The American Idol producers have spoken: No more WGWG (White Guys With Guitars). Going into the final rounds, it isn’t crystal clear as to who will win it all, which is quite refreshing. Last year, I called Phillip Phillips winning the whole damn thing the moment he walked into the audition room. While there’s no obvious front-runner, the only thing that’s certain this season: the girls heavily outweigh the guys in the talent department. The producers are leading us down the path to a female winner, the likes of whom we haven’t seen since 2007’s Jordin Sparks. And what this season, Season 12 (!!!), lacks in musical diversity (we’re leaning heavily on R&B, soul, and country balladeering this year), it more than makes up for ethnic diversity.
What I love about American Idol is that you get to watch contestants grow and develop over the course of a couple of months, and transform from green singers into (presumable) superstars. Case in point, Haley Reinhart. Going into Season 10’s finals, Haley was one of my least favorite Idol contestants EVER. However, over the course of the season, I pulled a complete 360. I rooted hard for this scrappy underdog and fully embraced her and her jazzy growl (#HaleyAndTheJets4eva). Haley joined the ranks of my all-time favorite Idols: Kris Allen, LaToya London, Carrie Underwood, David Cook, and Allison Iraheta. Will anyone from Season 12 make this prestigious list?
Without further ado, as we head into Idol’s final round, here’s my ranking of Season 12’s Top 10 contestants, from my most favorite to my least favorite.
Amber Holcomb – Effortless. Simply effortless. Amber’s velvety smooth tone may not be the showiest of her female counterparts, but it sure is the most refreshing. Her soaring vocals and unassuming and inherent sweetness are a potent combination. Amber has so much raw talent ripe for finessing and has all the makings of a dark horse. I can already tell that I’ll become emotionally invested in her journey.
Angie Miller – If Sara Bareilles and Alison Williams (Marnie from Girls) had a musical lovechild, she would be Angie Miller. She’s your pretty younger sister, who radiates joy and charisma. Angie has shown some really shrewd song choice thus far, showing she knows how to play the game that is Idol. In Hollywood Week, she performed an original song which brought the judges to their feet. On Top 10 Girls night, she performed a song by last year’s finalist, Christian lite-rocker, Colton Dixon. So not only does she align herself with a popular male constant’s fan base, but she displays gender-flipping musicality, which scores massive artistry points. Angie is also the only one of this Top 10 thus far to have busted out an instrument, distinguishing herself greatly from the rest of her peers. Angie Miller is my pick to win this season. I could go on and on about her appeal, but I’ve already said too much.
Burnell Taylor – There is just so much going for Burnell. His lush, buttery tone. His subtle ache in delivery. His weight loss. His Katrina survivor backstory. His Fresh Prince stylings. Burnell is one smooth operator and he just takes it all in stride. Burnell has a lot of potential going into the season and I look forward to watching his talent develop. You can’t help but root for him. What an underdog [See also: Amber Holcomb]. If any guy is to conquer the Year of the Girl, it’s Burnell.
Kree Harrison – Kree is another effortless performer who commands the stage with ease. There’s a purity and fullness to her voice, coupled with a musical maturity that is unmatched this year. Not to mention, her relatable, laid-back charm will carry her far into the competition. Plus, Kree scores the line of the season so far, saying she just wants to do her wife [Nicki Minaj] proud.
Candice Glover – Yes, Candice can SANG. There is no doubt about that. If this show were about pure vocal talent alone, she would win hands down. But over the past few weeks, I haven’t felt very emotionally connected to her. It’s almost as if her towering and intimidating vocal prowess renders her inaccessible. But I did mention that she can SANG, right? She can. And with her commanding, authoritative performances, Candice won’t let you forget it.
Devin Velez – Nicki Minaj stated that Devin Velez is the only Idol contestant to perform in both Spanish and English. Season 10’s Karen Rodriguez would beg to differ. But unlike Karen, Devin’s bilingual performances don’t come off as pageant-y. Somehow, he eschews cheesiness and delivers clear-toned performances that feel current. Devin’s consistent, if not a tad bit boring.
Paul Jolley – This white guy with pop-country proclivities, is the closest thing we have to a WGWG this year. While he doesn’t have that same guy next door guy appeal, he’s made desperate attempts to brand his style as an aspiring male Taylor Swift (Wait. What?!). Paul does have power behind his vocals, but his jumpy, “theatrical” energy and over-articulated facial expressions get the best of him at times. He does have his fans out there, though, as the search term “Paul Jolley shirtless” has inexplicably led people to my blog four times already this season (Wait. What?!).
Janelle Arthur – The biggest disappointment of the Top 10. After much so. much. hype. during Hollywood Weeks as one of the girls to watch, Janelle has done nothing but underwhelm in the Vegas rounds, turning in flat performance after flat performance. And aside from her dull song choices, she comes across as too desperate and too arrogant at the same time. We get it. Janelle wants to be the next country thing, the next Dolly Parton. But in order to do so, she needs a lot more shine to overcome her past lackluster.
Lazaro Arbos – He’s a sweet kid with a sweet voice. There really isn’t much more to say. While it’s nice to see Lazaro overcome his severe stutter onstage, would he have made it into the Top 10 without his inspiring backstory? I don’t think so. Oh, and tone down the jewel tones, Lazaro. This isn’t the 1980s.
Curtis Finch Jr. – In the words of Nicki Minaj: “Honey child, HELL NO.” Curtis’ performances are overwrought and overbearing, and his smug, self-satisfied attitude are an immediate turn-off. Of course Curtis would sing treacly ballads like “I Believe I Can Fly.” Or course he suffocates and squeezes the life out of every note of every labored run. Of course the judges eat it up. Of course I hate him. UGH.
But let’s not end on a sour note, shall we? Here’s Amber Holcomb’s breathtakingly gorgeous “I Believe in You and Me.” Take it away, Amber!