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American Idol: Meet Your Top 13!

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After two of the longest and slightly painful hours of television, we finally have our Top 13 contestants of American Idol season 10. And it’s official, with the elimination of Tim Halperin, all of my early favorites have been eliminated from the competition. It makes me wish I had thrown my support behind James Durbin. (I kid, I kid. Kind of.)

So let’s talk about the Top 13. Rumors started swirling around the internet earlier this week about the return of the Top 13, which hasn’t been done since season eight. It made perfect sense to make it a Top 13, because the show has subtlety been telling us that they want a girl to win this season. With a Top 13, the show could stack the deck to include an additional girl, which is exactly what they did. That said, let’s talk about the contestants.

AMERICAN IDOL: AMERICAN IDOL Finalists (Clockwise from Left) Lauren Alaina, Thia Megia, Hayley Reinhart, Jacob Lusk, Karen Rodriguez, Scott McReery, Naima Adedapo, Pia Toscano, Ashthon Jones, Stefano Langone, James Durbin, Paul McDonald and Casey Abrams arrive on the red carpet at the AMERICAN IDOL TOP 13 FINALIST PARTY on Thursday, March 3 at The Grove in Los Angeles, CA. © 2011 FOX BROADCASTING CR: Mark Davis/FOX

Haley Reinhart, who sang Alicia Key’s “Fallin’” this week, was probably the one contestant I was shocked about making the audience voted-in Top 10. Thinking about it now, I probably shouldn’t have been. Reinhart has auditioned for the show multiple times, which was brought up over and over again. She has finally been called up to the main stage, so I hope she makes the best of her Idol run. To be honest, I would swap her out with Kendra Chantelle, who I thought out-performed Reinhart Wednesday night.

Scotty McCreery was a shoe-in this week with audience votes. I’m not a huge fan of country music, but even I have to admit that this kid is talented. If the contestants are allowed to stick to their genre of music throughout the entire season, McCreery could possibly run away with the whole competition.

Although I will never agree that her voice resembles “a young Michael Jackson,” Thia Megia earned her spot in the Top 13. I do think that she made a conscious effort to sound more mainstream this week, which shows she has a competitive edge, and I can appreciate that. I hope she makes the most of the momentum she’s built from this week’s past performance, because peaking too early in the competition is almost always the kiss of death. Just ask season nine’s Andrew Garcia.

Was anyone surprised that Casey Abrams made it through to the Top 13? Even my mother, who has absolutely no love for Idol, caught part of Abrams’ performance this week and found him to be charming. I have a feeling that Abrams’ is going to do big things on the show this season, and if he can make my mom a fan, then anything is possible.

After her performance of The Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You” won her the first standing ovation of the season, Pia Toscano has advanced to the Top 13. I think for Toscano to continue advancing in this competition is that she needs to keep in mind that the competition is a jog and not sprint, and to not pull all of her tricks out of her bag at once. So far, she’s succeeded at doing this, because she turned what could have been a boring performance Wednesday night on it’s head and stepped into the front runner position.

I honestly don’t understand how James Durbin made it as far as he has in this year’s competition. Thinking back to his awful performance during his group performance of Queen’s “Somebody To Love” during the Hollywood round, I am trying to figure out how the judges decided to advance him. For Durbin to survive this competition, he has to tone it down and truly show us who he is. It’s not fun for me to watch him try and be the best Adam Lambert he can be. That said, he needs to look at the songs Lambert did during season eight and cross them all off his list. Durbin needs to make his own individual footprint on this competition for survival.

I am happy that the judges picked Naima Adedapo as one of their Wild Card picks, because although her performance was probably a little too old fashioned for the audience this week, she can actually sing very well. With the judges looking for someone who sounds current and could be played on the radio today, Adedapo may need to adapt her sound to the competition a little more if she wants to stay.

I feel like everyone loves Jacob Lusk, except for me. I honestly don’t understand how people enjoy the blatant over-singing during his performances. Reiterating what I said earlier this week, I don’t think Lusk is ever going to be able to recreate the magic that was “God Bless the Child.” If he spends the competition trying to, it’s only going to hurt him in the end. Again, just ask Andrew Garcia.

Yes, the producer’s darling Lauren Alaina made the Top 13. Not shocked at all. This kid is talented, she just needs to find balance between acting her age and acting professional. I think she’s going to do well in the competition. Lauren has done really well up to this point, and unless she gets laryngitis or sings off-key (take your pick), I think she’s golden.

Paul McDonald advancing to the finals was another no-brainer. Ladies love them some Paul. What I like most about McDonald is that he knows how to choose songs that fit his voice. I think that’s where a lot of contestants slipped up this week. As long as he stays true to who he is as an artist, and as long as there are women in the audience that find him adorable, McDonald should be just fine.

I wasn’t really impressed with Karen Rodriguez’s performance of Mariah Carey’s “Hero” on Wednesday. I hope she starts picking songs that aren’t so predictable and boring. Any of the girls in the Top 13 can throw down a ballad, to stay in the competition Rodriguez is going to need to show what makes her different, and why people should vote for her. And maybe that will make me stop wishing that Lauren Turner had gotten her spot instead.

One of my friends is going to be mad at me for saying this, but I don’t feel like Stefano Langone should have been chosen from the Wild Card round. I kind of forgot he existed, until finding out he had made the Top 24. I thought he had an okay vocal performance Tuesday night, but it was nothing special. I didn’t think he did much better during his Wild Card performance. Unless he works out the kinks in his vocals, especially when he reaches into his falsetto range, he’s going to have some issues. In comparison to the rest of the guys in the Top 13, he doesn’t have anything that makes him stand out from the pack.

I have mixed feelings about Ashthon Jones being in the Top 13. She can sing, but I can see her song picks tripping her up throughout the competition. Even her Wild Card song pick was boring and predictable. If Jones wants to be this season’s diva, she’s going to need to show that she can do more than hit huge notes in some ballad. She needs to pick songs that highlight her personality and her talent. The ballads aren’t going to cut it.

The biggest snub from last night was when the judges chose not to advance Robbie Rosen into the Top 13. He sounded fantastic. I would have easily put him in the Top 13 over Stefano or even Ashthon. I think a big reason that Rosen wasn’t picked, is because he’s more of a singer-songwriter type and not a pop star type. I feel like if the contestants musicians within the Top 24 had been allowed to play an instrument, we’d have a much different Top 13 on our hands.

In other Idol news, Adam Lambert will return to the stage during next Thursday’s results show to perform an acoustic version of his song, “Aftermath.” You know you’re excited.

So Idol fans, are you happy with this season’s Top 13?

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About Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is a writer and editor from the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit her long-running music blog, Wait...WHAT, at waitwhatmusic.net. Follow Kirsten Coachman on Twitter: @KirsCoachman
  • Butch

    Biggest snub of the night for me: not letting Lauren Turner have a chance at wild card. She was easily a highlight among the girls, and the judges loved her. I was very pissed about that, I wish they had least given her the opportunity.

    I really thought Clint Gamboa was worth a shot at wild card. He ended up being punished too severely for his behavior early in Hollywood week. The voting public ignored him based on his personality. I would take his singing over numerous guys in the top 13.

    I really don’t get the Paul McDonald love. I guess because I’m a guy. I couldn’t care less about his looks. (I wouldn’t ever vote for a girl based on her looks either – well, okay I’ll admit to throwing a few to Haley “Hot Legs” Scarnato, but that was a one-time moment of weakness.) Word of advice to McDonald: stay in the closet for the full season, you’ll lose fans otherwise. (Remember when the Claymates tried to sue poor Clay for “false advertising” long after his season?)

    Kirsten, totally agree with you on James Durbin. 100%. Also totally agree with you on Jacob Lusk.

  • James Durbin and Jacob Lusk’s “overdoing” it actually creates a lot of excitement, and if they can channel their excesses and show some versatility, they will go far. They both have phenomenal, powerful voices, but they have to use them effectively.

    Scotty is adorable, deep voice and all, but he has been doing such a narrow range of material. Can he sing anything else? If not, he could begin to seem monotonous.

    I do agree with Kirsten and Butch that Tim and Lauren Turner were the two most unfortunate losses. Robbie was the most surprising omission, but if he’s a “singer-songwriter type,” he kept that well hidden in his two performances this week, coming across boy-band bland with too many annoying vocal mannerisms. He may return, however, being so young, and maybe he will have improved by then.

  • Rob

    Naima is the only contestant the actually makes me feel every song she sings. I can here pain and hardship in every word of every song. I love that style. I agree that Lusk is over the top in his performances but, in my opinion has the most gifted ability of all 13. The problem is, he behaves so awkward after every performance. He seems to be a bit of a drama queen.

    Ashthon Jones, seems to have too much attitude in the song. She seems to be more about herself than the song she sings. When she is swinging around showing off her attitude, the vocals often suffer. Example: when she ran up the stairs, you could here her steps in her voice as if someone is running while talking.

    Clint.. Well I know it’s singing contest not a personality contest, but it was clear that America will never vote him as an Idol, so why not give someone else a chance. You cant make a cute kid Cry on national TV and expect people to support you. Worst career move ever.

    Karen’s performance of Hero was more like a wedding singer performance. I’m confused as to why she made it to the final 13

    Thia made the excellent decision to sing to a single piano in pure filipino style. Other than Charice, there aren’t many filipino artist with strong powerful voices, but are masters at sweet melodies. In America Idol, strong voices are required, I give her little chance to survive to the final 5.

    I would love to see James Durbin calm down and just sing a great song. We get it… He can hit the high note.

    This is the strongest lot I’ve seen in the history of American Idol.

  • handyguy: Based on Robbie’s Hollywood audition and his final audition before the Top 24, where he got to sing while playing the keyboard, he’s definitely has that singer-songwriter vibe.

    With Idol not allowing the contestants to use instruments every week, it’s forcing the musicians out of their comfort zones.

    I thought Robbie’s Wild Card performance was really good, passing on him was the one decision that really bummed me out.

  • Butch

    handyguy: so far, Scott has demonstrated no more of a limited stylistic range than Durbin or Lusk. It’s just that he’s more subtle within his chosen genre.

    People may well get tired of Scott’s delivery if it remains the same week after week, but no more or less so than Durbin’s “heavy metal” screaming act or Lusk’s histrionic gospel caricature.

    Both Durbin AND Lusk has “phenomenal” voices only in the context of American Idol. So far they have demonstrated a disturbing lack of taste and restraint.

    Scott – old school country as he may be – has the potential to actually sustain interest after the fanfare of the competition.

  • Butch

    Rob #3: “This is the strongest lot I’ve seen in the history of American Idol.”

    While we’re all entitled to our opinions, that statement begs the question: is this the first season of Idol you’ve watched?

  • Sherry

    My biggest disappointment was Lauren Turner not getting a second chance. I was surprised she didn’t get voted through in the first place, and then the judges not picking her for a wild card chance just doesn’t make sense to me. I went back and checked their comments after she sang and they were so positive. I have to wonder if it comes down to her not having the right look.

  • Sherry: I was very surprised thar Lauren didn’t get through, based not only on the judges’ comments, but also on fan’s comments that I read after her performance.

    I would hate to think that they didn’t put her through for an aesthetic reason, but thinking back on Jennifer’s comments about Ashthon after her performance, I think that may have been a legit reason for not picking her for the Wild Card. And that sucks.

  • The general level of talent is very high this year. There were few if any downright embarrassing choices in the Top 24. And it was therefore inevitable that there would be widespread disappointment after 11 people got cut in one night — no way to please everybody.

    Many of the singers were very competent, but rather bland, and this is especially noticeable in the female half of the draw [what a difference Lauren Turner might have made!].

    Among the guys, only Stefano fits the established Idol cliche: appealing personality and looks, but musically a snooze. All the other five, especially Casey, have distinctive styles, and hopefully that will keep the season interesting.

    Except for Naima, the girls risk being bland, even though they all have good voices, and at least two, Lauren and Ashton, both from Georgia, have personalities that really rev up an audience.

    Song choice and calculated risk-taking will make all the difference.