Michael Slezak
February 17, 2009 AT 12:00 PM EST

Yes, it’s here folks! The debut of our weekly American Idol Power List — which will post every Monday from now through the end of May. What you’ll see for our inaugural countdown are a few surprises in the top 10 (especially the under-the-radar vocalists who sit at Nos. 5 and 6), and two controversial omissions. Indeed, I ignored Norman Gentle and Tatiana Del Torro in favor of folks who I felt had a more legitimate chance of cracking the top 12. Which means that if you’re a fan of season 8’s two most gimmicky semifinalists, you’ll have to vote “other” in our weekly poll, then abuse me mercilessly on our message boards over the next three weeks when/if the merry pranksters at Vote for the Worst can convince enough folks to push one or both of ’em through to the finals. Until then, read ’em and vote!

20. Stephen Fowler: Sizzling first impression with “Superwoman” was promptly erased by his lyric-flubbing tantrum on the last day of Hollywood Week. Brutal draw against Anoop and Danny may leave him praying for a Wild Card slot.

19. Nathaniel Marshall: Season 8’s resident drama queen proved he’s got actual chops by offering an intriguing acoustic take on Rihanna’s “Disturbia,” then winning a sing-off against Jackie Midkiff. But has copious crying footage already killed his chances?

18. Michael Sarver: Laid-back ”roughneck” got plenty of screentime at his audition and during Hollywood Week, but his singing has been more solid than spectacular, and like Stephen, he’ll need to topple early faves Anoop and Danny to advance.

17. Jackie Tohn: Has called dibs on the “wacky” rocker chick persona, but as Amanda Overmyer learned last season, that’s a polarizing path. Which will voters remember more: Jackie’s gold-sequined fanny pack or her groovy interpretation of “I’m Yours”?

16. Scott MacIntyre: His success in spite of his visual impairment is one of season’s most memorable backstories, but his performances to date — Daughtry’s “Home” and Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes” — betrayed a bit of vocal wobbliness.

15. Jesse Langseth: Big Hollywood Week moment came when Simon told her she had no chance to win based on her choice of Nikka Costa’s “Like a Feather” for a sing-off with Frankie Jordan. But anyone who caught a brief snippet of her “Some Kind of Wonderful” knows she’s a live long shot.

14. Brent Keith: Country hunk failed to impress Simon with his choiceof Bad Company’s “Can’t Get Enough” at the Louisville, KY, auditions, but he’s aneasier sell (commercially speaking) than cold water in the middle ofthe Sahara. Strong Wild Card candidate if he can’t unseat Danny orAnoop.

13. Kristen McNamara: Simon implied she wasn’t attractive, but herrendition of “I Will Always Love You” was lovely, and let’s be honest:If this woman isn’t considered good-looking, then most of us shouldn’tbe leaving the house without a strategically placed grocery bag. Thecontestant of choice for unshallow voters?

12. Lil Rounds: The judges have all but placed her on a throne andcarried it to the Nokia for her late-May season 8 coronation. But holdthat crown! Her Whitney Houston cover was so shouty, it could have drownout Gordon Ramsay. This lady could test the power of producermanipulation.

11. Megan Corkrey: Tattooed beauty delivered a fine, jazzy “Can’t HelpLoving That Man of Mine” at her Salt Lake City audition, then all but disappearedfrom the Idol radar during Hollywood Week. Is the show saving a delicioussurprise for the semis, or is Megan merely cannon-fodder?

10. Alex Wagner-Trugman: Idol loves sending geeks to the top 12 (seeStevens, John; Aiken, Clay), and Alex has the big voice and endearingeyebrows to follow in their footsteps. Still, we preferred his ”Baby Come to Me”audition to his sappier ”Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” in his top36 sing-off.

9. Alexis Grace: Perky young mom has shown a penchant for powerful (ifslightly oversung) Aretha Franklin covers. But if she dials back thevocals and cranks up the personality, Alexis could quickly leap fromunderdog to front-runner.

8. Adam Lambert: Along with Danny andLil, this raven-haired belter holds a winning ticket in the pimped-by-producers sweepstakes, but unfortunately, his renditions of “Some Kindof Wonderful” and “Believe” bordered on strident. Needs constructivecriticism, not crazy over-praise, from the judges.

7. Jasmine Murray: She’s button-cute, possesses a booming voice, and(as Randy will surely remind us) is only sixteen. If she can staypoised once the high-pressure live performances begin — and scrubs offthe troweled-on makeup — she might prove more Jordin Sparks than LisaTucker.

6. Ju’Not Joyner: Unassuming Dad didn’t make it through Hell Week lastyear, but his terrific take on “Hey There, Delilah” changed hisfortunes for season 8. Some might say his story lacks drama, but isn’tthat a plus in a season where Tatiana and Norman are hogging the earlybuzz?

5. Felicia Barton: Got the cruel heave-ho at the “Judges’ Mansion,” butwon a last-minute stay of execution after Joanna Pacitti was DQ’d.Could be a case of “dead contestant walking” given her lack of airtime,but YouTube clips prove Felicia’s got a huge voice, and who doesn’tlike a comeback kid?

4. Danny Gokey: Got more face-time on Fox over the last five weeks thanthe casts of Dollhouse and Sarah Connor Chronicles combined. Yet whilethere’s no arguing the strength of his “Kiss From a Rose” and”Somebody to Love,” his “I Hope You Dance” wasn’t nearly as potent.Must avoid vocal strain.

3. Ann Marie Boskovich: Of all the contestants shown singing “I HopeYou Dance” last week, her version was the champ. And with a personalitythat’s sweet, without ever veering toward cloying, Ann Marie is kind oflike Katharine McPhee, only more accessible.

2. Matt Giraud: Could be the next Justin Timberlake or the next ChrisRichardson, but whether or not you dig the dueling pianist’s penchantfor aggressive vibrato, his “Georgia on My Mind” stood out among theHollywood Week mediocrity.

1. Anoop Desai: “ANOOOOOOP!” (Woot!) Okay,with that out of the way, let’s break it down: While most of hiscompetitors gravitated toward maudlin ballads, Anoop chose “MyPrerogative” — and rocked the freakin’ house. At this point, he’s onegood haircut away from making the season 8 Idol tour.


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