American Idol 11 – Wisdom for the Top 12

Just a quick list of advice as the Top 12 gear up to perform Wednesday.  Rankings included by where they all stand at this point.

1. Jessica Sanchez:  Jessica’s the biggest favorite to win Idol since Carrie Underwood back in Season 4.  Generally speaking, viewers are completely ready for a female winner, putting the guys at odds this year.  It doesn’t hurt Jessica that she carries a lot of the Filipino, Hispanic, and islander (remember Season 3’s Jasmine Trias?) votes.  She’s easily the season’s best vocalist, but most importantly connects with viewers whether she’s singing uptempo or a ballad.  Just keep on going Jessica.  If her 5,000,000 YouTube views on this past week’s performance compared to second place Heejun’s 178,000 views, Jessica is untouchable.  Getting that many views in less than a week is unbelievable (the most viewed performance from S10 was Haley’s “Rolling In the Deep” which has just passed 3 million).

2. Hollie Cavanagh: Hollie is good.  Real good.  And as long as she keeps wowing the audience with her innocent girly look paired with a huge voice, she’s going to go real far.  Hollie can be this season’s Diana Degarmo and just continue to rise week by week.  I think she connects more with the younger audience than Jessica, and also pulls all of the votes of the people looking for the best vocalist but don’t want to root for the favorite.  To reach the finale, Hollie needs to switch off between uptempo and ballad and pick more youthful songs to stay relevant.  But again, her big voice with that girlish innocence is really going to suck people in, and I think as more and more people get eliminated she’ll be picking up a lot of those votes that don’t want to support the frontrunner.

3. Phillip Phillips: Phillip is the boys’ best bet this year.  He’s one of two white boys (and of course both play guitar), which definitely benefits both him and Colton.  His rock edge also competes with Colton, while the other boys have more R&B or soul vibes.  What’s missing from the boys?  A pop singer–what American Idol was first all about.  Usually the guys have a few people with pop tendencies, but this year’s boys are so removed from the pop genre that viewers might want to root for one of the more mainstream voices of the ladies.  But Phillip is pulling in votes from young and older audiences, which will work to his advantage.  My advice to Phillip is to not force his singing.  He keeps going for the groggy throat thing in all of his songs, which was sort of cool at first, but is getting old really quick.  Just sing.  If America gets tired of all his songs sounding the same (he hasn’t shown a lot of vocal versatility–sorry!), he’ll be out quicker than the Top 3.

4. Erika van Pelt: Yeah.  I put EVP at fourth.  Surprised?  She’s a dark horse if I’ve seen one, and I think she’s got the potential to Allison Iraheta her way all the way up.  EVP is super underrated, and draws lots of similarities to Kelly Clarkson, which would attract all those Idol romantics from the very beginning looking for another Kelly.  She’s much more different than the other girls, but needs to focus on smiling and lightening up a bit.  Had Allison lightened up earlier on, she could’ve been in the finale.  If EVP can pick songs that complement her alto while pulling in the audience, she’ll be the season’s dark horse.  Rocking out more will only benefit her.  Oh, and one more thing, no more bridesmaids dresses (for a few weeks), try something more casual!  She SHOULD be given the pimp spot this week (Nigel will give it to her or Joshua, depending on who has the better performance song to close the show) — use it if it comes to you!

5. Colton Dixon: The other white guy who plays a guitar (and piano!).  I’m not on Team Colton yet because of his vocal inconsistencies, but he’s certainly pulling in a ton of support.  He’s sort of a watered down Adam Lambert and James Durbin, so he’s pulling in quite a fanbase there.  His name has also been around longer than any of the other guys.  Even though his vocals aren’t spot-on: a. James Durbin proved that may not completely important anymore; b. Colton is very vulnerable and can captivate people easily.  Bring out the piano early Colton, that’s when you’ll have your “moment,” which will catapult you into the top half of Season 11 and beyond.

6. Skylar Laine: Skylar is FIERCE.  She’s a tricky one that definitely has got a chance to shoot up to the Top 3 if she plays her cards right.  She’s pulling in the huge wave of support from the south, which is more of Idol’s viewers, not to mention last season’s supporters of Scotty and Lauren.  Plus she’s young, which might give her an edge with younger viewers.  If Skylar wants to go far she’s got to stay strictly country and not water down her twang, no matter what Jimmy Iovine or anyone else might tell her.  My fear is that the judges are going to criticize her “nasaliness,” which might make her lose support EVEN THOUGH the nasaliness is not something she chooses to bring out and only adds to her beautiful country sincerity.  J. Lo you sound more nasally when you speak than when this girl sings for Pete’s sake!!!  STAY COUNTRY, SKYLAR.

7. Heejun Han: I personally adore Heejun. America’s in love with him and he currently has the most Twitter followers.  He has such an incredible tone, but needs to make sure he has got total control of his voice at all times (not that most Americans are looking for that).  Heejun is tricky because I can’t remember him going uptempo yet, which may be a trainwreck for him.  Either way, Idol is going to do everything in its power to get this guy on tour to boost ticket sales (who doesn’t want to see Heejun on tour!).  Heejun can survive quite a few weeks just on ballads, but eventually when (if?) strict theme weeks come and he’s put out of his element, he could be in some serious trouble.  Keep up the funny, it may give you a few more weeks Heejun!

8. Joshua Ledet: Joshua is really underrated- he’s really really good.  I just don’t think he’s absorbing the fans that he deserves.  Joshua is doing everything that he can and is pulling out showstopping performances, but I don’t feel that he is connecting very much.  The likes of  P2, Colton, Heejun, and a rising Deandre are quickly toppling him.  A pimp spot this week, which SHOULD go to him or Erika, could really boost the number of fans he has.  My advice is to play it smooth and take more risks on your songs.  He’s the strongest vocalist of the guys, and if he can combine his voice with connecting performances he’ll be the other dark horse of S11.

9. Elise Testone: Elise went from a frontrunner two weeks ago to barely squeaking by last week.  This proves her fan base is still developing, and she didn’t do herself any favors last week with attitude, poor judges’ comments, and an early performance slot.  A later performance slot and a more vulnerable performance this week coming off near-elimination can put her back in the game, however.  Elise, like Erika, MUST connect with the audience and be more animated.  The piano can work wonders for her, just like how the beginning of “One and Only” pulled me in from the moment she started singing.  She’s down, but definitely not out.  She’s a fighter.

10. DeAndre Brackensick: DeAndre improved a lot this week.  I think he’s melting girls’ hearts and stealing their votes.  As long as he limits that falsetto (still use it though!) he will continue to melt hearts.  I just don’t see the big deal about DeAndre though.  I’m not sure where he wants to go as an artist yet, and he’s not the best singer.  He has to pick a direction for himself, play up the long hair and pretty eyes like Jason Castro, and become more vulnerable to pick up a few more weeks.  He should be able to make tour.

11. Shannon Magrane: Shannon messed up last week.  A lot of people want to see her out of the competition because they think she is just too young.  The truth is, Shannon is only a few months younger than Jessica.  But Jessica comes off as much more mature, while Shannon has yet to shed her “too young” image.  The girl’s got serious chops, but she needs to pick songs that complement her voice while coming off youthful.  Shannon has made herself far too old-fashioned for such a young girl, which results in confused viewers.  Play to the younger viewers, Shannon.  It might be your hole to getting further in the competition.

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