While American Idol may have arrived at its Top 10 finalists a week early thanks to a little controversy, the moment has arrived and it's kind of a big deal. Not only do the top 10 singers get to participate in Idol's summer tour, but their placement here signals one very important factor: the heat is on. Naturally, the way to process all the pressure is to add more by ranking them.
Here they are, from the folks who need a record deal already to the kids whose dreams just aren't working out.
This guy is hands down, the most inspiring singer on that stage. While every contestant has bumps here and there, Joshua has not once delivered a performance that made us question his talent. He's it - I'd call it his "x factor" but I think Simon Cowell would be a little miffed. Joshua may be a preacher's son who nailed singing gospel music, but it's clear that training hasn't pigeonholed him, but instead, it's given him an incredible boost: his performances are practically a religious experience. Regardless of whether or not you love his tone, he turns his audience into believers. When he sings, no matter who you are, you feel it.
The San Diego native could top this list if she put herself in check a bit - and I'm not referring to her voice. While her talent alone could send her straight to the top, it's clear that her overwhelming confidence - which is perfect for the stage - can cloud her judgement. On March 14, she chose to perform "Turn the Beat Around" a song that did absolutely nothing for her voice, in fact, it worked against it. The result was an undoubtedly powerful set of pipes duking it out with the bump of the 90s hit. And when Ryan Seacrest asked her about it, she absolved herself of guilt, blaming the year of her birth instead of accepting that she has some need for improvement. Sweetie, your bravado is what got you here, but it could also be what keeps you from taking your performance from "great" to "amazing."
Talk about a trooper. He may the only person to have ever performed so well after having kidney surgery; it happened mere days before his March 14 performance. No matter what he's singing - or in what condition he's singing - Phillip always comes out swinging. He could be dying inside, but he still manages to make it look easy. While his almost 90s vocal tone runs the risk of losing him the competition, there are ways to make it work for contemporary music; it's a challenge, but if Phillip has proved anything, it's that challenges are his speciality.
If it wasn't for the overwhelming, soul-crushing voices on some of the other top contestants, I might pick this little firecracker to win it all. Like Joshua, she's not faltered a single time. Skylar always bursts onto the stage, taking on songs no one says she tackle and she kills it almost every time. Plus, she's got the cute, lovable personality to boot. Watching her stick up to Jimmy Iovine and Wil.I.Am about doing the song she had her heart set on instead of the ones they had lined up was refreshing: she really knows who she is and who she wants to be as an artist. She's practically pre-packaged for the Country music scene.
Like Jessica, Deandre showed a bit of his immaturity this week. (But they're 16 and 17, respectively, so it's not so unlikely.) And like Jessica, he's got raw, natural talent. In truth, that's the only real complaint with this kid - he's fantastic and his voice is this Maxwellian, light and buttery treat. If it wasn't for Season 11's formidable crop of talent, he'd be higher up on this list. They're just all so, so good.
Like his Warped Tour sound and aesthetic or not, Colton has got it going on - for his genre that is. He has some pitch issues, but for the most part he's got his market cornered. His potential for winning can go one of two ways: he's either significantly popular with a very vocal set of viewers and he'll last for a while until America craves a more generic winner. Or, he'll win because America loves emo rockers.
Hollie is immensely talented. The enormous voice she's carrying around on that tiny, pixie frame of hers in mind boggling. But she needs a little work to learn how to balance that voice with her tiny stature. As great as her performances are, it almost seems like she's about to topple under the weight of her own talent. She needs to get her bearings on stage and tighten up that pitch issue, but all in all, she's a great singer.
The problem with Elise is that she hasn't shown us who she really is yet, and that might be because she's not sure which side she wants to show. She's got a really great, raspy tone and when she hits her sweet spots - which are generally the grooviest moments in whatever song she's tackling - she's on it. The problem is that she seems a little unsure onstage and the result is that she sometimes zigs when she should zag. In a lineup of great, diverse voices, she's going to need to figure that out or face the chopping block.
As great as she is, she still suffers from an issue none of the judges bother to point out: she's an over-singer. She comes right out of the gate with guns a-blazing and by the time the song reaches it's big finish, the song itself is doing all the work. It's a matter of dynamics. She hasn't yet mastered the ability to soften certain parts of her performance in order to make the big moments matter more. No matter what part of the song she hits, it's always big and blasting. There's a way to be a rocker chick and still work in some dynamics, just ask Janis Joplin. And if Erika doesn't figure that out, the audience may never figure her out.
Heejun's voice is beautiful and there's not one second this whole season that I haven't thought, "I love this kid." And that's why it pains me to say this: it's Heejun's time to go. He's a notch above castoff Jeremy Rosado in that he simply lends more heart to his sweet, endearing voice, but in the end, he's just not up to par with these other singers. Still, he's a fan favorite, so he's not in nearly as much trouble as Erika and Elise.
Do you think Heejun could go home? Can Joshua win the competition or his popularity too low? Let us know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler.