There have been only four “American Idol” audition shows to date—one each from New Jersey, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Nashville, with Austin on deck tomorrow night—but there are already a handful of candidates who have emerged.
And while, admittedly, it’s way too early to start looking for finalists, here’s a round-down of some of the standouts so far, and their odds on reaching the Final 12.
1. Lauren Alaina (Nashville): Already Tweet-touted by executive producer Nigel Lythgoe last fall, this 15-year-old buxom blond small town Georgia cheerleader belted out a version of Faith Hill’s “Like We Never Loved at All” that wowed the judges, if not me. Give her extra points for a fundamentalist Christian following which often seizes the vote. (odds for Final 12: 3-1: Big voice, big persona.)
2. Chris Medina (Milwaukee): This Chicago barista had the sob story of the first two weeks, crooning The Script’s “Breakeven” for this wheelchair-bound fiancée, who was injured in a car accident weeks before their wedding. The scruffy bearded crooner turned out to be a media sensation with his tale of woe. (odds for Final 12: 7-2: America loves a heartbreaking love story )
3. Scott Dangerfield (Milwaukee): Not your usual AI contestant, this shaggy-haired 22-year-old student teacher with the Buddy Holly horn rims made an instant impression with his take on Amos Lee’s “Dreamin’” “You might be my favorite I’ve seen so far,” cooed J. Lo, obviously smitten. (odds for Final 12: 5-1: Feel a nerd chic trend coming)
4. Robbie Rosen (New Jersey): This nice, 16-year-old Jewish boy from Long Island tackled “Yesterday” like he was Josh Groban, with an inspirational back story of how he was confined to a wheelchair as a kid. (odds for Final 12: 6-1: His eyebrows translate on TV)
5. Paris Tassin (New Orleans): Never underestimate the appeal of a single mother with a special needs child, nailing Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home,” which had Lopez bawling like a baby. “I could feel what you were singing, and that’s what music is all about.” (odds for Final 12: 7-1: Single mothers represent a huge AI demographic)
6. Jordan Dorsey (New Orleans): This 21-year-old piano and vocal teacher essayed a “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that had J. Lo talking “goosebumps.” (odds for Final 12: 9-1: Sex appeal and easy-going manner are his strengths)
7. Adrienne Beasley (Nashville): The adopted black daughter of a pair of white farmers is certainly a candidate in this age of Obama. “I hear something special in your voice,” said Steven Tyler. “I’m not quite sure what it is.” (odds for Final 12: 12-1: Her effervescent personality is a plus)
8. Travis Orlando (New Jersey): This 16-year-old from a Bronx family that was living in a homeless shelter, has been compared to Bruno Mars, with versions of “Eleanor Rigby” and Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” that won over the panel (odds for Final 12: 15-1: He’s got that city doo-wop thing down)
9. Jacee Badeaux (New Orleans): The show’s Susan Boyle moment came with this sweet-faced, pudgy 15-year-old Cajun, whose unexpectedly moving cover of “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” had Tyler crowing, “A double helping of ooh yeah.” (odds for Final 12: 20-1: Just as he points to his wrist when singing, “wasting time,” this sleeper is one to watch).
10. Molly DeWolf Swensen (Milwaukee): This willowy blonde Harvard grad with a gig as a White House intern expertly fended the Monica Lewinski/Bill Clinton jokes to earn a Golden Ticket, showing off a nice range. (odds for Final 12: 21-1: Well, at least the Democrats will vote for her…most of ‘em).
RUNNERS-UP: Haley Reinhart (Milwaukee): Curly-haired 18-year-old blonde who had Tyler gaga over her rendition of “Oh Darling”; Scotty McCreery (Milwaukee): A 16-year-old with a basso profundo who made J. Lo “smile” with covers of Josh Turner and Travis Tritt; Thia Megia (Milwaukee): This 15-year-old Asian American has a star name and a winning manor, as she killed Adele’s “Chasing Pavements,” and had J. Lo claiming she was the “total package”; Jerome Bell (Milwaukee): Bar mitzvah singer with soul spurs Randy to admire his “hot, crazy vocals” on Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”; Naima Adedapo (Milwaukee): Summerfest groundskeeper evokes Erykah Badu with African look, crooning Donny Hathaway’s “For All You Know”; Brett Loewenstein (New Orleans): Red-headed 16-year-old has Chris Colfer/Adam Lambert appeal, rocking the panel with a stunning version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Who are your top candidates so far? Have you seen anyone you think can go all the way? What do you think of the above choices? Did we leave anybody out? Did we include someone undeserving. Let’s handicap the field as we go into week three.