The field is set!  While Paula Abdul is making 911 calls about being trapped in a Mercedes, the new and improved American Idol is setting the stage for its best season in years!  Thirteen Idol hopefuls remain and next week they go toe-to-toe and face weekly eliminations!  Our Idol expert Steve Thompson handicaps the Top 13 for you and shares who's in it to win it and who will end up singing farewell songs!

From Steve Thompson:  First and foremost a hearty thank you to America for getting it mostly right tonight.  These were definitely the top six guys and the top six girls in my opinion.  Wait a minute!  Steve, they chose thirteen.

Once again, in the immortal words of Joe E Lewis from the film Some Like It Hot : "nobody's perfect!"

I actually thought Lauren Turner deserved a shot over Karen Rodriguez.  I loved the way Lauren sang and her personality sounded like she could be a lot of fun over the next twelve weeks.  Oh well.  I guess it helps to sing part of your song in Spanish when JLo is a judge.  (I'm talkin' to you, Stefano Langone!)

All seriousness aside, I'm attempting something many of the other Idol blogers seem to do on a weekly basis-- and something I've generally declined to do previously.  As it stands tonight, I'm attempting to place the thirteen in order from current leaders to cannon fodder.  We'll try from worst to first-- simply because that's the way I roll.

13) Stefano Langone: He sang Bruno Mars well, but currently my least favorite. 

12) Karen Rodriguez: I hope she's not going back to the english/spanish bag of tricks every week.  I can see the headline now if she survives: Is America ready for a bilingual idol?

11) Ashthon Jones:  If we can keep her away from dance divas that those of us into country and rock have never heard of, she may come up in this poll.

 10) Haley Reinhart: I happen to like the growl in her voice.  No real reason-- I just think that's the way she sings.  Where is it written that all idols must have similar voices?  I mean, other than in Nigel Lythgoe's office.

 09) Thia Megia:  Such is the nature of reality television that you can be on America's Got Talent and not win; therefore, you can go on Idol and not win.  Simon said recently people who didn't make it on Idol are welcome to try out for X Factor.  Hmmm.

 08) Jacob Lusk:  I really want to like this guy better than I currently do, but the overemoting (spellcheck?  anybody?)  is getting a bit of contrivance behind it.  He could easily catch fire with the public and win-- especially if Jimmy Iovine convinces him not to listen to Randy Jackson.

 07) Naima Adeadapo:  I like the fact that Steven Tyler was given the job to tell Naima she made it in as a wild card.  While I still miss Lauren Turner, I do appreciate Naima's jazzy take on music.  If we're in those bloody themes again this year, she may be gone in a flash.

06) James Durbin:  In my mind, I didn't have him ranked very high until he pulled out a Judas Priest song to cover and stayed withiin the boundaries of the song rather than trying to till unbroken land.  Still not sure if he can color within the lines, but some of our best singers have never met a boundary they didn't want to cross.

 05) Paul McDonald: Something about his voice has a mesmerizing quality.  I'm not sure what it is-- it's the kind of style a Van Morrison might have.  (You either love Van Morrison or you don't-- I'm a fan.)  As always, his next song choices may tell us more about how worthy he is to be in the top five.  There's a cool duet he has on youtube with Kendra Chantelle of one of his own songs.

 04) Lauren Alaina:  She doesn't have to win for this to be a good stepping stone for her future.  When was the last time we were all sure of that this early in the process?  The pimpage has got to go-- but I honestly believe her youth is more charming than affected (so far.)

 03) Scott McCreery:  Now that we know he sings more than the Josh Turner catalogue, it could be interesting to see how he fares if other genres are involved in these theme weeks. 

 02) Casey Abrams:  I like his musicianship and his showmanship.  So far, I've appreciated his song choices.  Hope he continues to do well and avoids becoming Taylor Hicks 2.0

 01)  Pia Toscano: Usually, I vote for the female I like the most.  In year one, of course, I voted for Kelly right out of the box.  She just seemed like she had the most potential.  Well, ten years after (Alvin Lee? Anybody?)  I find myself thinking the same thing about Pia.  Evidently, my dark horse has been discovered by the rest of America.

 That's what I think today-- but this could all change drastically by next week. 

 In the words of Walter Brennan: no brag, just fact.

 @March 3, 2011  Stephen W Thompson