'American Idol' Top 12 Power Rankings

American Idol

It's been all fun and games until now, but starting this week "American Idol" gets serious. This Wednesday's eliminations will be the most heartbreaking yet, as the two that are sent home don't get to participate on the "American Idol" tour.

Didi Benami

Strengths: Didi has a beautiful voice in the classic singer-songwriter mode and there's something about her lack of confidence over her talent that is charming.

Weaknesses: God, stop crying! You want people to vote for you, not to worry about your emotional fragility each week. (See: Brooke White.) And while Didi will certainly be able to sing a lovely ballad week after week, she's going to have to really change it up to make an impact in voters' minds: think on the scale of when Carrie Underwood sang "Alone."

Where She Will Finish: 7

Where She Should Finish: 5

next: Crystal Bowersox

next: Lacey Brown

Crystal Bowersox

Strengths: Crystal is by far the best singer in the group, and her poise on stage can be attributed to one of two things: she's an experienced performer, or she doesn't really care about winning "American Idol." Her attitude towards the show -- did she really only think 3 million viewers watch it every week? -- is refreshing compared to other stagemom'd and fame conscious contestants and it puts her in the good position of being the favorite and the underdog at the same time.

Weaknesses: She's been the favorite from the outset: and the favorite from the outset never wins. (Hi, Chris Daughtry! Hi, Melinda Doolittle!) In broad terms, she's also a rocker chick -- and it's a category that has never won: Allison Iraheta only made it to fourth place last year.

Where She Will Finish: 4

Where She Should Finish: 1

next: Lacey Brown

next: Lee Dewyze

Lacey Brown

Strengths: By far the most fashion-forward of the contestants, Lacey is willing to take risks with her song choices. This kind of confidence in her versatility would serve her well during theme weeks.

Weaknesses: Lacey tends to approach singing in key as a suggestion, not a mandate. She needs to take a step back and figure out what range she's comfortable in, and then only sing songs in that range. If it means tweaking the arrangement, so be it. Odds are the judges will praise her for it and call her original. She also apparently likes Creed.

Where She Will Finish: 12

Where She Should Finish: 8

next: Lee Dewyze

next: Andrew Garcia

Lee Dewyze

Strengths: Rock guy! Everybody loves the rock guy! There have been several itinerations of rock guy over the past few "American Idol" seasons: from Chris Daughtry to David Cook to Adam Lambert -- but they all have one thing in common: they finish in the top five. In part, I think this is because rock guy always gets to sing the evening's most fun, recognizable songs -- and they can pick winners from almost any decade.

Weaknesses: Lee does have some pitch problems now and then, although it's never anything too egregious. He also apparently likes Hinder.

Where He Will Finish: 2

Where He Should Finish: 4

next: Andrew Garcia

next: Casey James

Andrew Garcia

Strengths: Has a unique, instantly recognizable tone to his voice, and he isn't afraid to change the arrangements to show off his guitar skills.

Weaknesses: Is already being labeled as "the one with wasted potential." In part, this is the judges' fault: they hyped him up too much during Hollywood Week -- but Andrew seems to be flailing when it comes to song choice. He needs to quickly move beyond being the guy-that-does-acoustic versions of female pop artists into something that's edgy with a little more, you know, edge.

Where He Will Finish: 11

Where He Should Finish: 7

next: Casey James

next: Aaron Kelly

Casey James

Strengths: He's hot -- and he's got plenty of screen time since the early rounds with Kara DioGuardi drooling all over him. In my admittedly unscientific, but "American Idol"-savant memory, those who get big screen time over the months and months that the show runs wind up doing very well. He plays guitar well and that could help him transition between rock and country songs.

Weaknesses: Casey has the goat vibrato thing going on. Some may find it charming; others (like me) think it sounds like nails on the chalkboard. At 27, he may be a wee bit too old for the teenage girls that speed dial college-aged cuties like Kris Allen and David Cook to victory.

Where He Will Finish: 3

Where He Should Finish: 6

next: Aaron Kelly

next: Michael Lynche

Aaron Kelly

Strengths: Lookit him! Don't you want to pinch those cheeks!

Weaknesses: Oh, he's just so young. So, so young. While I thought Kara DioGuardi's critique last week that he shouldn't sing songs about life experiences outside his own were off base, I do think he needs to reinvent himself in Justin Bieber mode stat. Tim Urban is quickly stealing that demo away from him. Aaron should stick to only singing songs that the editors of Tiger Beat would select for him.

Where They Will Finish: 8

Where They Should Finish: 10

next: Michael Lynche

next: Siobhan Magnus

Michael Lynche

Strengths: Michael has had massive amounts of screen time and throughout has been a genial and charismatic addition to the show. He should teach tutorials to future "Idol" contestants on how to banter with Ryan Seacrest and the judges and not sound like an ass. And, perhaps least significant but maybe most importantly -- Michael's from the south. Some have derided the myth of the southern "Idol" voting block as paranoia, but since the only winner that wasn't from the south was Arizonan Jordin Sparks -- I'd say the evidence is stacked in Big Mike's favor. C'mon, he missed the birth of his child for this, he better win.

Weaknesses: He's set himself up as such a smooth, confident R&B guy that I'm afraid some of the theme weeks could hurt him. Big Band Night? Shudder.

Where He Will Finish: 1

Where He Should Finish: 3

next: Siobhan Magnus

next: Paige Miles

Siobhan Magnus

Strengths: Dang, that one note at the end of her version of Aretha Franklin's "Think" improved everyone's opinion of her and catapulted her into one of the favorites of the competition. Siobhan has a strong voice and obviously is versatile enough to sing anything from R&B to rock to country.

Weaknesses: To use the terminology of my older relatives -- girl's a bit daft. Admittedly, daft can get you very far in the music industry (look no further than Jessica Simpson or, well, Paula Abdul) but as Kris's victory over Adam Lambert last season proves, being labeled as weird on this competition could mean that you'll be shown the door.

Where She Will Finish: 5

Where She Should Finish: 2

next: Paige Miles

next: Katie Stevens

Paige Miles

Strengths: Paige is just out-of-the-box gifted: she has a lovely voice and you can tell in the behind-the-scenes interviews that she's a fun woman to hang around.

Weaknesses: Her main problem, however, is trying to translate that personality to the screen. In a parallel universe -- on a different competitive karaoke reality show, or something -- Paige would do aces based on her voice, but "American Idol" is 90% a TV show and 10% a singing competition. Her warbly version of "Smile" was supremely well-intentioned as a tribute to Michael Jackson, but she didn't have the strength to convey that on camera. I think she made it through last week as part of a "nice try" sympathy vote. That sentiment won't last much longer.

Where She Will Finish: 10

Where She Should Finish: 11

next: Katie Stevens

next: Tim Urban

Katie Stevens

Strengths: Looks like a Disney princess. Also, the teenage girls who vote will rally to support someone their own age.

Weaknesses: Katie has to mature as a performer right quick. She can't lose her composure in the middle of singing when she knows it isn't going well. One of the unspoken hardest elements of this show is that it is live TV, and vocal bobbles can become trainwrecks in a split second, as it did in her version of Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway."

Where She Will Finish: 9

Where She Should Finish: 12

next: Tim Urban

Tim Urban

Strengths: Besides Tim's abs of steel, he actually has one of the most compelling backstories in the competition -- and the longer he stays in, the more compelling the backstory becomes. He's the guy who wasn't supposed to be here -- he was called in as a last minute replacement when the producers bounced Chris Golightly. So far, he's improved his performance a teeny bit each week, which could bode well for the future. And Twitter just goes damn insane over him after each performance, so he has a fan base already.

Weaknesses: Incremental improvements each week won't win you 'American Idol' and the fan base has to extend beyond 12-year-old girls. (I call this the David Archuleta theory.)

Where He Will Finish: 6

Where He Should Finish: 9


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