Michael Johns
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‘American Idol’s’ top 12

Michael Johns
By Richard Rushfield, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Here’s a tip sheet, handicapping the contenders and the soon-to-be also-rans of Season 7.

Please remember, all opinions made based on these first glimpses are subject to change, many, many times, before we reach the Kodak Theatre in May.

CONTESTANT: Michael Johns

THE SHPIEL: Duende from Down Under

CORE VOTING BLOCK(S): Female viewers, all ages.

STRENGTHS: Enormous star power

WEAKNESSES: Frankly grown up and sensual appeal (see Ann Powers’ Idolbanter) may terrify the youth vote.

IDOL PREDECESSOR: Unprecedented

COCKINESS QUOTIENT (1 – 10): 9

STAR POWER(1 – 10): 10 (Phil McCarten / AP)
David Hernandez
CONTESTANT: David Hernandez

THE SPIEL: Earnest, serious. “I’ve been through a lot. I was raised by a single mom … broken family.”

CORE VOTING BLOCK(S): Twentysomething young marrieds; office parkers.

STRENGTHS: Deadly vibrato powers

WEAKNESSES: Earnest to the point of forgettable.

IDOL PREDECESSOR: Nick Pedro

COCKINESS QUOTIENT (1 – 10): 5

STAR POWER (1 – 10): 3

ELIMINATED (Phil McCarten / AP)
Brooke White
CONTESTANT: Brooke White

THE SHPIEL: “The good girl”; Interesting but ultimately may be too light a style to compete

CORE VOTING BLOCK(S): Coffee House Open Mike Night Nation

STRENGTHS: Wholesomeness; Carly Simonesque style unique to Idol; hunky husband.

WEAKNESSES: Wholesome routine may turn corner into freakishness; singer-songwriter routine may be too low-key.

IDOL PREDECESSOR: Vanessa Olivarez

COCKINESS QUOTIENT (1 – 10): 6

STAR POWER(1 – 10): 5 (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
Amanda
CONTESTANT: Amanda Overmyer

THE SHPIEL: “If a semi won’t take her down, nothing will.” Hard-singing rocker girl is an original among contestants, should get close to top tier, but is she too far out of the mainstream to be a true contender?

CORE VOTING BLOCK(S): Hard livin’ rock and rollers

STRENGTHS: Will not be forgotten on election days

WEAKNESSES: Persona likely to scare the 6- to 12-year-old demo

IDOL PREDECESSOR: Chris Daughtry

COCKINESS QUOTIENT (1 – 10): 9

STAR POWER(1 – 10): 6 (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)
David Archuleta
CONTESTANT: David Archuleta

THE SHPIEL: The wunderkind; the Chosen One.

CORE VOTING BLOCK(S): Every 9 year old girl in America, a million times, plus their grandmothers.

STRENGTHS: Preternatural talents; strong appeal to Idol’s most powerful demographic block.

WEAKNESSES: 17 but seems 12 persona may turn-off everyone outside that block.

IDOL PREDECESSOR: Clay Aiken

COCKINESS QUOTIENT (1 – 10): 4

STAR POWER(1 – 10): 9 (Phil McCarten / AP)
Ramiele
CONTESTANT: Ramiele Malubay

THE SHPIEL: Little girl with the big voice. Has potential to go far.

CORE VOTING BLOCK(S): 15- to 25-year-old nightclub regulars

STRENGTHS: Pixie-like cuteness

WEAKNESSES: The cuteness shtick may get tired. Too inexpressive a personality.

IDOL PREDECESSOR: Jasmine Trias

COCKINESS QUOTIENT (1 – 10): 8

STAR POWER(1 – 10): 8 (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)
Syesha Mercado
CONTESTANT: Syesha Mercado

THE SHPIEL: “I’ve been trying to stay away from the sick ones.” The one female candidate with true star presence.

CORE VOTING BLOCK(S): Adult contemporary

STRENGTHS: Magnetic presence

WEAKNESSES: Celine/Whitney style may be too familiar to Idol competition.

IDOL PREDECESSOR: Tamyra Gray

COCKINESS QUOTIENT (1 – 10): 7

STAR POWER(1 – 10): 10 (Phil McCarten / AP)
Jason Castro
CONTESTANT: Jason Castro

THE SHPIEL: The dreadlocks say all.

CORE VOTING BLOCK(S): 13 – 25 year old burners; Texans.

STRENGTHS: Ethereal hippy appeal likely to stand out among the crowd

WEAKNESSES: Hippies are ultimately a niche audience and rarely crossover to general voting population.

IDOL PREDECESSOR: Blake Lewis

COCKINESS QUOTIENT (1 – 10): 2

STAR POWER(1 – 10): 7 (Phil McCarten / AP)
Kristy Lee Cook
CONTESTANT: Kristy Lee Cook

THE SHPIEL: “If I win this, I want to make enough money to buy back my horse.” Favorite of audition tour, may fade in the Idoldome’s harsh glare

CORE VOTING BLOCK(S): Country boys

STRENGTHS: All-American girl

WEAKNESSES: Forgettable in diverse crowd

IDOL PREDECESSOR: Melissa McGhee

COCKINESS QUOTIENT (1 – 10): 5

STAR POWER(1 – 10): 5 (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
Carly Smithson
CONTESTANT: Carly Smithson

THE SHPIEL: The comeback queen; groomed for greatness but evident insecurity raises doubts whether she can rise to the challenge

CORE VOTING BLOCK(S): Irish-American; the middle-aged

STRENGTHS: Powerful vocal talents, intense personality, good back story that owns up to showbiz past; childhood touring with “Les Miz” will endear her to show tunes fans.

WEAKNESSES: May be too intense and dark to connect with audience.

IDOL PREDECESSOR: Katharine McPhee

COCKINESS QUOTIENT (1 – 10): 3

STAR POWER(1 – 10): 8 (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)
David Cook
CONTESTANT: David Cook

THE SHPIEL: Alterna-rocker brings mildly ironic twist.

CORE VOTING BLOCK(S): 28 – 45 year old white “eclectic music” listeners.

STRENGTHS: Unique persona in the pack; alternative without being scary.

WEAKNESSES: The John Mayer path likely a bit too intense and limiting to go the distance.

IDOL PREDECESSOR: Constantin Maroulis

COCKINESS QUOTIENT (1 – 10): 5

STAR POWER(1 – 10): 6 (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)
Chikezie
CONTESTANT: Chikezie

THE SPIEL: The hardest working Idol contestant, fought his way back after rejection last year.

CORE VOTING BLOCK(S): Middle-aged to elderly R&B fans.

STRENGTHS: Likable winning personality.

WEAKNESSES: Showed flash of temper and cockiness after Simon’s pan; uncontemporary style.

IDOL PREDECESSOR: Ruben Studdard

COCKINESS QUOTIENT (1 – 10): 9

STAR POWER (1 – 10): 6 (Phil McCarten / AP)
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