But she can't, and won't win. And that's not a knock against her, it's just that the deck is so stacked this year there seems like no chance an outlier like her can rise above once America starts voting this week to narrow the top 20 to the top 10.
That's the bad news. The good news is that for the first time in years we have a wide, deep field of potential winners and, as we've said a few times already, as talented a group of female singers as we've seen in years.
Yes, Cortez Shaw and Vincent Powell have some goods, but only time will tell if the men can keep their five season winning streak going until May. Then again, with the news that fans can "Supervote" online starting Tuesday night (March 5) and log up to 50 votes at once on the "Idol" website," well, anything could happen.
With that in mind, we offer you our top 10 potential finalists:
Gil Kaufman's Picks:
Candice Glover: It's been a long time since a true R&B powerhouse has emerged this early in the competition. But Glover took the shopworn "Idol" staple "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and made Aretha Franklin, and the judges, proud.
Angela Miller: Miller, 18, has a great chance of making it far into the finals, even if her subsequent performances don't live up to her early work. She's got that Taylor Swift-ish look and buoyancy and can sing pop and R&B. Most importantly, she can write her own songs, such as the mesmerizing "You Set Me Free," which has already been watched more than two million times on YouTube.
Janelle Arthur: The 23-year-old Tennessee native got mixed reviews last week, but her country chops are her undeniable. She's got the looks and the humble personality that could win over the sometimes-fickle female "Idol" voting audience ... if she can overcome her timidity and loosen up a bit.
Devin Velez: I don't think Velez can go the distance, but he's smart, handsome and has a funky bilingual secret weapon that could help him get votes down the line. Nicki called him "more marketable" after he sang Beyoncé's "Listen" in English and Spanish and combined with his previous performances of opera and Louis Armstrong he could have as wide an appeal as any male in the competition.
Breanna Steer/Aubrey Cleland: I'm gonna cheat here because I think these two singers have similar qualities that mark them as potential stars. The combination of smoldering beauty, soulful voices and confidence is a plus. And, in Steer's case, it's probably no accident she brings to mind an even-younger Rihanna. Cleland is the weaker of the two, but both have the kind of easily packaged story/personality that could win America over.
Adam Graham's Picks:
Candice Glover: The purple streak in her hair isn't the only thing that sets her apart from the other contestants. Her Vegas round rendition of "Natural Woman" was as vocally powerful as it was delivered in a cool, calm manner. It was like another day at the office for Glover, who may be the most pure vocalist in the competition.
Kree Harrison: It's easy to call Harrison the "Idol" anti-glam girl, but let's just focus on her voice, which had us feeling the gospel during her Vegas week rendition of "Up to the Mountain." Harrison is a demo singer in Nashville — or rather, she was ... up until two weeks ago. She won't be in the background any longer.
Burnell Taylor: He was a favorite in the audition rounds, wowing the judges with his take on "I'm Here" from "The Color Purple." But the New Orleans native came to Las Vegas a new man, after shedding 40 pounds. That shows his commitment to the competition, and the focus he displayed on his killer version of John Legend's "This Time" proved that he's in it to win it.
Lazaro Arbos: "Idol" often overplays its hand when it comes to manufacturing sob stories, but it's tough not to feel for the bowtied-ice-cream-scooper-with-the-severe-stutter-that-disappears-when-he-sings every time he's on screen. Aside from his touching backstory, Arbos has a rich, confident voice, and he's able to effectively articulate his personal story through song. Clap for him.
Zoanette Johnson: Have we really entered "The Zoanette Era," as Nicki Minaj dubbed it? It seemed like a crazy claim at the time, but any doubt about Johnson's abilities melted away with her force-of-nature performance of "Circle of Life" during Vegas week, which if nothing else all but guaranteed her a job on future touring productions of "The Lion King." She'll be the show's most divisive contestant in some time, but I can't wait to see what she'll do next.
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