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Well.. this week will be a big contrast between who DESERVES to go home and who will ACTUALLY go home.
Based solely on this weeks performance (and not prior good will)
David Cook: He had the best arrangement and most relevant performance of any of the guys so far. And I wasn't initially a fan of his, but he's gotten better each week and this week rose to the very top. It was actually good enough to be a radio hit.
Jason Castro: He was back in his week 1 form. Again, this guy can't really sing much range, but he's the smartest singer (though he comes off as perhaps the dumbest stoner contestant they've ever had in interviews). His arrangement was pretty much the same as Jeff Buckley's and I think in part he was trading off everyone's emotion from that recording, but nevertheless he delivered.
The third best was a toss up between several contestants.. so I am going to go with the very least popular choice possible and say:
Danny Noriega: I realize he's not likable by most here. And he's sort of a loose cannon, but that makes him the most entertaining of all the performers. He just puts it out there like a real artists, rather than a careful tactician (which is how I view Danny A. and Michael Johns who don't have any spontaneity at all.. just focused carefullness). He's also flamboyant and in a season where it's "coming out" that there's several gay contestants, I like that he doesn't shrug from who he is at all. I think if he somehow makes it into the final 12, which is a long shot, he should be over the top because then he'll become the buzz of the final 12. Most of the final 12 are boring boring boring. And in truth, from a pure singing ability point of view, he's one of the strongest singers in the competition. (I can here most of you gagging as you read this).
Luke Menard: If you're going to songs in high falsetto style week after week and you can't even come close to the original, it's going to wear thin. And that's where I am at with this guy. He should have been gone each of the last 2 weeks. Hopefully it will be his turn this time.
Micheal Johns: He may have been a JPF Award winner, but he's gotten worse each week since the pre-finals. It's sad because I know he has a big voice and is capable of being a final contender. It's clear he's getting propped up by the judges (what they thought they heard, I have no idea, it certainly wasn't a fair or accurate assessment of that train wreck performance which was probably the very worst of the night by a pretty large margin.. watch it back and see). He's likely safe into the final 12 based solely on looks and cool factor of being an Aussie. But David Cook made him look like a lame pretender. He should concede the straight rock slot to David C. and find some big open vocals to sing on which are his strength. He's not going to win the rocker title this season (especially when you through the girls in the mix).
David Archuleta: Again, a gasp comes over the readers. I think this is the biggest case of "the emperor has no clothes" I've ever seen on American Idol. The kid is all charismas and no substance. He has no range (at least he hasn't shown any so far) and he sings everything in the same breathy style and it's already really old. BUT.. it's clear that everyone on the planet wants to crown him king. He leads the AOL voting. He's clearly being pushed hard by the judges and the media. But if you just listen to the audio without watching him, he's not nearly as good as people make him out to be as a singer. I will grant you he's a cute disney-like figure, and it looks like style is going to win over substance. He'll easily breeze to the final 4 at least based on hype. The only ones with a shot at taking him down are likely on the girls side. But let's be honest, this performance was about as Ho-Hum as it gets. I do give him credit for not choosing the most cheesy Phil Collins song. Thank god for that.
Danny Hernandez: He's got a great voice.. but he's boring. The controversy probably won't help him much either. He could easily be gone this week as someone who is all substance (i.e. vocal range) and no style. (how's that for irony).
Chikezie Eze: I liked his song choice and he took a song that was written for a female and made it sound like a song made for a male. That's something David Hernandez didn't do (nor did Luke Menard.. though I guess technically Wham was male).
Now, with all that said, here's the reality. This round is never about who are actually the best singers. It's all a popularity contest at this point. And there's 3 candidates to go home, irrelevent of their peformances.
Danny Noriega, Chikezie and Luke Menard. Most likely it will be Luke and Danny N. The show will be less interesting with him gone. I wouldn't be overly shocked for Chikezie or even David Hernandez to fall either. They keep talking about this being the best season ever, but I think it's really the most hyped ever. True, they don't have anyone left who can't sing at all like they have every previous year. But they do have some really boring finalists who sing well but you could care less about them minutes later. And they have some front runners (David A and Jason C.) who have, in truth, no real range on their vocals.
Let's see if the women can step it up some. Or if it will also just come down to popularity. If so, Kristi Lee Cook and Amanda are in big trouble.