Last night on American Idol, we met 14 of the Top 24 finalists who will start singing for your votes next week.  As usual, with the "Green Mile" episodes, there were some huge surprises (Lauren Gray going home???? Really, AI?).  But some of the early favorites, including two country gals, sailed through to the live performance show with flying colors.  Our American Idol expert, Steve Thompson, offers up his full analysis of the finalists we've seen thus far . . . and even ranks them in order of worst to best!  Take a look!

From Steve Thompson:

  • As I was watching the final audition process for the 42 remaining contestants, it appeared that each singer was crossing over islands on a body of water.  I couldn't figure out why this looked familiar, until that proverbial light dawned...  Somebody got their inspiration from Wii Golf!  Yeah, it's just a theory.
  • According to my figures, we were shown fifteen of the twenty-four who were chosen.  Here are my thoughts on these fifteen-- from worst to first.
  • 15.  Brielle Von Hugel sang Killing Me Softly with His Song.  I'm fairly certain neither Roberta Flack nor Don McLean would've recognized this version.  Frankly, I haven't been that impressed with what I've heard from her so far in this competition.  I seem to remember her stage mother more than her.
  • 14.  Adam Brock sang You Don't Know Me.  Sometimes I've liked his style and other times I've found myself cringing.  He sounds more controlled to me when he leaves the angsty shouting at the door.  He could be better than we've seen simply because the editor has all the control.
  • 13.  Phil Phillips sang Nice and Slow.  On the basis of this song alone, I wouldn't have placed him in the final 24.  However, the judges obviously take into account all the other performances and he was very good in the group rounds.  We'll see.
  • 12.  Haley Johnsen was barely shown except for her final decision from the judges.  On the basis of her group rounds, I'd say she has a possibility of being close to the final 12.
  • 11.  Chelsea Sorrells sang I Told You So.  Evidently, she went blank on the words and Steven asked her to start over and try again.  I didn't see this happen with anyone else at this stage, so I'm left to think that she may be country's dark horse in this year's competition.
  • 10.  Creighton Fraker sang New York State of Mind.  So now we know that he's adopted and his adoptive father is a minister.  His real father is the lead vocalist of the group Flotsam & Jetsam.  (Those of you older than me: I promise I'm not making the name up.)  Decent version, but someone else did the song with more heart and soul...
  • 09.  Joshua Ledet has been very impressive in the Hollywood and Vegas rounds.  I wouldn't be shocked if he ends up with a Jacob Lusk kind of run once the audience begins voting.
  • 08.  Baylie Brown seems to be the female that most commentators believe has the best shot at re-establishing a woman as the winner of Idol this year.  She sang Here Comes Goodbye.  Will she go the distance like Lauren Alaina last year?  Hard to say. 
  • 07.  Heejun Han sang New York State of Mind.  He sang it better than Creighton and showed more heart and soul in his interpretation.  Am I a believer yet?  Well, he's been better than expected every time I hear him.  Time and the voters will tell.  (Note to production staff: Hey Jude is a bit of a stretch for Heejun.)
  • 06.  Reed Grimm sang It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing.  He's definitely different and undeniably quirky.  Not sure if I want to hear a drummer every week, but he gives off a certain jazzy vibe that may well be close to Casey Abrams, but will he play in Peoria?
  • 05.  Jen Hirsch has been one of my favorites so far this year.  Her version of Baby I Love You was probably not her best possible song choice of her year thus far, but she has done very well on every other song I've heard her sing.
  • 04.  Colton Dixon sang Fix You.  As a huge fan of Coldplay, I'd have to say that this was a very emotional rendering of one of the best songs written this century.  Not a big fan of Colton, but I felt he did the song justice and sang it in a manner that did not copy Chris Martin, but added his own style to it. 
  • 03.  Jessica Sanchez sang The Prayer.  I thought this was a terrific performance and was pleasantly surprised at how she knocked the song out of the proverbial park.  I honestly hadn't thought of her in the final 24 at all-- but on the basis of this performance, I can see why she's there. 
  • 02.  Erika Van Pelt sang Don't You Remember.  I'm not sure what the judges were smoking at the time, but this was second only to Adele.  I'm not shocked that J Lo dissed the performance (see Reinhart, Haley-- all of last season.)  This was terrific.  More evidence that J Lo will not support any female singer who can outsing her.
  • 01.  Elise Testone sang It's a Man's World.  I recognize this James Brown song has become rather popular in talent shows over the last few years, but this girl did a wonderful job.  We haven't seen much of her, but now I know why she has so many fans.
  • For those of you unfamiliar with this stage of my thought process, these are not predictions about the final outcome-- just my impression about what the producers allowed us to hear.  (In other words, do not take these notes to your Vegas bookie just yet.) 
  • Thursday night we'll see the rest. 

@February 22, 2012  Stephen W Thompson