American Idol Season 13’s Top 15 Guys … I Think
They’re all the same.
That’s what kept going through my head as I wrote down my list of guys I liked to move on to the Top 15 in American Idol. There aren’t a lot of distinct voices in this group. Take Ryan Nesbitt out of the equation and all these guys are as unique as blue jeans.
This breakdown is going to end up being wildly inaccurate because of the guitars. There is no way in hell the producers let 10 guys with guitars in. White or black, it doesn’t matter. It’s. Not. Gonna. Happen.
From what we’ve seen, they should. There aren’t many singers who really stood out and if you want a good show, who do you take – good singer with no guitar, or good singer with guitar? You want someone who brings more to the competition. A singer is going to do straight covers (unless they’re a genius like Adam Lambert) and that gets boring quick.
That means there are going to be some very good contestants who don’t make the cut. At least three of the guys I cut from my list shocked me. There are names I didn’t even write down solely because in the ranks of WGWG, they were so low I couldn’t see them getting in.
So with that all said, here goes nothing. Our picks, by category, not rank:
1) Savion Wright
BRIEFLY: All-around talent. I wasn’t blown away by his audition. It was good, but it didn’t make me jump out of my seat. It was perfect because it was just a tease as to what he could bring to the table.
STRENGTHS: His musical background seems legit and that gives him a step up on other contestants. Producers need guys who aren’t WGWG.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: He goes up to sing without an instrument and the judges realize his voice sounds worse on its own.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: Perfect contestant – not out of central casting, has musical talent, a good enough voice and seems nice enough that he’ll survive Group Night.
2) Spencer Lloyd
BRIEFLY: Hunk city. This guy is too good-looking not to be on the show. Audition was strong, it was Idol-centric and he’s going to have a following going into the Top 15.
STRENGTHS: Seriously? Did you see the kid? Like Connick said, he’s an OK singer, but his value is in his ability to keep people watching. And every straight female is going to watch because of this guy.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: He does Group Night with girls, hooks up with one, flirts with another and all hell breaks loose, the group sucks and he gets cut.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: He’s the perfect contestant because he is right out of central casting.
3) Ryan Nisbett
BRIEFLY: I want to punch him in the face. Hipster shit pisses me off to no end. But I’m not going to deny his talent. His voice is the only unique one we’ve heard from the guys.
STRENGTHS: He seems to know what fits his voice. Expect a lot of ballads and easy listening and if he makes it, expect a mountain of support from entertainment reporters, who love guys who go against the norm.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: Turns out only being able to sing coffee house music doesn’t work when the judges ask you to do a sing-off using a fast-paced Motown song.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: He’s got the best mustache.
4) David Luning
BRIEFLY: This guy is doing Idol just for fun. He figured his audition might get on TV, he could play his music, maybe get a few people to buy a CD on his MySpace page and go on living his life. He’s going to end up being the contestant the judges get annoyed with because he’s not going to listen to a single thing they say.
STRENGTHS: He’s an artist. He knows what kind of music he wants to play and knows how to play it. When he gets forced to play shitty pop songs, he’s going to turn them into a masterpiece.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: He’s an artist. He knows what kind of music he wants to play and knows how to play it. When he gets forced to play shitty pop songs, he’s going to tell everyone to get fucked.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: Take away the guitar and he might have the best voice of the WGWG. The gruffness plays well on the show and once he gets cleaned up, he could be in for a Bowersox-esque run.
THE FORMER CONTESTANTS
5) David Oliver Willis
BRIEFLY: The show has an uncanny ability of realizing when it fucked up. When Josiah Leming got booted out of the Top 12 (or whatever it was) Simon Cowell all but said they fucked up. The kid would have been back the next year, but he signed a record contract instead. Producers are more than aware of Nicki Minaj screwed DOW over. They won’t let it happen twice.
STRENGTHS: His talents are perfect for the show; he isn’t a one-genre type of performer. You can see him doing soft smooth Stevie Wonder covers, but you could also see him knock out Justin Bieber’s “Baby” and win everyone over.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: In the upset of the century, Nicki Minaj proved to know she knew what she was talking about.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: He was too close to making it last year to at least not make it this far. Barring an epic collapse, it’s hard to see him not getting to the Top 15 guys.
6) Neco Starr
BRIEFLY: Loved this guy two years ago. Was shocked he didn’t get through then. His audition didn’t go well, but he knows the game and what it takes to get through each portion of the show.
STRENGTHS: Proven entity. It’s easier for producers to package than someone who has equal talent but lacks the story or background. He’s a modern male singer and the show’s been dying for one to come on and actually succeed.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: He’s a bad Bruno Mars ripoff.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: That experience shouldn’t be overlooked. He knows when he needs to take it to the next level and with the type of singer he is, that should get him here.
7) Caleb Johnson
BRIEFLY: Country/Southern music needs a male representative and he brings it. He’s got the gruff/soul thing working and his version is better than the other guys who were using it.
STRENGTHS: That Southern rock voice goes a long way and gives songs a different sound. That’s huge in auditions and is why we always see one guy get through who we never thought would.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: He forgets the words. Again.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: Forgetting the words in a final audition is as close to literally shitting yourself on stage as you can get. There’s no way he’s letting that happen again.
THE ROLE FILLERS
8) TK Hash
BRIEFLY: “Carlton Banks” – And that’s what the show needs so it doesn’t have every spot filled with smelly white dudes doing Coldplay covers.
STRENGTHS: Solid, versatile voice (unless they have “Metallica Week”), easy-to-like personality. When he gets kick off, the other contestants will be legit sad about it.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: Judges take Tyler Marshall and his big booming voice instead.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: He’s too perfect a candidate not to get this position. I can’t see a trouble in any of the typical formats of Hollywood Week and barring an unseen contestant outshining him, he’ll be here.
9) Alex Preston
BRIEFLY: “The Misunderstood Artist” – He doesn’t look like Spencer Lloyd, doesn’t sound like David Luning, but he’s an underdog. And America loves hot dogs, apple pies and underdogs.
STRENGTHS: Seems like he’s the most musically inclined of the bunch. That got Casey Abrams deep into the show and should work in his favor, provided he doesn’t get all cocky and arrogant about it and start doing weird songs that no one has heard of.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: Misunderstood artists rarely do well without their instrument.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: He was almost in the No-Brainer category, but his voice isn’t as good as Luning. I really like him here because I think if he gets to live shows, his arrangements will be the best we’ve seen since Lambert.
10) CJ Jones
BRIEFLY: “The Quirky Guy,” aka “The Weirdo,” aka “The Guy Who Might Be Gay But Nobody Is Gonna Talk About It So Let’s Just Call Him Quirky” – His voice was terrific. His look is gonna confuse old white women and make the bible-thumpers angry.
STRENGTHS: He’s the second-best NGS (no guitar singer) behind Ryan Nesbitt. His audition was funny – he made Connick stand next to him during “Stand By Me” – and his uniqueness is in his look, even if it’s only unique to American Idol and not Brooklyn, Portland or any other hipster area.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: Only one hipster allowed on Idol. Now make me my triple-mocha-latte and that picture with the milk better be pretty as shit.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: His voice is wonderful and he’s not a clean-cut white guy that wears a graphic T and yellow shorts. The judges love picking people who look “different.”
11) Ethan Thompson
BRIEFLY: “The Ultimate WGWG” – Few are going to remember him, but he was on the first audition and was awesome. He’s just hipster enough that he’s different, but not hipster enough that he only listens to B-sides of blues records recorded in a specific studio in Mississippi because the other studios sound like garbage.
STRENGTHS: I’ve said it a lot, but he’s got a versatile voice and with the guitar that’s so dangerous. The problem with soul singers, bluesy guys or country guys is they get pigeonholed and struggle with the different formats. Don’t see that here.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: Too many WGWGs. Sorry dude.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: Of all the Mayer/Mraz/Matthews WGWGs, he was the best. And no one remembers him because he’s not insane good-looking, didn’t do a funky song and doesn’t have a funky look. Kinda like someone named Kris Allen.
12) CJ Harris
BRIEFLY: “The Guy With the Story” or “The Black Country Guy” – he’s almost too perfect. The producers will overdo his story (his father passed last year) because tears put eyes on the TV. The fact that he’s a black dude playing country music is a bonus. He’s like Darius Rucker!
STRENGTHS: He’s not like Darius Rucker. If you closed your eyes – probably the best way to judge this show anyway – you’d never guess his race. There’s a certain truthfulness and sincerity in his voice. He wants this bad and you can hear it when he sings.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: Someone with equal talent and a better story takes this spot.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: A lot of contestants just go through the motions. You can’t tell when things are going good or not. It won’t be that way with him. His passion and desire to do well will play well with judges and a crowd – and probably make a few people cry like they’re watching Rudy.
13) Johnny Newcomb
BRIEFLY: “The Young Gun” – If he sings like that second song he did in his audition, he might win the show. The producers need a young guy to sell to teens and he comes off as younger than Briston Maroney, who was a little more polished. Plus, built-in nickname – Johnny Nuke ‘Em.
STRENGTHS: Every time he sings people are going to be surprised that old, bluesy voice is coming out of a kid who should be busing tables at the local Applebee’s. He seems to have a deep knowledge of music, which plays well. Plus he’s young and that means something.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: Producers pick Briston Maroney or some other young gun.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: No word of a lie, I heard his second audition song in some commercial and said “Holy shit that’s the voice of the guy who’s gonna win Idol” and it turned out to be him. I think Group Night will be tough for him, but the kid has chops.
14) John Fox
BRIEFLY: “The Spiritual Singer” – Gotta have one guy who loves the church and what it’s all about. That can go horribly wrong, especially when it comes to song selection, but it earns a lot of fans.
STRENGTHS: He’s a different type of WGWG because he’s not super artsy-looking and has Jesus on his side.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: He might love the church, but Jesus can’t help him when he gets out-sung and outplayed by others.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: Another one of those guys the producers like to push on the audience. They can sell his story and get asses in the seats. Then he sings Top 30, doesn’t make the cut, then gets a judges’ vote to Top 13 because everyone loves him.
THE WILD CARD
15) Adam Roth
BRIEFLY: Who? Remember the crazy sound healer who everyone thought was gonna be the season’s first disaster performer? He looked like Jesus, wore all white and said he was going to sing “Hallelujah?” Then nailed it? Yeah, he’s good.
STRENGTHS: His voice is strong, but he can dial it back and be the type of singer that makes people cry. He might end up delivering some of the best performances of the season.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: Or he turns out to be batshit insane and a total disaster.
WHY WE’RE RIGHT: Remember Zoanette from last season? She was the total whack job who wasn’t all that good, but someone found her way into the Top 12 girls, then the Top 10 girls before being booted off. I could see Roth doing the same thing. He’s got the perfect blend of weird and talent.
MISSING THE CUT
1) Dexter Roberts
BRIEFLY: Tough cut, but he’s a little too raw to cut it with some of the contestants they’ve shown.
WHY HE’S CUT: His brings the heat, but doesn’t have enough to take out Caleb Johnson.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: He rocks the shit out of the judges and Caleb pukes all over himself literally and figuratively, sending Dex to the Top 30 and beyond.
2) DaJontae Leaner
BRIEFLY: Wanted to put him in. Hard to leave him out.
WHY HE’S CUT: He gets overwhelmed in Hollywood.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: He starts reminding judges of pre-pervert Michael Jackson and has the judges dancing in their seat. He dominates Neco Starr in a sing-off for a spot.
3) Briston Maroney
BRIEFLY: Hell of a lot of a talent; potential future Idol champ.
WHY HE’S CUT: He’s too old for his age and that ends up being the difference for a spot between him and Johnny Newcomb.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: Turns out he’s super-fucking talented and leaves Hollywood as a favorite to win the show because of his musical inclination and his knowledge of songs.
4) Dylan Becker
BRIEFLY: Good singer, good guitarist, just not enough spots.
WHY HE’S CUT: It’s him or Alex Preston and Preston outperforms him when it counts.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: He just makes it through the voice audition, dominates with his guitar, survives the group, then steals the show with his final audition piece because he’s that good.
5) Tyler Marshall
BRIEFLY: Big soul brother who needs to be on the show.
WHY HE’S CUT: Draws unfair comparisons to Luther, Teddy or even Ruben and not having that type of soul isn’t enough.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: He pulls a Jermaine Jones – minus the criminal record– and steals everyone’s heart with soulful renditions of everything in the Disney catalog sung by Peabo Bryson.
6) Steven Curd
BRIEFLY: Sounds a little like Jack Johnson and is a good looking kid.
WHY HE’S CUT: Too many WGWGs; plus he’s not as good as Ethan Thompson and not as good-looking as Spencer Lloyd.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: His auditions go flawlessly. He balances his style of music with what makes a good audition piece, surrounds himself with the right talent on Group Night and in his final audition, does some random DMB cover that the judges had never heard to get himself into the Top 15.
7) Michael Simeon
BRIEFLY: A WGWG who had a flawless audition and was the total package.
WHY HE’S CUT: Flawless doesn’t mean he was amazing. He’s good, but not as good as some of the other WGWGs and he’s the second-best looking guy behind Spencer Lloyd.
WHY WE’RE WRONG: His audition was strategy. He did just enough to get to Hollywood, shows his assertiveness during Group Night and in his final audition, uses his perfectly blue eyes to hypnotize the judges and producers to put him in.
There are probably several other guys who I could have put in the Top 15 or added to the cut list, but based on what I heard and saw and how the field usually plays out, this is who I’m going with. This is a guess; this in no way is me saying the people I didn’t include sucked. It’s crazy to think that out of all the people in Hollywood, there’s only 15 guys that are going to get through. It’s crazier to think I could predict based on one audition.
Regardless, it’s gonna be fun to see this all play out.