“American Idol” Season 12 is at long last limping to its May 16 finish line, and while either Kree Harrison or Candice Glover will make a fine winner, there are many shocked people out there who think third-place finalist Angie Miller was robbed.
However, I think there are a few other contestants who really got robbed this season–contestants who, unlike Angie, didn’t even make the top 10. Let’s hope some of these singers audition for “The Voice” (or “The X Factor,” or “The Glee Project,” or “The Sing-Off”) in the near future…
10. Micah Johnson
Botched tonsillectomy survivor Micah was an early standout, but his backstory was possibly too similar to that of another auditioner: stutterer Lazaro Arbos. Apparently “Idol” producers assumed there was only room in this competition for one speech-impediment sufferer, so they went with Lazaro and cut Micah in Hollywood Week. I think by now everyone realizes this was the wrong decision. I bet Micah would’ve known what a key change is.
9. Isabelle Parell
I loved everything about this girl, from her cute outfit seemingly pulled straight from a “Style on the Street” pictorial in Lucky magazine, to her luscious voice, to the pure gumption it took for her to turn her audition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” into a duet with Keith Urban. Her Chicago audition gave me Chicago hope for Season 12. So how come WE NEVER SAW HER AGAIN? Ever? “Idol” editors, please get your shiz together in Season 13. Don’t let us get attached to contestants like this, if we’re not going to at least have closure.
8. Jett Hermano
Jett didn’t get much screentime until her top 40 performance, but her slowed-to-a-crawl interpretation of Rihanna’s “Only Girl in the World” was a Vegas Week highlight. She was interesting, and she seemed like a genuine artist. This piano girl could have even given Angie some stiff competition. Is that why “Idol’s” powers-that-be didn’t keep her around? Because she was a threat to the season’s token chosen one at the time? That’s my only explanation for the judges’ baffling decision to cut Jett right before the top 20 semifinals.
7. David Oliver Willis
In Vegas Week, David did a swampy blues-folk-funk guitar cover of the old standard “Fever,” and while the song didn’t give him much chance to showcase his vocal range, I was intrigued, and I wanted to see more. He was original, he was a natural onstage, he had a certain laid-back cool, and he played guitar (something that helped several male contestants make it to the winners’ circle in seasons past). After David performed, Nicki Minaj became very flirtatious, but upon realizing that David’s wife was in the audience, she suddenly turned on him. David was eliminated that night. Was Nicki’s jealousy to blame? Whatever the reason, this was a bad call.
6. Juliana Chahayed
This 15-year-old was shaking like a little ladybug as she sang Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper” in Vegas Week, but there was something really special about her–a delicate, sweet, girly quality. This guitar-strumming songstress brought something different to the show. The judges all saw potential in Juliana, but they didn’t put her through to the top 20. As Season 12’s youngest top 40 contestant, maybe she wasn’t quite ready. But I wish the show had taken a chance on her. I hope she comes back next year.
5. David Leathers Jr.
In Season 11, this boy wonder nearly made it to the semifinals, but he was cut at the very last minute. The show then teased that he would maybe get another chance as a bonus contestant, but then producers brought back (soon-to-be-disqualified-anyway) Jermaine Jones instead. This season, David tried out again, and he impressed again…and he was once again eliminated at the last minute, right before the top 40 round. Maybe he should come back next year…it took three tries before Candice made it to “Idol’s” live rounds, after all. Or might I suggest David just try out for “The X Factor” instead?
This was a “girls’ season” from the get-go, but gender-bending Josh “JDA” Davila–a sort of hybrid of the Human League’s Phil Oakey and Dead Or Alive’s Pete Burns–was the girliest contestant of all. Rocking a Vegas Week outfit that was sparklier, gothier, and prettier than what many of the female contestants wore all season, the androgynous JDA rolled on the stage floor like Madonna at the 1984 VMAs and later declared, “I gotta represent for the gays!” Quipped Ryan Seacrest: “We haven’t seen this much glitter since Adam Lambert’s season.” JDA didn’t exactly possess a Lambertian vocal range, but he entertained, delivering possibly THE wildest live-show “Idol” performance ever (aside from Norman Gentle’s “And I Am Telling You,” of course). I can only imagine how much more interesting and glistening Season 12 would’ve been if JDA had made the top 10. Can he please make the top 10 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” next year?
3. Breanna Steer
The judges spent a lot of time praising Amber Holcomb for being “current,” but if they’d wanted a truly current R&B diva, they should have pushed harder for this fierce lady. Breanna had swag for days. “You are the one that I said I would sign right away. You have the whole package,” Randy Jackson once told her. Nicki even said, “Right now, a record deal could go out, you could shoot videos, you could be number one on the charts.” Maybe that will still happen for Breanna–just not with “Idol’s” help. Breanna did make it to the top 20 semifinals, but bizarrely, America did not vote her through to the top 10.
2. Elijah Liu
Elijah was probably the most modern and marketable contestant of all the guys who sang on the live shows, with his slick boy-band image, penchant for covering actually relevant songs by Bruno Mars and Rihanna, and what Randy called his “swagged-out” style. Keith once told Elijah, “You look like a freakin’ pop star,” and Nicki told him, “You are a super-duper star. I would sign you today. You’re ready now, now, NOW!” Elijah made it to the top 20, but then he performed first, in the death spot, and he didn’t get enough votes to go further. This is why Season 12 needed Wild Cards.
1. Charlie Askew
Charlie was a polarizing contestant, but he was the most fascinating and fearless singer of Season 12. His unhinged, brooding performance of Genesis’s “Mama”–inspired by his real-life breakup and his parents’ divorce–was a risk that didn’t pay off. (Viewers, and the judges, just didn’t get it, unfortunately.) Charlie’s second-chance performance, of a lovely original song called “Sky Blue Diamond,” was much more accessible, but he was still sadly eliminated, all over again. Oh well. Kudos to this “Awkward Turtle” for trying to bring a bit of danger, theater, originality, and actual rock ‘n’ roll to an otherwise frustratingly rock-free season. Shine on, you Sky Blue Diamond. Shine on.
BONUS MENTION: Oscar
In Oklahoma City, an intrepid ventriloquist named Halie Hilburn auditioned with Oscar, her trusty puppet sidekick. Oscar had “Idol” potential, but unfortunately, Halie followed the judges’ advice to go solo, and she left her felt friend behind (IN A DUMPSTER, yet) and went to Hollywood alone. And then, thanks to the totally A.D.D. editing this “Idol” season, viewers never saw Halie again. However, while Halie’s Hollywood Week footage is still coiled on Fox’s cutting-room floor, Oscar has clawed his way out of that OKC dumpster and reinvented himself as a rapper named OzCar. Maybe he can duet on the Season 12 “Idol” finale with Nicki?
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