Safe to in Danger and Some New Information

I ranked the final 42 a couple of days ago, with the information that I had available to me. I do my best to look at everything that I can see, and do my due diligence, but once in awhile I stumble across something new right after I post to my blog. That’s what happened to me this week. I found a place to watch every Vegas performance in its entirety, and I watched all of them several times.

I have much better information now about the contestants. I got to see all 70 Vegas contestants, in a full performance. Before, all I had was the Idol edit. I saw Phil Brooks, I saw Hollie Cavanagh. I saw my girl Naomi, I saw them all.

Once I watched every video I understood what the judges were thinking, and I think they picked the right ones in almost every case. I even agree with them on Ashley Robles. She was really weak, like she threw her voice out. The girl who blew up “I Will Always Love You” at her audition had no power at all in Vegas. I won’t ever agree with them about Jairon Jackson, though. They blew that one. If they made only one mistake, though, they did dammed well. You try it.

This new list comes from another angle; it’s independent of my previous power rankings, with all new commentary. This is a form of my old “safe to in danger” lists. I ranked the contenders, based on their relative chances of making the final 24. I should mention that I made a bunch of mistakes on my power rankings, starting with my number one. There is no way Deandre Brackensick should be ranked at the top until he sings a melody.

Honestly I have no clue about who should be ranked at the top at this point in the competition. Erica is the best pure singer; Joshua has the biggest moment potential; Reed is the most musical; Ariel has the sweetest combination of tone and cuteness; Jessica is the fiercest competitor; Phat Gokey has the most command of the group; Naomi has the most stage savvy, and either Lauren or Hollie has the coolest tone. Who else?

Ok, here are my adjusted rankings, safe to in danger, based on everything Idol has given us (and what I could find on Youtube) and a good, hard look at every singer in Vegas:


Adam Lee Decker, 28: Borderline survivor in Vegas; independent videos are chalkboard scratching awful by Idol standards

Richie Law, 19: He got the extreme diva edit, so his calm manner and cowboy good looks won’t be the asset that they normally would be. He has a horrible falsetto and not all that strong of a voice overall. The only thing going for him is the deep voice, and it’s redundant this year thanks to Jermaine. Nobody made him act like a jackwagon, did they? The diva act might not have cost him his shot at the live shows (he isn’t all that good in the first place), but it sure didn’t help.

Aubrey Cleland, 18: Weak phrasing, no power; no real assets beyond being carbon based and still in the competition. For someone like this I’d normally say that she isn’t ready, but the truth is that she’s just not good enough. She isn’t terrible (she’s a good singer), but she ain’t in this league. In baseball terms, she works hard and is coachable, but she can’t f***ing hit.

Shelby Tweten, 18: If anyone in the lineout group is going to shock us, it might beShelby. She has a little power, and she has the back story going for her. She is attractive, but looks won’t help her much here. This isn’t exactly a group of ugly women.

Cortez Shaw, 21: I considered adding him at the bottom of the longshots, but the show doesn’t act like they care about him. If he had a big voice I would maybe guess that they are hiding him (like they did Pia or Siobhan), but he doesn’t.

Chelsea Sorrell, 23: With Baylie and Skylar already in the mix, an additional female country singer is redundant. She ain’t as good as they are, and she hasn’t been featured. Good luck with that.

Blaire Sieber, 26: She has a legit voice, but nothing about her stands out in this sort of crowd. She will have to go back to dominating karaoke contests.

Caleb Johnson, 20: I enjoy hearing him, but I am a good decade past my prime and I could blow him off the stage. That’s not a compliment.


33- Phil Brooks, 18: I would have put him higher, but he didn’t sound all that great in Vegas. I really like him, but he’s up against it this year. Maybe, like Deandre last year, just missing the live shows will be a blessing for young River St. James. With one more year in the woodshed (and a better demographic split) he might be a serious contender next year.

32- Deneco Pittman, 20: See Brooks, Phil. I listened back to his performance and he was fairly weak; weaker than I remembered. Being black and male is a rough thing to be this season. The pool is deep as hell, and with such a large southern voting bloc Idol won’t dare ignore the ugly truth about demographics. Not this year anyway, with The X-Factor and The Voice encroaching on their territory.

31- Haley Johnson, 23: I love her voice, but she is up against more touted versions of herself who are, if not better singers (they aren’t), better performers.

30- Chase Likens, 20: I’d have him in the lineouts based on his voice. He is the only male country singer other than Richie, though. He is a good looking, charismatic kid. He fits a demographic that Idol might not want to leave unmanned, especially when you consider that this demographic produced the winner last year. By pure, honest merit he shouldn’t be in the same room as Demeco or Phil.

29- Latia Lee, 22: If you haven’t seen her she has long, wavy hair; a care-worn face; and a body that could bring down a Congressman. Again, though, this is a very attractive group of women so her looks won’t help her much. She is going to have to sing, and unfortunately she is merely a good singer, not a great one. Her best shot is the upside down, absurd reality that the pool of black WOMEN is almost non-existent. Ariel is virtual lock, but she is only 15 years old. Idol’s history indicates that they will give at least one slot to an adult (or at least not 15 years old) black female. Aubrey is the only other contestant left in that category, and she isn’t all that good.

Grey Area

28- Wendy Taylor, 29: She should probably be a lock based on her talent, but she is a 29 year old cabaret singer who looks much older than she is. I respect her voice, but it’s not like she is soooo good that it would be an injustice if she doesn’t make it. She ain’t the next Pia, and she would have to sing at her highest level several times without even one bad performance just to make the tour. In baseball terms, she is one of those“prospects” who hit .320 with 40 homers in triple A when they are 29 years old.

27- Clayton Farhat, 23: He fits a niche as a metal styled singer, but he isn’t so good that his talent demands to be heard.

26- Scott Dangerfield, 23: All hat, no cattle at this point. His reputation from last year is about the only thing that sets him apart from the guys that are listed in the lineouts.

25- Baylie Brown, 21: She was a virtual lock until Skylar defied the odds (and the Idol plague) to bubble up to contender status. At this point she desperately needs Skylar to screw the pooch on her last performance.

24- Brielle Von Hugel, 17: Her Idol edit was all over the place, and she should really tell her mother to shut up. Her voice is unique, she can perform on the big stage with no nerves, and she is much better than she was last year when she didn’t know how to breathe properly (she has that down now). Is it enough? To me she is as on the bubble as anyone. At 17 years old, and having already been through the meat grinder twice, she is a very good candidate to come back strong in a couple of years if she doesn’t make it this time. If I were her manager I would tell her to skip a couple of years, to give the viewers time to forget her mother’s comments. Go to college, get into a high powered musical program, and come back at 21 or 22.

23- Lauren Gray, 23: I crave hearing her bluesy, scratchy, angsty tone, and I really want her to make it so I can hear her sing full songs. She has little else besides the tone to recommend her, though. Her composure was maybe a bit exposed in Vegas, and she struggles with her phrasing and her melodic decisions at times. She is probably never going to be a polished product, given her age and extensive previous experience. She is what she is. What she is can be interesting, because of that beautiful tone.

22- Hallie Day, 24: Honestly there is little to recommend her other than the power in her voice. She has a look that is interesting, sort of a Daryl Hanna on horse tranquilizers look. Even if she makes the live shows, she is probably one and done.

21- Phillip Phillips, 21: He sings like Joe Cocker, if Joe Cocker was on oxygen and his bottle just ran out. Love the guitar, though….

20- Eben Franckewitz, 15 or David Leathers, 17: I’m pretty sure that one or the other will get a spot, but it’s possible that they will dump both of them. I would be shocked if both of them made it.

19- Heejun Han, 22: He is a decent ballad singer, but he would be a lineout if he was a white guy (or a black guy). I like him, mostly because he is funny and he looks like my boss. He hit the demographic motherlode, didn’t he?


18- Hollie Cavanaugh, 17: Here’s where the extra research paid off. Hollie sounds amazing now, using her powerful belting voice to good effect while showing at least a tiny bit of finesse. I really like her, and if she makes the live shows you will, too.

17- Jen Hirsch, 25: A grade passion, A grade power, A grade musicianship, A grade creativity, A grade drive and desire…. But C- grade at best on her intonation and command. She is the most likely good singer in the competition to have a huge, monstrous, internet exploding train-wreck of a performance in the live shows.

16- Skylar Laine, 18: Her gutty performance in round 3 put her on the map, and her Vegas blow-up performance put her in contention. All we need is one more pin, Rodney. If she falls down in her last performance, Baylie will be there to pick up the pieces.

15- Aaron Marcellus, 27: Last year he was the Bob Uecker of the show, shown celebrating over and over but never shown singing. This year they have shown him singing in almost every round. I would put him in the virtual lock category, but his demographic is deep and he isn’t THAT great of a singer, just really, really good.

14- Naomi Gillies, 22: I ranked her third in my power rankings, so you know I like her a lot. I heard her Vegas performance after I had already ranked her third, and she was fantastic. I worry that they didn’t air it (or anything that she sang inHollywood), and that’s why she is ranked this low here. I understand why they didn’t air it, though. Naomi and Hollie both blew up their parts, but the third singer was terrible. She is no longer with us, and I don’t even remember her name. I remind you that I predicted that Naomi will be THE sensation of the semifinals. I just hope she makes it.

13- Jeremy Rosado, 19: Smooth, thick if not powerful tone. Who was that guy in the old movies, who…. I can’t do impressions in type, dammit. He was in Casablanca, and he did a bunch of creepy parts. Peter Lorre, that’s the guy. Jeremy’s voice and mannerisms remind me of Peter Lorre. “Walk this way, pleeeeasssse” (twiddling fingers and smiling maniacally….)

12- Shannon Magrane, 16: At this point she is your basic teenager; play-acting her role as a singer. Will Idol protect and preserve this immensely talented prospect by telling her to go home and enroll in a high powered music program? They have done this with borderline talents occasionally, but never with a talent as prodigious asShannon. My guess is that they will pass her on to the semifinals, simply because she deserves it by being one of the top 24 singers. I wasn’t watching the first several years. Did they do ever tell someone likeShannon, who is clearly not ready NOW but has such obvious talent to be special, to come back in a few years? I’ve mentioned my Idol D-program before.Shannon would be a perfect fit for that.

11- Jermaine Jones, 25: He seems like a good guy, and he isn’t an amateur. He sings and plays the piano beautifully, and we will probably see that soon if he stays in the competition. There is a decent chance that the voters will fall in love with him, and if they do he could go very deep. His voice is special, if limited. Scotty’s voice was special, if limited. Just sayin’.

10- Colton Dixon, 19: I talk about phrasing a lot, mostly to say that somebody has stinky phrasing.Colton’s best asset is that he phrases extremely well, which accentuates the emotion in his otherwise fairly pedestrian voice. He can’t win, mostly because his look is so polarizing and his voice isn’t truly unique, but he is easily one of the best 24 singers left.

9- Creighton Fraker, 28: His voice is weird, his look is weird, and his phrasing and melodic choices are really weird. That said, he uses his decent if not huge vocal power very well; his tone and intonation are almost always perfect. I worried about him early because he took so many chances, but he seems to be able to command the complex departures from the melody that he can’t seem to help but take. The weirdness probably limits his upside to a 7-9 finish at best, but his consistency means that he is odds on to get there. Paul McDonald was like that, though they are very different singers and different people. Paul was destined to finish 8th from his audition. Creighton is probably destined to finish about 8th, too.

Virtual Locks

8- Ariel Sprague, 16: My only reservation about Ariel is that I watched several of her independant videos and she struggled with her phrasing and intonation. Most of them were ballads, and she was like someone who didn’t know what to do with their hands. She didn’t know what to do with all that empty space in between the notes. Thia Megia couldn’t sing at tempo last year, so she had to sing ballads. Ariel, if she knows what’s good for her, will sing ONLY at tempo this year. She is still a kid and she doesn’t know how to work a ballad yet, but her huge voice works really well on high energy songs.

7- Deandre Brackensick, 17: I ranked him first in my power rankings, which was a dumb mistake that I blame on an attempt to find the next cute guy that the voters from the south will want to crown. Seriously, the guy is fromHawaii. How will he relate to the southern voters? He can’t be taken seriously until he proves that he can sing a song without everyone wondering where the melody is.

6- Erica Van Pelt, 25: Erica is the best pure singer in the entire competition, and it isn’t close. If Idol was a one person, one vote competition Erica would win. Idol doesn’t work that way. If they did Pia Toscano, Crystal Bowersox, Adam Lambert, Kat McPhee and Clay Aiken would be Idols.

5- Jessica Sanchez, 16: Lack of high range and some concerns about her intonation bother me, but that’s it. Jessica is a monster of a performer, who leaves it out on the stage every time. The voters are going to love her at first, like her at second, and question her at third. By then she will be on the tour, and working on how to keep the voters interested in her long enough to make the top five. After that, all bets are off. This kid is years and years past her age, and I won’t put anything past her.

4- Elise Testone, 28: Squeaky intonation on her big notes will kill her if she doesn’t fix that problem, but she is a true pro who will bring it every time. The voters will love her early, but will they love her late? I see a probable 8-10 finish, but with the chance that she will survive to the top 5 if she gives us a moment.

3- Reed Grimm, 26: Everyone compares him to Casey Abrams, and that’s reasonable. Reed doesn’t have the wild, wooly edges as a vocalist that Casey has, so he can’t compare to Casey as a dynamic performer. Casey’s “Georgia”was probably the best moment of season 10, and his sing for your life “Do Right” was in the top 5. Reed won’t ever have an individual moment like that; it’s not what he does and he doesn’t have Casey’s flawed yet sometimes charismatic tenor voice.

What Reed has, that Casey didn’t have, is a true, honest, intense sense of the group gestalt. He arranged a song for his group inHollywood, and they were the best group of the day. He arranged a song for his group in Vegas, and they were the best group in Vegas.

Casey was very good at showcasing himself as a singer/instrumentalist, but eventually his vocal weakness showed up because he wasn’t really a singer. Reed is very good at showcasing everyone, so his eventual weakness is that he will have to sing alone, and his eventual weakness will show up because he isn’t really an individual.

If anyone on Idol this year has an obvious line on a career, Reed is the one. He is going to be a producer, and I expect that he will be a very good producer. As I said last week, it wouldn’t shock me to see him in the Idol band. Ten years from now he might be the bandleader.

Stone Locks

2- Joshua Ledet, 19: Go look up Johnny Mathis on Youtube. Josh is a Mathis clone, but if he was actually that good he would be a lock, like Adam and Crystal were (oops).

1- Adam Brock, 27: Way too good to toss until the bitter end, but probably too old and Phat to win. Has anyone since the original Gokey been such an obvious third or fourth place finisher?

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