Guide to the Top 12 Guys
Tonight, the Top 12 guys sing for the first time. This is the point at which I think this damn dog and pony show really begins, and I could not be more excited.
What can I say. I’m an Idol junkie.
I’ve put together a schedule for the season here. And, my guide to the Top 12 guys begins after the jump. There will be one for the girls tomorrow. Enjoy!
Chickezie Eze 22, Inglewood, CA – Auditioned in San Diego – Chickezie made it to Hollywood last year, but no farther. According to his bio, he began singing when he was 13 years old. Before auditioning for AI, he was a T.S.A. (Transportation Security Administration) screener and a cashier. He studied singing at Santa Monica College. His parents are Nigerian. His initial audition was impressive, but the producers didn’t feature him much during the Hollywood Rounds. However, if he continues to perform at the level of his audition in San Diego, (“All The Woman I Need” by Luther Vandross), he could sneak into the Top 12. Not that I can imagine TPTB wanting an urban adult contemporary artist making it very far in this competition.
Colton Berry 17, Staunton, VA – Auditioned in Charleston – Poor Colton. He’s had virtually no screen time–except when he was pitted against the affable Kyle Ensley as the final guy to get the nod for the Top 24. Appearing to be be the reason (even if it isn’t so) for someone’s demise is never a good thing. To add insult to injury, Nigel Lythgoe compared him to Boris Becker during a recent press conference and said, “I dont know if hell have underdog appeal because he was the last one chosen; he might have the underdog appeal because he IS an underdog. For me he and Garrett are two quite shy quiet guys, both extremely talented…but this show requires more than that at the end of the day. It needs that charisma coming across and giving the audience a reason to get off their backsides and pick up the phone to vote for them.” Ouch! Unless Colton comes out of the box with a terrific performance, he’ll be swiftly dispatched. More on Colton: is a senior at Wilson Memorial High School. He began singing in church when he was 5 years old. Active in community theatre, he also mentors children in a music class at a local elementary school.
Danny Noriega 18, Azusa, CA – Auditioned in San Diego – Danny, like Chikezie, made it to Hollywood Season 6. He claims that “nerves and song choice” did him in last year. Danny has tremendous potential, but he hasn’t quite honed his performance style yet. Well, unless he thinks he’s got a future singing in drag clubs. He needs to dial it back a notch. And for that reason, he could be a contestant that you either love or hate. I wasn’t terribly impressed with his initial audition (“Proud Mary”) but warmed up to him a little more during the Hollywood rounds. I think Danny’s outgoing personality and vocal skills will more than likely propel him into the Top 12. More on Danny: He recently graduated from high school. In his spare time he likes to dance and make people laugh. He loves animals. Bonus: Danny singing “Chain of Fools” pre-Idol.
David Archuleta 17, Salt Lake City, UT – Auditioned in San Diego – According to David’s bio, he began singing at age 7, is currently a junior at Murray High School, performed with an a cappella choir group and plays the piano. What his official bio conveniently leaves out, is that he won “Junior Singer” on Star Search back in 2003. There is a ton of video of David performing posted on You Tube. So much, that Entertainment Weekly put them all together in a post called “The (Many) songs of David Archuleta”. Not only can you find his Star Search moment, but there’s video of young David performing at the piano, on a local TV show and weirdly, he belts out a version of “And I Am Telling You” in front of the American Idol Season One cast in what looks like an airport. It appears that David is the male version of the “pageant singer” trained by his parents from birth to compete and perform. The problem with pageant kids, is that they often sing like wind-up dolls, and have problems learning to sing as an adult rather than like an adult. David’s initial audition and Hollywood performances were pretty good, but nothing spectacular. In fact, listening to his youthful performances, he seems to have lost something–between his voice changing and the vocal chord paralysis he described as part of his back story. TPTB seem to be pushing hard for David. He’s a cute kid, has been playing the game for years and has talent. I’d be shocked if he didn’t make the Top 12.
David Cook 25, Tulsa, OK – Auditioned in Omaha – For some reason, the producers are pushing David as the next Chris Daughtry. If they keep that up, they’ll alienate the very fans they are trying to court with the comparisons. If there is one thing fan bases is hate, is comparisons to their favorite. I don’t really see it–except that David admitted to studying Chris’s audition to “get the competitive edge.” His initial auditioned featured a slowed up version of “Living on a Prayer”. He’s got an effortless raspy pop-rock sound, with good range. He acquitted himself well in Hollywood, singing “Everything I Do” and “Heaven” by Bryan Adams. David has gotten plenty of screen time. He’s definitely one of the pimped ones. Unless he falters during the semis, he’ll have no problem making it to the Top 12. More on David: He graduated from Central Missouri State University in 2006. He has been singing since he was in the 2nd grade and also plays the guitar. Cook was a member of two bands, Axium and MWK.
David Hernandez 24, Phoenix, AZ – Auditioned in San Diego – David wasn’t featured until the Hollywood rounds, where we finally saw him perform. He impressed with an acoustic-style performance of Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With”. David has confidence and charisma. If he comes out of the gate with good performances he could give the other’s a run for their money for a spot on the Top 12. More on David: He has performed at Urban Network Events, …Arizona Idol and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade. He has been a member of the bands TribÃƒÆ’ ©t and Straight Up. Bonus: You Tube video of David singing Boyz II Men’s “If I Ever Fall in Love Again”.
Garrett Haley 17, Elida, OH – Auditioned in San Diego – Garrett would be the perfect teen idol–if it were 1976. Interesting retro look aside, I’m curious to hear him sing, because out of this year’s cannon fodder, he’s the most obscure. Aside from never getting a chance to hear him sing, he was barely given any screen time during the audition and Hollywood Round. We didn’t even get a chance to see him meeting with the judges during the Top 24 reveal episode–just a shot of Garrett returning to the holding room with a smile on his face. For that reason, most folks are expecting an early dismissal for Garrett. Wouldn’t it be cool if he gave the performance of his life and then managed to survive to the Top 12? *crickets* More on Garrett: He’s a junior at Elida High School has performed in local talent shows and high school musicals. Not much more.
Jason Castro 20, Rowlett, TX – Auditioned in Dallas – Jason is another contestant whose singing talent is a mystery–unless you do a search for him online. Here’s some live acoustic footage of Jason performing Gnarles Barkley’s “Crazy” and Sublime’s “Santeria”. Nigel Lythgoe claims to be “destroyed and distraught” because Danger Mouse from Gnarles Barkley wouldn’t let them use “Crazy” in the broadcast of the show. What, that’s the only song he sang? Whatever. Jason’s long dreads make him pop visually, which may help him once he performs live. If he performs well, he could be a dark horse. More about Jason: He grew up playing drums and played in a band called Keeping Lions. Before auditioning for Idol, Jason was majoring in Construction Science at Texas A&M University. His family is from Columbia, South America.
Jason Yeager 28, Grand Prairie, TX – Auditioned in Dallas – According to his bio, Brandon currently resides in Branson, MO, began singing when he was 2 years old and was a member of a boy band called True This. He also plays guitar, piano and drums. In his americanidol.com intro video he admits that he doesn’t care how far he gets. So much for ambition. He also says that the Idol he identifies with most is Taylor Hicks, his favorite band ever is Journey, and he loves Sam Cooke and Michael McDonald. So maybe he’s got a big soulful voice? Who knows. He’s another contestant who will absolutely have to come out of the box swinging.
Luke Menard 29, Crawfordsville, IN – Auditioned in Omaha – We haven’t heard Luke sing yet either, but who cares? His soap-opera star good looks could be enough to keep him in the game for at least a little while. As it turns out you can hear Luke sing, thanks to the magic of You Tube. Luke was a member of a’capella group Chapter 6, you can watch them perform here, here and here. More about Luke: He earned a B.A. in Communications from Millikin University in Decatur, IL, and worked for a finance company in Chicago. He began touring with Chapter 6 when he quit that job to pursue singing. His favorite performer is James Taylor. He also loves riding motorcycles.
Michael Johns 29, Los Angeles/Atlanta – Auditioned in San Diego – Originally from Australia, Michael moved to the US in 1998 to attend Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College in Tifton, GA, then moved to Buckhead, GA outside of Atlanta to pursue a music career. One of the semi-pros of this bunch, he had a major label contract with Maverick Records back in 2003. Back then, his name was Michael Lee, and his initial negotiations with Maverick included the band, Filmland, as the band’s frontman. When Maverick indicated interest in him as a solo artist, Michael ditched the band. Filmland claims that he tried to take their songs with him. Oh, the drama. A record was never released, and Michael faded back into obscurity, until he auditioned for Idol. Michael has had generous screen time. The producers have showcased his excellent initial audition (a growly and soulful “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”) and two outstanding Hollywood performances: “Light My Fire” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Michael is talented, good looking, and the producers love him. He’s a contender.
Robbie Carrico 26, Melbourne, FL – Auditioned in Miami – Robbie spent his teen years pursuing boybandom. He was a member of a group called Boyz IV Girlz and even dated Britney Spears when the group opened for her on her European tour. Later, he was a member of the rock/Christian band, Missing Picket. Although he’s got all the accouterments of a rock singer (skull cap, long hair, rawk t-shirt), he performed “Simple Man” in his initial audition with the requisite boyband hands and a big-voiced pop sensibility. Robbie hasn’t made a big impact yet. I think the other rock singers, David Cook and Michael Johns have more buzz. If he ditches the rock shtick and sticks to pop, he could be a dark horse in the race.
Sources: TV Squad, Idol Chatter and americanidol.com.