A guide to the remaining 12 ‘American Idol’ contestants

[10 March 2008]

By Julie Hinds

Detroit Free Press (MCT)

David Archuleta

David Archuleta

OK, class: “American Idol” is down to 12 singers now, and before they face off Tuesday night, let’s review what we’ve learned so far.

Paula Abdul knows which contestant’s head she wants to squeeze off (watch out, David Archuleta). Chewbacca phoned and wants his hairstyle back (sorry, Amanda Overmyer, your pre-makeover `do was “Star Wars” scary).

Danny Noriega was voted off last week, which means the rest of the season will be considerably duller. Next to Christian Siriano of “Project Runway,” Danny was the fiercest contestant on reality TV.

On a brighter note, Luke Menard was kicked to the curb, too. The high-pitched singer had only one thing going for him: He looked like Matthew Fox of “Lost” crossed with James Van Der Beek of “Dawson’s Creek” fame.

In case you’ve had a life on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and missed the previous “Idol” episodes, here’s a quick look at the flirty dozen who are vying to become the next Jordin Sparks. Remember her “Idol” victory last year? How soon they forget.

David Archuleta, 17: A favorite to win already, the wholesome teen crooner with the bashful grin combines the modesty of past contender Melinda Doolittle with the assured vocals of a pro twice his age. But after only a few weeks, he runs the risk of becoming a cliche for his emotional ballads.

Best moment: Taking John Lennon’s “Imagine” and delivering an interpretation that was distinctive, sophisticated and karaoke-free.

Needs to do next: Choose something peppy, to defy the rap that his songs are too depressing.

Michael Johns, 29: The Australia native looks like a leading man and sounds a little bit like the late Michael Hutchence of INXS. He keeps threatening to break out with a major performance. But so far, he’s coming across as a really good bar band singer, and that won’t get him to the finals.

The problem in a nutshell: When Johns sang “Light My Fire” by the Doors and “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds, he reminded everyone the originals are better.

Needs to do next: Go a little Russell Crowe and show some angry passion.

Carly Smithson, 24: The Irish lass with the major tattoos is a polished performer who probably has the best vocal skills of all the women. But she never makes it look effortless, especially when she tries to go all Celine Dion or Ann Wilson of Heart on a power ballad.

Recent development: The stylists are subtly revamping her look by giving her a softer hairdo.

Secret weapon: Her name sounds right for an “Idol” star. Carly Smithson, Kelly Clarkson ... you get the idea.

Syesha Mercado, 21: Spunky and adorable Syesha could step right into an acting career if the singing thing doesn’t work out. Her charisma makes her a force to reckon with, but her voice isn’t as big as her overall show business potential.

Best advice: Stay away from Whitney Houston hits like “Saving All My Love for You” and choose quirkier, quieter love songs.

Sour note: Choosing “Me and Mrs. Jones” (and changing it to Mr. Jones) came off as gimmicky and revealed her low tones aren’t nearly as appealing as her high ones.

Jason Castro, 20: A drummer from Texas who likes to strum a folksy guitar onstage, Jason has won the hearts of fans with his post-millennium hippie flair and his super-cool dreads. Unlike most “Idol” contestants, he really seems to be doing this for a lark (and that makes him even more fun to watch).

Is it just us? ...: Or does Jason seem to combine the relaxed vibe of fellow Texan Matthew McConaughey with the ironic distance of Bob Dylan?

Surprise moment: When he dropped his laid-back persona and experimented with a poignant version of “Hallelujah” that was almost as nuanced as the Jeff Buckley version of the Leonard Cohen song.

Amanda Overmyer, 23: The motorcycle-loving, raspy belter has made a big impression as a rocker. But what happens once she runs out of songs by Janis Joplin, Joan Jett and Bonnie Tyler? Oh, wait, she can always do “Bette Davis Eyes.”

Unanswered question: Why does Amanda seem more and more uncomfortable with being on the show?

Hair apparent: Now that her streaky, teased-to-the-max `do is being made over, no more comparisons to Pepe Le Pew.

Ramiele Malubay, 20: She’s cute as a button, but don’t be fooled by her petite charm. She’s got a voice as big as a potential winner, if only she can show a little edge and stay away from the warm and fuzzy songs that remind people “Malubay” sounds like “lullaby.”

Needs to do next: Borrow one of Amanda’s tough tunes and give it a whirl.

Most likely to ...: Weep during the results shows.

David Cook, 25: He doesn’t stand out in a crowd - a big problem. Then again, David C. wowed the judges last week with his killer update of Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” If he can do that to a drippy `80s classic, don’t count him out yet.

Best case scenario: He makes it to the final four and pulls a Chris Daughtry by releasing a hit CD.

Worst case scenario: The show’s stylists can’t find a way to improve his hair, which is both awful and indistinct.

David Hernandez, 24: Having survived a mini-scandal, David H. may have to endure a flurry of male stripper jokes from the late-night TV hosts. When he chooses the right song, as he did with “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” he’s a contender. But the wrong songs, like last week’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now,” reveal his weaknesses.

Disadvantage: Being unmemorable in a contest that has three Davids.

Advantage: The hint of scandal should help with the memorable part.

Brooke White, 24: Like sunshine in a bottle, she’s always upbeat. Never before has a singer smiled so perkily through a romantic revenge song like “You’re So Vain.” But if you’re trying to be Carly Simon, it helps to have ravishing hair and miles of gleaming teeth.

Future gig: Simon Cowell is right. She’d be perfect for a dishwashing liquid commercial.

Most likely to ...: Impress the celebrity guest coaches with her attitude.

Chikezie, 22: Chikezie has dropped his last name (Eze) in a quest to be different. His performances have been solid, but he hasn’t unleashed a superstar personality yet. He seems like a nice enough guy. But he’ll need something extra to become a one-name wonder.

Clothes encounter: Simon gave Chikezie a hard time for wearing a splashy suit during his top 24 debut.

Best performance: His soaring “I Believe In My Soul.”

Kristy Lee Cook, 24: Although this isn’t supposed to be a beauty pageant, Kristy has the dewy looks and gentle voice of someone who’s just waiting to be molded into a pop sensation. Already, the judges have practically begged her to go country, the better to capture the Carrie Underwood vote.

Wait for it: It’s almost inevitable that someone will talk her into doing Underwood’s smash hit, “Before He Cheats.”

Note to stylists: No straightening iron for Kristy, please. Keep her curly “Felicity” locks at all costs.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/a-guide-to-the-remaining-12-american-idol-contestants/