Fear not, friends. My relationship with American Idol is still going strong despite my complete silence on the season thus far. There are several reasons for the lack of commentary. Part of it has to do with my crazy busy schedule that has me working 12-14 hour days and sometimes not catching an episode of Idol until days after its aired when I am able to curl up with my DVR and play catch-up. Part of it has to do with my general ennui where the audition episodes are concerned. The formulaic nature of those first weeks (combined with the fact that multiple episodes air each week) can make it difficult to get too enthused. You fall for a seemingly promising contestant and then never see him/her again save for perhaps a "walk of shame" shot as he/she gets booted out of Hollywood. (I'm looking at you, Ramiro Garcia!) So while I've been watching as faithfully as I can (and I have seen every episode -- just not on the night its aired!), I haven't had the time or the will to focus much in terms of blogging.
I'm sure I'll have much more delightful things to say all season long (and I'll do my best to be timely), but for now...... my predictions for the top 12 based on who is still standing as of the Las Vegas episode (predictions made with the assumption of gender parity in the top 12 -- and listed in no particular order):
1. Baylie Brown -- I remember Baylie from a couple seasons ago and how she was screwed over in Hollywood by nasty Antonella Barba. Baylie is much more polished and assured than she was back in those days and could give Idol the country sweetheart it seems to crave every season (since Carrie).
2. Jen Hirsch -- Right now, Jen is my favorite chick of the lot. That being said, it seems like the odds of a woman winning Idol right now are pretty slim. The tweens are controlling the phone lines, and I can't imagine 13-year-old girls burning up the wires for Jen, who skews much older. Jen needs to hope that the cougars who helped give David Cook his victory over David Archuletta decide it's time for some Girl Power and rally behind the very cool Jen.
3. Hallie Day -- Okay, I keep getting Hallie and Baylie confused every time I see them on the screen, and yet once I tell the two apart, I always tend to like them both. We could be looking at a blond heavy final group of girls here, but the blondes seem to have a slight talent edge this year.
4. Lauren Grey -- I always kind of forget who Lauren is until she sings, and then I'm like, "Oh, yeah. I like that chick." If she can make it to the next stage, that voice may be enough to make voters remember her.
5. Shannon Magrane -- Shannon's amazing performance of "Wonderful World" during Hollywood Week has kept her in my mind even though she's not been highlighted a ton so far this season.
6. Courtney Williams -- I'm not a huge fan of Courtney, but anyone's better than dreadful Brielle Von Hugel -- she of the big ego and the nasty stage mother. Besides, if Idol has taught us anything, it's that it's about "casting" the show, and what would Idol be without a good soul diva? She won't get very far, but she's still a necessary component.
7. Adam Brock -- He's one of my favorites that we've seen so far this season. His jam session with Steven Tyler was the stuff of legends. When you factor in that he reminds me of a less greasy version of Josh Krajcik (from The X-Factor), you have a winner in Mel's eyes.
8. Colton Dixon -- He's definitely getting the story treatment -- rejected last year, had to be cajoled into auditioning while accompanying his sister, his breakdown when his sister was booted from Las Vegas....it's the kind of stuff Idol legends are made of. Right now, Colton might be my pick to win the whole damn thing.
9. Heejun Han -- This guy is clearly the breakout star of the season so far. His disdain for cowboy tyrant Richie Lawson was absolutely priceless -- and has led to the frequent use of "talking craps" about people Chez Mel.
10. Philip Philips -- Phil was my early pick for ultimate winner after his awesome "Thriller" audition in the first episode. I'm not sure if that's still the case (love me some Jen Hirsch ... and see my comments about Colton Dixon!), but the guy is adorable and has been flying just close enough to the radar to maintain a nice trajectory into the top 12.
11. Reed Grimm -- I don't know if he's this season's Casey (as J.Lo dubbed him), but there's something about this guy that I really like. I hope for some Casey/Haley-esque duets between Reed and Jen. Now THAT would be sizzling!
12. Neco Starr -- This is going to sound awful, but....they need a black guy in the top 12, and Neco is my favorite of the ones still standing.
I'm sure there will be surprises along the way, shocking eliminations (I'll be fine as long as Phil, Jen, and Heejun are safe!), and breakouts that seem to come from nowhere, but those are the Idols who have either caught my fancy or seem to be getting the star treatment so far.