Monday, March 9, 2009

A baker's dozen

Meet your Top 13 American Idols:

Alexis Grace, 21, was the first contestant to grab a silver stool in the Top 13. After her Group One performance of Aretha Franklin’s “Dr. Feel Good,” Simon compared her to the original Idol Kelly Clarkson. Alexis is the mother of a two-year old girl and resides in Memphis.

Michael Sarver, the second Group One performer to grab a coveted spot, is 27 from Jasper. When he’s not performing on national TV, he’s a roughneck on an oil rig. Michael and his wife, Tiffany, have two children – Makenna and Grayson. He is a praise and worship leader at Harvest Church in Jasper. Since his first appearance on Idol – auditioning with Boys II Men’s “Thank you” – the judges have all made it clear that they like him. After his Group One performance of Gavin DeGraw’s “I don’t wanna be,” Simon told Michael he hopes America votes him through. And they did.

Danny Gokey, 28, auditioned just four weeks after the death of his wife, Sophia. From his original “I heard it through the grapevine” audition to his Top 13 sealing song “Hero,” Danny has been a clear favorite of both judges and the American public. Like Michael, Danny is active in his home church where he acts as a music director. He also founded the organization “Sophia’s Heart,” a charity aimed at reaching out to children.

Allison Iraheta is one of the youngest contestants in the Top 13 at only 16 years old. She first made a name for herself when she won a $50,000 recording contract from a Telemundo singing competition at just 14 years old. Her Group Two song – Heart’s “Alone” – had all three judges praising her, including Simon saying she could sing the telephone book.

Kris Allen, 23, was a bit of a surprise finalist for most viewers. He had not gained much exposure on television and got mixed reviews from his Group Two performance. His song that bought him a spot in the Top 13 was Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Kara didn’t think he showed enough personality during his performance, but Paula, Simon and Randy all seemed to think he did well. And since this week is Michael Jackson week, that proving he can excel with the King of Pop might put him ahead of the game.

Like Danny, 26-year old Adam Lambert already has a huge fan following. And like Allison, he made a name for himself long before Idol. Prior to his audition, Adam played “Fiyero” in Los Angeles’ “Wicked.” In 2004, he stared opposite Val Kilmer in “The Ten Commandments: The Musical.” Adam has been deemed dramatic by the judges after several of his performances. After singing “Satisfaction” during the Group Two show, they all agreed his vocals were outstanding.

Lil Rounds was the first Group Three finalist to make the Top 13 and a clear favorite from the night before. After singing a Mary J. Blige song, Simon said Lil’s version was very similar to the original recording. Lil, 23, is a wife and stay-at-home mom of three. The family’s Memphis home was destroyed by a tornado shortly before her audition.

Scott MacIntyre, 23, lives in Arizona and is Idol’s first blind contestant. He’s best known on the show for playing the piano, but his Group Three performance of “Mandolin Rain” shined without the help of instruments. Scott has been a favorite with the judges since his Phoenix audition. After his last performance, both Paula and Kara said he is filled with emotion when he sings. While Simon admitted it wasn’t the best vocal he’d heard, he did say he expected to see Scott remain in the competition.

Jorge Nunez auditioned in Puerto Rico, where he lives, with a Spanish version of Sinatra’s “My way.” Afterwards, the judges expressed concern over his thick accent, wondering if he could carry his charisma in English. His Group Three performance of “Don’t let the sun go down on me,” was not only very good, but had the judges taking back their earlier statements and encouraging his accent.

Anoop Desai, 21, was predicted to be a Top 12 – er, 13 – finalist from his first audition, which drew talk from both the judges and the public. Like Michael, he sang “Thank you.” And they both performed in Group One, right before Michael beat Anoop into the top spot by only 20,000 votes. Still, Anoop gained a seat with the wildcard round, where he sang “My prerogative.” He attends the University of North Carolina where he is a member of the a cappella group UNC Clef Hangers.

Jasmine Murray, 16, has been labeled as “commercial” since her first audition. She didn’t enough votes to land the Top 13 following her Group Two performance. But she redeemed herself after singing “Reflection” by Christina Aguilera during the wildcard round. The judges all agreed that her performance was a bit big, and at time nasaly, but that she deserved a spot at the top.

Megan Corkrey, 23, is a single mom who wowed judges with her jazzy audition of “Can’t help loving that man of mine.” Her Group 2 performance of “Girls put your records on” gained her praise from the judges, but not enough votes. She came back during the wildcard round to earn a few extra points, and a Top 13 spot, with “Black horse and cherry tree.”

Matt Giraud, 23, from Mich., blew the judges away with his Hollywood week performance of “Georgia,” earning himself the label of being a bluesy, jazz singer. He stepped away from that genre during his group performance and ended up getting criticism for his cover of Coldplay’s “Viva la vida.” But he returned to that jazzy side during the Wildcard round with Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s loving you” and got nothing but praise – except one comment about his outfit being bad.

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