cutie brought Fantasia-like ferocity to his audition on "I'm Here." Mariah found herself in tears, but Keith chimed in with some valid constructive criticism: Dude needs to ditch the shorts-with-workboots sloppiness and "dress for the occasion" the next time he’s on TV. Followed up with the best of several "Jar of Hearts" covers during Hollywood Week, even if he might sound better belting than he does in more tender moments.
9. Devin Velez
(New This Week)
Made a solid first impression with a brief and beautiful snippet of “Payphone” in the opening segment of Hollywood Week. And his final solo to “What a Wonderful World,” while plagued by a few too many runs, solidified the overall positive impression that this kid could be a contender.
8. Brandy Neelly
(Last Week No. 7)
The country chica's rendition of "Your Cheatin' Heart" combined genuine feeling, moments of restraint, gut-busting glory notes and even a hint of gravel toward the finish. Good taste in song choice helps, too!
7. Ja'Bria Barber
(Last Week No. 6)
Teenager who got a lot of airtime for her "frog-giggin'" hobby (code for stabbing bullfrogs on a spike, then cutting off, frying and eating their delicious legs) hit every note of "Pride and Joy” while adding some sway and sass despite the limitations of an a capella audition. Doesn’t seem to have the typical robo-teenager personality that often hinders young Idol hopefuls, either.
6. Nick Boddington
(New This Week)
While he was inexplicably cut during Idol‘s Season 11 Vegas round, the very blue-eyed soul singer is back for another attempt. Nick displayed a clear, bright tone and emotional depth sitting behind the keys for a rendition of “Stars.” Here’s hoping he gets to plead his case to Idol voters this time around.
5. Jesaiah Baer
(Last Week No. 5)
Her jazzy phrasing and stellar scatting on Kimbra's "Slow Down" were well beyond her 16 years, but so was her composure in the face of a fire alarm that interrupted her audition. These kids nowadays!
4. Janelle Arthur
(Last Week No. 4)
Veteran of Season 11 Hollywood Week delivered a pretty mesmerizing take on "Where the Blacktop Ends" (mashed up with "Walkin the Country" for good measure). Quiet charisma + pitch perfection + country wheelhouse could make her a legit hopeful to be Idol‘s first female winner since Season 6.
3. Rachel Hale
(Last Week No. 3)
Rachel appears to be one of those rare singers whose voice can transition from the delicacy of a kitten's cough to the roar of a lioness standing over a fallen wildebeest. This fast-talking Arkansas cutie took her sweet time with the classic melody of “People Get Read,” and made me feel like I was hearing it for the first time. This is what Idol's all about (for me, for you).
2. Kez Ban
(Last Week No. 2)
Kez herself hilariously admitted that a perky teenage girl, and not herself, should probably win the Idol crown. But holy hell, her original track “Wandering” showcased a hypnotizingly textured voice — and some enviable writing skills. If Kez’s spacey artiste persona doesn’t get far in Hollywood Week, here’s hoping some of her original music finds its way to iTunes: That’ll be a Season 12 victory we can all get behind.
1. Candice Glover
(Last Week No. 1)
The only reason to find solace in Candice being inexplicably cut after an epic rendition of “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” (with Jessica Sanchez and DeAndre Brackensick) in the Season 11 Vegas Round is the joy of getting to hear her tremendous Season 12 cover of “Syrup and Honey.” The flawless phrasing! The balance of power and finesse! Candice’s almost tactile emotional connection to the song! Prominent placement in ads for Part 2 of Hollywood Week bodes well, too.
Who’s your favorite Season 12 contestant thus far? Take our poll below, then hit the comments with your thoughts!