On Thursday night, "American Idol" revealed its Top 12 Finalists for the ninth season of the hit show. MTV News "Idol" expert Jim Cantiello whipped up a handy cheat sheet for each finalist, breaking down each candidate's journey thus far. He also got the "Idol" hopefuls to weigh in when he caught up with them at Thursday night's Top 12 Party in Hollywood.
Crystal Bowersox is as obvious a choice for "American Idol" as Ellen DeGeneres. The Ohio native seems like she'd be more at home on AM Radio circa 1976 than a highly rated reality competition. But somehow, the dreadlocked singer/songwriter has captured the imagination of "Idol" viewers and judges alike with her so-retro-it's-cool-again vibe and fish-out-of-water attitude.
Best Performance: Bowersox wowed with a passionate gospel-tinged "Long As I Can See the Light"by Creedence Clearwater Revival, made all the more poignant and emotional thanks to a headline-grabbing health scare that almost resulted in the show's first-ever medical disqualification. But her recent Tracy Chapman cover gave us even more reasons to chant "BOWERSOX! BOWERSOX!"
Weakest Performance: Alanis Morissette's "Hand in My Pocket" seemed like a good idea at the time. The song fit her troubadour aesthetic and she got to flaunt her harmonica skills. (Take that, Taylor Hicks!) But it ended up feeling too predictable and safe, leaving Simon to gripe that there are thousands of street performers doing the same thing all over America. Ouch.
Sad Backstory: After last week's dramatic hospital visit, Crystal's struggle with diabetes made its way into her narrative on the show. And like fellow front-runner Andrew Garcia, Bowersox is the parent of an adorable toddler.
Why She Will Win: Bowersox recalls past "Idol" fan favorites like Jason Castro and Bo Bice, yet she's been able to carve out an identity all her own. She's also showing more personality the longer she's on TV, and it sparkles. (Her swipe at Simon for having a two-story trailer was hilarious without being disrespectful.) On a superficial level, her name is a memorable one, particularly when uttered by Simon Cowell on various talk shows (he's a fan).
Why She Will Lose: Bowersox had never watched "Idol" before, so she may be thrown for a loop when she's expected to sing a disco tune or a Broadway number. If she's smart, she'll watch every single Adam Lambert and Kris Allen "Idol" performance. Those two had a knack for picking songs and arrangements that fit their specific identities. (Well, perhaps Crystal should avoid Kris' Don Henley number. We're still not sure what happened that week.)
What She Should Sing: To help Crystal avoid turning into a '70s jukebox cliché, she should attempt a current hit. A slow, thoughtful, acoustic take on Pink's "Don't Leave Me" could do just the trick.
On Being Considered The Front-runner: "It's flattering. I'm not letting anything go to my head, though. It's definitely up for grabs, it's still up in the air. We don't know who's gonna win! But it's flattering to hear. Everyone's really talented."
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