Yes, it’s a bit early to start picking favorites on the two-week-old “American Idol” season. If history is any indication the producers have probably not even shown us footage of some of the most promising candidates, smartly saving the big reveal for Hollywood Week.
But just four episodes in, some promising stars-in-the-making have already emerged, and the decision to drop the age minimum to 15 seems to be a brilliant idea, with a number of ninth- and 10th-graders wowing the judges.
We asked a few of our “Idol” experts to pick their favorites so far, and the list was surprising, eclectic and definitely all over the map.
Entertainment Weekly‘s Annie Barrett singled out Nashville auditioner Adrienne Beasley, a black farm girl with white adoptive parents, as her favorite so far in season 10, but she name-checked a few more standouts as well.
“Those parents are PERFECT for the front row at the live shows, and she seems to have a genuine spirit to go along with excellent vocal range,” Barrett said via e-mail. “It seems crazy to me that deep-voiced country singer Scotty McCreery is only 16, but he could go pretty far. The White House intern (Molly DeWolf Swenson) has a unique and surprising voice, but people might hate her because she went to Harvard and has two last names. I liked the really tall accountant/ gentle giant Steve Beghun because his vocal was huge and because he’d look even huger next to Seacrest.”
Top Idol Blog‘s Melinda Green had one name on her mind when it came to the best so far: Naima Adedapo . “Her voice is fantastic and there seems to be something very real, something genuinely likable about her,” Green said of the colorful Milwaukee singer who killed it with a gospel-tinged, slow-and-easy version of Donny Hathaway’s “For All We Know.”
Like Green, judge Jennifer Lopez was really impressed. “I like you a lot,” said Lopez, who called Adedapo “the whole package.”
With so many faces popping up every week, Green said it’s sometimes hard to remember all the good ones, and she’s not convinced that one of the young’uns can do it this year. “There’s a lot of talk about Lauren Alaina and Thia Megia,” she said. “But they just do nothing for me.”
MTV’s own “Idol in 60 Seconds” honcho, Jim Cantiello, has also seen only a few promising singers over the first six hours of “Idol” programming. His favorite so far? “Brett Loewenstern , the bullied redhead from Boca Raton who impressed the judges with his baby-oiled curly mane and soulful ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ ” Cantiello wrote. “He’s a quirky dude with an interesting voice, and I think his likable personality will connect with younger viewers.”
The show’s producers definitely hyped preternaturally poised 15-year-old Alaina on Thursday night, and Cantiello said he gets it. “After last night’s audition, I can totally understand why,” he said of the high-schooler who got judge Steven Tyler to duet with her on an Aerosmith song. “She has great stage presence without being a creepy pageant-bot. She has a mature voice even though she’s not old enough to drive. And she has the potential to be molded a million different ways. She could go country, she could go pop vocal, she could go lite-FM. I’m curious to see what ['Idol' mentor and Interscope boss] Jimmy Iovine suggests.”
His other pick to click was a contestant who didn’t get quite the same amount of screen time and buzz, but who clearly impressed him: food blogger Sarah Sellers. She tried out last week in New Orleans with “To Make You Feel My Love,” which Jim said had “a little white-girl R&B flavor, and her voice really soared once she belted. Plus, the 28-year old is a nice alternative to the teenage takeover that seems to be happening this season. Go Grandma Sellers!”
Only Barrett was rooting for one of the emotional highlights of the week: Chris Medina , whose tragic tale about his fiancée’s car crash elicited a strong response from the judges.
“Chris Medina obviously won me over by being the greatest, most selfless man in the world,” Barrett said. “But what we should really be remembering is that his voice was pretty sweet as well.”
Green felt it was a bit of typical “Idol” manipulation, a heartstring-tugging ploy used often in the early rounds. “I don’t consider Medina to be an extraordinary singer or anything that we’ve not seen before, but I do believe he’ll likely go far on the show because of the fact you have the ‘cougar contingency’ driving the votes on ‘American Idol,’ ” she said of the group of older women voters who’ve allegedly helped push young male contenders through in recent years. “There are already fan groups starting for this guy. He’s a white male in his mid-20s who is just so devoted to his might-not-get-better fiancée. Chris Medina is going far, trust me.”
Who is your favorite so far in season 10? Let us know in the comments below!
Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page , where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.