'American Idol' Top 13: Where's The Superstar?

The show's latest finalists leave this writer wondering where the Kelly or Carrie will come from.

Dear America,

You don't know me, but I'm the guy who's been sitting on his couch for several hours each week for nearly 10 years yelling things like, "Are you effing kidding me?," "Seriously, that guy/girl?" and "Oh, come on, how is it possible that we're even watching the same show?"

I did it because, like you, I was entranced by "American Idol" and the drama of watching potential stars climb their way to the top each week. I held on because I knew the payoff would be that triumphant final night when the confetti falls, Lionel Richie (or Kiss, or some other act your mom loves) sings a duet with a finalist and we get to hear that awful coronation song one more time before it disappears into history's musical dustbin.

But I can't take it anymore. It's definitely not me; it's you.

I realize I've been pretty judgmental this year, complaining about how "Idol" is showing its age, is blatantly stealing trick from former meanie judge Simon Cowell's "X Factor" and just generally feels out-of-touch.

I've been exasperated at the "everyone gets a first-place ribbon!" attitude displayed by the checking-their-watches judges, who are acting like they're coaches at a first-grade soccer tournament and not the nation's ratings-giant (for now) singing talent program.

But after watching Thursday night's results show, there is no one left to blame but you. What are you thinking?

I get that it's always fun to put a few ringers into the mix to make things interesting. Who didn't enjoy the weekly yuks provided by Sanjaya? But this cast is one of the most laughable in the show's history. And not in the good way.

Yes, you passed on toothy other-other-other blonde Baylie Brown; other-other country singer Chelsea Sorell; forgettable "hot" one Chase Likens; maniacal musical Tom Cruise Reed Grimm; annoying, tear-stained Adam Brock; and "street artist" Creighton Fraker, who I was convinced was punking the show anyway.

But for God's sake, you said yes to "funny" man Heejun Han and "Idol" Lazarus Jermaine Jones? And Jimmy Iovine — c'mon, man, you're one of the most respected men in music! You're honestly telling me you would make an album with Jones "right now"? I can't imagine listening to him even one more time, not to mention for 55 minutes. I defy you to find any contemporary artist on the planet who is putting up numbers groaning in that kind of death-howl baritone. And Han? I could throw a pebble in an empty karaoke bar and hit 15 drunken frat boys with more talent.

I'm sure Iovine has a way better sound system on his TV at home, but no Beats by Dre subwoofer known to man explains how he believes that foot-stomping, face-making, Dave Matthews impersonator Phillip Phillips is one of the most original voices of our time. I've met Matthews, and he's a very sweet, mellow guy, and even I suspect he's chilling somewhere going, "Really?"

America, I stopped being mad that you've failed to vote a female winner into the mix since season six. I can't totally hate on you for the female finalists, though I continue to be mystified by your embrace of gangly teen Shannon Magrane, who strikes me as average at best.

At a time when "Factor" crowned a legitimately powerful soul diva in winner Melanie Amaro and showcased a fascinating redemption story in rapper/crooner Chris Rene, contemporary R&B singer Marcus Canty, white blues man Josh Krajcik, high school cutie Rachel Crow and buzzed-about teen rapper Astro, "Idol" is offering up a warmed-over plate of potential winners whose commercial prospects feel limited at best.

I'm not a TV producer, but even I thought the judges missed a potential opportunity to at least create some great reality-show drama when they passed on Brielle Von Hugel and her tenacious stage mom.

Yes, Brielle, who, like a boxer, speaks of herself in the third person, is a decent singer at best. But I am willing to put a year's salary on the line if curly crooner and wild-card survivor Deandre Brackensick has even an iota of the success the judges and Jimmy said he did — outside of being a hair model or a joke appearance on "The Simpsons" in a Sideshow Bob gag.

It's ironic that the shiny, happy panel saved one of their only negative assessments so far this year for Von Hugel, the one person who could put some "show" into their business.

Frankly, the only contestants in the mix I think are even halfway relevant are emo-ish Colton Dixon, soul man Joshua Ledet and power belter Elise Testone. Among those, only Dixon looks or sounds like someone a record label could legitimately turn into a star, and I have a sinking feeling you'll boot him well before May.

Lopez told "Access Hollywood" that she thinks this season's finalists are "even stronger than last year." In my world, that is somewhere below faint praise and just north of wishful thinking.

I like to see and hear a variety of sounds — hip-hop, blues, rock, etc. — and see a diverse top 13. While you clearly pine for a bumper crop of blondes who sound like county fair stage-fillers and Adele-abees and generic male crooners or "quirky" vocalists who are kinda like, but no better, than the established stars they grew up imitating in their bedrooms.

Conventional wisdom has it that, as a show ages, so does its audience. So, I dunno, America, maybe we just want different things.

You love theme shows like next week's Stevie Wonder tribute, while I'm more interested in hearing the contestants sing the songs of today (though not the same one twice in one show) and edgier, more relatable acts that can break the drought of platinum-selling "Idol" winners.

Think about it. Until last year's winner Scotty McCreery, only three "Idol" winners' debuts had hit the #1 spot on the Billboard 200, and those were from season-one winner Kelly Clarkson, season two's Ruben Studdard and season four's Carrie Underwood.

I call that a serious rut and you're in it, and at this point you can't blame the judges anymore. You voted for these folks, and since I don't see another Carrie or Kelly in this mix, the best I can hope for at this point is that you prove me wrong.

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