Have I mentioned lately how much I liked the format changes American Idol made to its Vegas round?
Here’s why: The finals start Wednesday night, and there are no mystery contestants.
Regardless of any disparity in airtime contestants got through the audition and Hollywood rounds, what happened in Vegas helped even it out.
In the past three weeks, we’ve seen each of these finalists perform three times.
I don’t know that that’s ever happened on American Idol before.
With that knowledge tucked away, here are the first Idol Chatter rankings of Season 12.
Check back Wednesday night as the Top 10 take on the songs of past American Idols.
I’ll be live blogging during the show with song by song grades.
1. Kree Harrison, 22, Nashville, Tenn.: Take three stellar performances in Vegas. Add a minor Idol makeover to make her look a little more star-like. Add the long trek to the finale during which her experience should pay off. Throw in Idol voters typically welcoming of country singers. All those ingredients could make Kree the Season 12 winner if this really is a girls’ year on Idol.
2. Angela Miller, 19, Beverly, Mass: Her performance of Colton Dixon’s lesser-known “Never Gone” proved she’s willing to take a risk and that she can excel with something other than a Jessie J song. She undoubtedly is one of the best. But being the early front-runner thanks to that original tune in Hollywood can translate into an awful lot of pressure for a teen transitioning from high school musicals to the Idol stage.
3. Lazaro Arbos, 21, Naples, Fla.: Did you hear how the crowd responded when he was introduced as the last guy to make the Season 12 finals? Did you hear how well he sang on Top 20 night, in just his second performance ever in front of a live audience? If Lazaro can keep doing that, he’s going to be the last guy standing in Season 12. If he improves over the course of the season … watch out above.
4. Candice Glover, 23, St. Helena Island, S.C.: She sizzled while nearly everyone else fizzled on their victory song last Thursday. She might be the best singer in the Top 10. The judges seem to think so. But remember, this is Idol, where the top singer doesn’t necessarily win. And hasn’t for at least the last four years.
5. Janelle Arthur, 23, Oliver Springs, Tenn.: Right now, I wouldn’t want to be the other female country singer going up against Kree Harrison. Janelle needs to rediscover her audition and Hollywood Week magic. Like pronto. It went bye-bye in Vegas when she was lucky to squeak into the Top 10.
6. Devin Velez, 18, Chicago, Ill.: If he’s going to insist on singing classic ballads every week, Devin might want to take Nicki’s advice and sing part of each song in Spanish because it helps set him apart on a show where everyone seems to have a fondness for those big ballads. Gotta admit, though, Devin sounded very good in Vegas. He also has a certain Clay Aiken quality about him.
7. Curtis Finch, 25, St. Louis, Missouri: He’s the best male singer, but he isn’t Joshua Ledet. And Joshua Ledet didn’t win Idol, did he? I also wonder how many people will remember the rather unsympathetic comments made by Idol’s gospel guy when Charlie Askew got sick on group day in Hollywood. Oops, I think I just reminded them. Let’s just say it was easier to root for Joshua.
8. Amber Holcomb, 18, Houston, Texas: She’s got the voice, smile, looks and personality to do well in the finals. She seems to have gained gobs of confidence since being booted in Vegas last year. But she needs to go young and fun starting Wednesday night or she’s liable to be perceived as Candice 2.0, and I don’t know that she can win that sing-off.
9. Burnell Taylor, 19, New Orleans, La.: He sang so well at his audition that he made Mariah cry. He got a makeover before Vegas, which might be a first on Idol. He received high praise in Vegas during the Top 40 and Top 20 rounds. But I wonder where he’ll register in the minds of Idol viewers going up against the tougher competition the Season 12 ladies offer. That victory night performance was sleepy and not exactly memorable.
10. Paul Jolley, 23, Palmersville, Texas: If Paul can play guitar, he might want to dust off those skills for Wednesday night. If he can’t play guitar, he might want to take one on stage with him and pretend anyway. He’s the weak link in the Top 10, the guy whose spot rightly belonged to a couple of young ladies who performed much better in Vegas.