Ranking the Top Ten 'Idol' finishers

Since this uneven season of "American Idol" has now reached the top ten plateau, it's time to officially handicap the chances each contestant has of winning it all.

Given this truly oddball collection of entertainers, predicting is by no means an exact science. (Compare it to past seasons when Carrie Underwood and Fantasia Barrino emerged as the favorites from the time they opened their mouths.)

Tuesday's show did however offer enough information to start winnowing the standouts from the dropouts. To be fair, the Lilith Fair/"Glee"/frat party contingent that makes up this season's cast didn't exactly scream "rhythm and blues." But coupled with mentor Usher predominantly offering excellent advice, the evening proved to be inspiring -- made even more so based on last week's abysmal telecast.

Siobhan Magnus (performing Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire”)

Wow, Magnus tanked. For the first time, the talented, idiosyncratic and just plain nutty Magnus seemed completely out of her element. Worse, she never managed to get in tune. As someone who generally appeared capable of winning the competition a few weeks ago, this outing denoted a giant, space-booted step backward. But one never can tell. Like a crazy ex-girlfriend, she might stick around longer than expected.

Most favorable outlook: third place.

Casey James (Sam and Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin’”)

Yes, he’s dreamy. Sure, he already carries himself like a rock star. No doubt, he’s arguably the best lead guitarist to ever strut his pentatonic chops as a contestant. But ... there’s something really forgettable about James. Perhaps it’s because there are a hundred guys like him making their living on the club circuit.

Most favorable outlook: fourth place.

Michael Lynche (India.Arie’s “Ready for Love”)

Big Mike Lynche is surprisingly nimble, both in his delivery and his musicianship. He’s also consistently strong, never offering anything short of professional. But Lynche is also old-fashioned. Unsurprising. In certain respects, uninteresting.

Most favorable outlook: fifth place.

Didi Benami (Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”)

I love Benami -- and not just because she’s a former swimsuit model. No, I think she is a really distinctive artist who is capable of amazing moments when she finds the perfect song. Unfortunately, after tonight’s performance, it’s unlikely that song will ever materialize for her. Benami just doesn’t get what makes (made) her intriguing. And no amount of prodding by host Ryan Seacrest to reveal the backstory behind her weepiness will help her out much. It’s not melodrama she’s in need of; it’s melodies.

Most favorable outlook: sixth place.

Tim Urban (Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love”)

The anti-“Idol” Web site Vote for the Worst announced this week that Tim "Teflon" Urban had tied infamous hack Sanjaya Malakar as the contestant who’d spent the most weeks (seven) as the site’s faux choice. If nothing else, his labored version of “Sweet Love” offered the four judges their best material of the season, with Randy Jackson calling him a singing waiter, Ellen Degeneres pointing out the drinking game associated with his “adorable” demeanor , Kara DioGuardi talking about his soul sucking and Simon Cowell saying it’s irrelevant how he sings because the moronic audience will vote for him anyway. Yeah, maybe ...

Most favorable outlook: seventh place.

Andrew Garcia (Chris Brown’s “Forever”)

A strong frontrunner at the beginning of the season, Garcia has watched his stock plummet with each successive appalling song choice. Tonight he finally scored with a perfect rendition of a tune immortalized in that JK Wedding Entrance Dance on YouTube (46 million views and counting). The soulful singer may not be able to win the show, but at least he saved himself from getting voted off too early.

Most favorable outlook: fifth place.

Katie Stevens (Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”)

Showtime. Encore. If you’re not from around Lawrence, these references won’t hold the same significance. But, to elucidate, Stevens is a high school girl who got lucky. She’s poised and professional, and could probably pass for a frumpy graduate student with the right lighting, but she is by no means an artist to be taken seriously. Time for her to go back to school and land the lead in the high school musical -- not to be confused with “High School Musical.”

Most favorable outlook: eighth place.

Lee Dewyze (Better than “Treat Her Like a Lady”)

I gotta give Dewyze some credit. I initially dismissed him as a Dave Matthews/Jack Johnson knock-off. And in some respects he is. But he’s also a better pure singer than either of those gentlemen. His delivery of the 1971 Cornelius Brothers single put his fellow contestants to shame. Dewyze is easy to root for because he seems to have no ego. And it’s a no brainer to figure out what kind of genre he wants to make a living from.

Most favorable outlook: winner

Crystal Bowersox (Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia”)

As good as she is -- and she is very good -- there is something distant about Bowersox. Remote. Aloof. I get the impression there is a sizeable part of her personality that just doesn’t care about “American Idol.” How else to explain the fact she still wears those dreadlocks, which is about the least flattering hairstyle a white girl can sport. I can smell the patchouli from here. That little hint of detachment may be what separates her from winner and runner-up.

Most favorable outlook: second place.

Aaron Kelly (Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”)

This kid is good. But he’s still just a kid. He also proved with his version of the Bill Withers classic that he’s no Kris Allen. (Last year’s winner blew him away with a rendition of the same minimalist classic.) But Kelly could go a long stretch on the strength of the pre-teen vote. It’s not that he’s cute -- as in a David Archuleta way -- just that he’s unthreatening. No neck tattoos for this dude. If only he would have been around a decade ago, then he could have landed the Justin Timberlake slot in a boy band.

Most favorable outlook: third place.

As for this week‘s results, here’s the most likely outcome:

Bottom three: Tim Urban, Katie Stevens and Didi Benami.

Going home: All three have about an equal shot of going home, but since I have to whittle it down to one, I'll go with Tim Urban. He's not deservedly bad enough to take sole possession of Sanjaya's Vote for the Worst streak.


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