Yes, the first two rounds of Hollywood Week have just ended, and there's plenty of drama that will undoubtedly unfold before we make it to the top 24. But that has not stopped us from tagging some of the breakout stars that have emerged so far on season nine of "American Idol."
If you can survive the dreaded group round and still have the judges smiling at you, you've already won the first battle, and these singers seem poised to rise to the top ... for now anyway.
Among those who appear to have skated through the first few rounds with nary a scratch is Andrew Garcia. The sweet young dad with the neck tattoo, former gangbanger parents and a buttery soul vocal attack has already proven that he's got that certain Adam Lambert-esque shine thanks to his radical acoustic reworking of former judge Paula Abdul's "Straight Up." If this kid doesn't make it to the top 24, we'll be shocked.
Another seemingly certain shoo-in is dreadlocked single mom Crystal Bowersox. The Chicagoan with the Janis Joplin growl, guitar chops and a winning personality, got a rare thumbs-up sign on Tuesday when the audience joined in and provided impromptu backing vocals on her cover of Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," which ended in a standing ovation.
With her Colbie Caillat-like groove, Los Angeles native Didi Benami is also an early audience favorite, and it probably didn't hurt that she covered a Kara DioGuardi-penned tune, Katharine McPhee's "Terrified," on Tuesday night and killed it. She's doing "Idol" in memory of a friend who passed away, and her Carrie Underwood-esque good looks and sunny attitude could take her far.
Haeley Vaughn seems determined to become the first black female pop/country artist to break through on the show. Rocker mom Mary Powers appears to be a bit controlling and hard to work with, but works a gritty, Pink-like vibe that has a certain charm. And teen Katie Stevens is emerging as a judges' favorite. DioGuardi told her she could win it all after the group performance of Alicia Keys' "No One."
The judges also seem to like Tampa, Florida's all-American blond Janell Wheeler — who reportedly dated Florida Gators legend (and controversial Super Bowl ad star) Tim Tebow — and her Sheryl Crow-meets-Pink take on Estelle's "American Boy" was impressive. Cougar bait Casey James, the hunky cowboy working a nice-guy singer/songwriter vibe, seems promising. As does backflipping, former Fantasia co-star Todrick Hall, who clearly has the creative chops to survive but is starting to come off as a little gimmicky.
With his floppy, Tiger Beat-ready hair and acoustic emo vibe, Dallas Christian singer Tim Urban has the look that could net him the David Archuleta vote, but his vocals may not be strong enough to keep him in the running. Though she hasn't had much screen time, Georgia glamour puss Artheria "Theri" Harden made an impression with her liquid-leather getup, candy-colored bob and strong R&B diva vocals on Wednesday night, as did her Destiny's Wild group mate, scratchy-voiced soul barker Siobhan Magnus. Magnus, a quirky Massachusetts 19-year-old, uses her powerful pipes in a band called Lunar Valve.
Who knows? They could all be gone next week, or one of them could be your next American Idol.
Which "Idol" hopeful is your favorite so far? Did we miss anyone in this list? Sound off in the comments!
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