On Tuesday night, the Top 12 contestants in Season Four of “American Idol” will hit the stage. Because of the gender-balancing act being performed this time around, the men and the women have not yet had to compete against each other. Conventional wisdom last season was that the women were much stronger, so this rejiggering was intended to deliver a more balanced group. Of course, most agree that the men are the more talented group this time around, so the format change may have been entirely unnecessary.
For the next 12 weeks, ZMethos and I will be giving our thoughts on the contestants, their performances, and how the competition is progressing. For now, we’ll start with a general preview going into the finals.
Scott: Right now, everyone seems to think that the guys are going to clean up in the finals, but I’m not so sure. While the Top 12 are stronger as a group this year, I think there are a few weak links on both sides.
Starting with the men, I think Constantine will be one of the first to go. He’s so clearly inferior to Bo Bice as a singer and a performer that it’s becoming painful to watch him get up there each week. And the tweeners who’ve been voting him through on looks must have noticed that he’s gained about 15 pounds since the audition rounds.
Scott Savol should be an early casualty as well. He’s a good singer, but his image has only marginally improved from his first appearance on the show. As we’ve seen time and again, it’s not just the vocals that get you through, it’s the whole package.
ZMethos: I have heard arguments on both sides; some say the men are stronger, some prefer the women this season. But I agree that, taken as a whole, this group has more talent than past years have provided.
I liked Constantine early on, but his constant (har! a play on his name!) mugging is beginning to get on my nerves. I don’t think he’ll adapt well to the different types of music that each week forces on the contestants.
Scott Savol, though, has potential. I think he has the kind of voice that will lend itself to a variety of musical genres. If people would vote for the best singer, Scott would have a good shot. And I think he’s been upgrading his image progressively each week.
Scott: Unfortunately, people don’t always vote for the best singer, or Latoya London would have won last season, or at least made it to the final two.
Bo seems to be everyone’s favorite among the guys, but I think Anwar is the one who has a real shot at winning the whole competition. Anthony and Mario both have their appeal, but it’s probably going to be hard to get the viewing audience to come out en masse for either one of them.
ZMethos: I think Mario has a solid fan base that could get him pretty far. Bo is my favorite, but I don’t hold high hopes for him taking the crown; I agree that, of the guys, Anwar’s chances are better.
Note: This article was written prior to Mario Vazquez’s withdrawal from the competition. He has since been replaced by Nikko Smith.
Scott: So it seems we’re agreed that Anwar is the one to beat among the men. Will any of the women give him a run for his money?
ZMethos: Jessica Sierra has a strong voice, possibly the strongest of the women. I like Carrie Underwood, too, whose voice seems the most pure in tone. Nadia Turner isn’t bad, either, and her personality may take her pretty far. But I can’t say that I’m convinced any of these women will trump the men in this competition.
Scott: I’ve made it clear that Carrie is my personal favorite of the women, but I don’t think she’s got broad enough appeal to win, or even make it to the top four. There’s somewhat of a bias against country (and, to a lesser extent, rock) in favor of pop and R&B style singers, though whether that is the audience’s preference or a inherent nature of the show (which is, after all, based on the UK’s “Pop Idol”) is undetermined.
Jessica does have a good voice, but I’d give Nadia a slight edge. She’s been more consistent and, even though her vocals aren’t as strong, she’s much better overall on stage.
ZMethos: I agree that Carrie may have trouble branching out into other styles of music; instead she may try to “countrify” any song she chooses to sing, and that may end up working for her because it would play to her strengths. I’m also not sure what the viewing audience prefers to see/hear, which makes it harder at times to guess who will advance.
One thing I’ve noticed about Nadia’s song arrangements is that she gets away from verses as quickly as she can and opts for repetitive choruses that showcase more strength for her voice–it’s as if she can sing one part well, over and over again. I’d like to hear her tackle something more.
Scott: Alright, we should probably wrap it up with some predictions. Going in blind, I’ll guess that Lindsey Cardinale is the first one of the finalists to leave. And my money is on Nadia to win, for now.
ZMethos: Much as I’d like to see Mikalah Gordon say goodbye, I have to agree that Lindsey is probably next. But I’m predicting Anwar to win (for now).