I don't mean to brag, but...
I told you so!
Last week I predicted that this season's American Idol winner would be a female and that Pia Toscano had the best chance of doing it.
And on Wednesday night - one day after the male contestants made me want to trade my ear drums on the black market for a half-eaten hoagie and some wampum - most of the female contestants nailed their performances, with Toscano ending the show with a beautiful cover of The Pretenders ballad "I'll Stand By You" that was clearly this season's best performance to date. The judges even gave her a standing ovation, for Pete's sake.
I can't pick a winning horse at Monmouth Park Racetrack to save my life and I've never come close to winning a March Madness pool.
But with their impressive performances Wednesday night, the Top 12 female contestants made me look much smarter than I actually am. My wife, my mother and my sixth-grade social studies teacher can attest to that.
I do have to admit, however, that I was slightly nervous when Ta-Tynisa Wilson kicked off the show with Rihanna's over-played and substance-lacking hit "Only Girl (In The World)."
But Naima Adedapo, who is not even close to the best singer in the competition, followed Wilson with a seductive and Ella Fitzgerald-esque version of the jazz standard "Summertime." Her performance did sound a little like something you would hear in a casino lounge, but it was much better than anything the male contestants did the previous evening and it set the stage for a great night of performances.
Kendra Chantelle had her best performance of the season with Christina Aguilera's "Impossible," Lauren Turner came close to living up to J. Lo's comparison for her of "a young Bette Midler" with a powerful cover of Etta James' "Seven Day Fool," and Lauren Alaina wisely sang the only country of the evening with a rocking, albeit restrained, version of Reba McEntire's "Turn on the Radio."
Karen Rodriquez continued to play to J. Lo and the Spanish-speaking audience, by sacrificing some vocal quality in order to sing a bi-lingual cover of Mariah Carey's "Hero."
Even the weaker performances - Wilson, Rachel Zevita (Fiona Apple's "Criminal"), Julie Zorrilla (Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway) and Thia Megia ("Out Here on My Own" from Fame) - were enjoyable to listen to.
But with that being said, I still have to give my picks for who will be moving on to the finals.
And here they are:
- Pia Toscano, of course. No explanation needed.
- Lauren Alaina: She is not the most talented singer or performer, but the Idol producers have given her a lot of face time on the show already and is the only female country singer left in a competition that heavily favors singers from the south.
- Karen Rodriguez: Her version of "Hero" wasn't anywhere close to Carey's in terms of quality, but she's playing for the votes and it could work.
- Ashthon Jones: Her cover of Monica's "Love Over Me" wasn't the right song choice for her because it didn't enable her to showcase her great vocal range. But I think she has done enough this season to advance.
- Lauren Turner: She doesn't necessarily have the looks or the voice to be a threat to win. But she had a great performance Wednesday night and the Bette Midler comparison will help her win some votes from older viewers.
The judges will also reportedly pick one "wild card" contestant each on Thursday night to add to the finals. Their decision making has been awful, at best, this season. So who knows who they'll send through. If I had to make the decision, here is who I would choose:
- Julie Zorrilla: Is much better and more comfortable when she is singing from behind the piano. But if you noticed this week, none of the contestants played an instrument. I don't know if the Idol producers prohibited it, but many of the remaining contestants made it to the semifinals, in large part, because of their musical abilities. I think the judges will give Zorrilla a chance to show what she can do.
- Kendra Chantelle: There is something about her that I don't like, which is why I don't think American Idol voters will put her in the Top 5. But, in fairness, her voice should be enough to get her through.
- Tim Halperin: Honestly, this pick is just me being stubborn. I don't think any of the guys that I haven't already picked deserve a wild card. But Halperin was the victim of the "one bad performance" curse Tuesday night, by being a standout in all of the previous rounds before striking out with a choppy cover of Rob Thomas' "Streetcorner Symphony (Some On Over)." And he is another performer who is better with an instrument. If he is given a second chance, he could easily make it to the Top 5.