There are two main questions to address when considering who will become the American Idol Season 11 finalists: Which of the 25 semifinalists have the chops or potential fan support to make the cut? And, just how many finalists are there going to be anyway? Answers will come in Thursday's two-hour results show (8/7c, Fox).
In seasons past, a Top 12 has been traditional in the finals, but Idol has been playing fast and loose with its saves and trying to upset the format in the face of increasing competition and dwindling viewership. Seasons 8 and 10 boasted a Top 13, which is what we'll work with for our predictions here. But don't be surprised if Idol decides to do something goofy, like inflate the number to 14 or 15 and then announce a required bloodbath the first elimination week.
American Idol semifinals recap: Ladies' night!
7. Joshua Ledet - His biggest competition, Aaron Marcellus, is a highly creditable and mature singer, so it could have gone either way. But we feel that Joshua has the bigger, showier voice that we'd love to hear tackle a Motown song. His voice, after all, made J.Lo want to punch him. That's passion!
8. Chase Likens - Bring on the country! Although Phil is the better singer in that vaguely country field, Chase is a crowd-pleaser and brings a smiling, "aw shucks" energy to his performances. He's just happy to be here, y'all!
9. Shannon Magrane - This tall blonde could have fallen into anonymity among the "allies," but besides being named Shannon, she was wise to choose the gospel-y "Carry Your Candle" for the semis. It definitely set her apart from the other performances and gave viewers at home a respite from yet another country song or Adele cover.
10. Phil Phillips - This Georgia boy is undeniably talented and offers a growly take on just about everything. His voice is his trademark and will no doubt set many voters' hearts aflutter and fingers a-dialing. In short, his very competent singing ability is enhanced by that quality that makes him mesmerizing to watch, especially when he does that slo-mo leg lift. (What is that?)
11. Jessica Sanchez - Thank God for Jessica. We won't be confusing her with any of the other female contestants this season, and we're not just talking about her looks. This little girl has a big voice and an onstage confidence to match. Singing "Love You I Do" was a pretty ambitious choice, but we were delighted by every soaring note and trumpet-playing finger flutter on the mic.
12. Elise Testone - OK, OK, judges. We get it. You hope America "gets" how unique Elise is, and after outdoing Jen Hirsch's "One and Only," it's clear who won in the battle of the Adele covers. We admit not paying too much attention to Elise in earlier rounds, but her piano playing and wailing vocals gave us something to perk up for at the end of the semis. Well played.
13. Brielle Von Hugel - We have no clue why the judges were so gung-ho about Brielle's brash and overwrought version of "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay." To us it was as annoying as her stage mom and really showed her immature reading of a nuanced song. But there is no denying that she made it hers and will probably draw a lot of supporters with her in-your-face attitude.
What do you think of our dirty baker's dozen? Who did we miss? Who should we have cut?