Michael Slezak
March 09, 2010 AT 05:44 PM EST

Round two of American Idol‘s season 9 semifinals was a definite improvement over the deeply troubling Top 24 week, so I’m optimistic that the remaining 16 contestants will perform well enough this week to inspire Ellen DeGeneres to dig up some synonyms for her favorite adjective “great.” But before we whittle the field down to the 12 final finalists, I’m gonna rank ’em one last time — and ask you to help do the same through our handy Power List Poll. (For more Idol coverage, follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak!)

16. Lacey Brown (Last week No. 17 ): Paula Abdul probably has a better chance of scoring an engagement with the Metropolitan Opera than Lacey landing in the season 9 top 12. Visible nerves obliterated her Top 24 cover of “Landslide,” while last week’s “Kiss Me” was just tepid karaoke. What happened to the winning, wafer-thin warble she exhibited on “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World”?

15. Tim Urban (Last week No. 20) How far can lustrous hair and enviable abs take you on American Idol? All the way to the top 16, apparently! Seriously, while Tim’s latest performance (“Come On Get Higher”) wasn’t nearly as treacherous as his botched-falsetto “Apologize” in Top 24 week or his creaky David Cook cover in the Hollywood rounds, dude lacks the inherent vocal talent of a worthy Idol finalist.

14. Todrick Hall (Last week No. 14 ): While it’s hard not to admire Todrick’s audacity in arranging his song choices — a funked-up twist on “Since U Been Gone,” a lounge-lizard reinvention of  “What’s Love Got to Do With It” — you cannot have an Idol Moment (like, say, David Cook’s “Billie Jean”) if your vocals are gaspy and out of tune. Hasn’t built much of a fan base, so he’ll need to be jaw-droppingly good this week if he wants to crack the top 12.

13. Katie Stevens (Last week No. 11): The judges seem obsessed with making Katie choose tracks by “young” artists, but it won’t matter if she’s singing “Feeling Good” or “Tik Tok” if she doesn’t scrub away that stiff, pageant veneer. Season 9 survival to date has been fueled mainly by good-will from her solid Hollywood Week showing, but that tank is running dangerously close to ‘E.’

12. Paige Miles (Last week No. 13): Total lack of early screen-time means Paige has to sing like it’s her final time on the Idol stage tonight — something that she failed to do on an imperfect “All Right Now” and an unexciting “Walk Away.” Judges still seem to like her, but with a deep crop of season 9 ladies, her spot in the finals is no guarantee.

11. Didi Benami (Last week No. 4): Judges used her for kickboxing training after a folksy cover of Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am” and a misguided (but not terrible) “Lean on Me.” Kara was right: Didi needs to grab the guitar and deliver a deeply emotional vocal this week, as she did in Hollywood on  Katharine McPhee”s “Terrified.” If not, the early front-runner will complete a rapid and stunning transformation into season 9 also-ran.

10. Aaron Kelly (Last week No. 9): His Week 2 cover of “My Girl” showed considerably more confidence than his initial outing on Rascal Flatts’ “Here Comes Goodbye,” but he has yet to display the raw vocal horsepower of a David Archuleta, or the musical inventiveness of a Kris Allen. Sure, he’s performing well enough that a Top 12 slot should be within his grasp, but even the slightest step backward would make him vulnerable in an evenly matched men’s field.

9. Michael ‘Big Mike’ Lynche (Last week No. 12): On the plus side, Big Mike is one of the few male contestants this season who consistently sings in tune; his “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” seemed overpraised by the judges until the nine subsequent guys took the stage and missed a third to a half of their notes. Still, Velveeta-level shtick — the jacket-popping, finger-pointing, lip-licking ridiculata — make it hard to envision the burly personal trainer as a viable music superstar. Destined to inherit Michael Sarver’s No. 10 slot?

8. Andrew Garcia (Last week No. 1): The judges keep reminding us of his rhythmically adventurous, Hollywood Week cover of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” but a lame choice of Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” followed by a mediocre vocal on “You Give Me Something” have him looking more and more like a Chris Sligh or an Asia’h Epperson — a pre-semifinal front-runner whose hopes go kaput on the live Idol stage. After all, this isn’t YouTube Idol.

7. Casey James (Last week No. 3): Cover of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” was rock-solid, if not spectacular, but Kara was right when she said his “I Don’t Want to Be” represented two steps back in the competition. Yeah, his electric guitar work was impressive, but the vocal was breathy and contained Carmen Rasmusen-level vibrato. Still, his goofy expressions during group performances are endearing, and unlike most of his male competitors, he’s never been absolutely awful.

6. Alex Lambert (Last week No. 16): Cracked the top 20 using a combination of sympathy votes, mullet love, and appreciation for the intriguing natural tone of his voice, then significantly stepped up his game with a tender, tuneful “Everybody Knows.” Needs to work on his phrasing and emotional connection to the music — and perhaps that Russian figure skater hairstyle — but he’s made massive strides in the competition in a short amount of time, and everyone knows Idol voters love to see “growth.”

5. Lilly Scott (Last week No. 7): Jazzy, acoustic “A Change Is Gonna Come” hearkened back to stellar, Hollywood Week take on “Lullaby of Birdland.” Has a tendency  to overreach with her vocals (see that imperfect cover of the Beatles’ “Fixing a Hole”), but strong sense of artistry gives her an advantage in a deep field of ladies. Further exploration of lilting, lovely upper register would be an added bonus.

4. Lee Dewyze (Last week No. 6): Hit plenty of bum notes on “Chasing Cars” and the ghastly track “Lips of an Angel,” and yet nonetheless seems more Idol-worthy than his seven remaining male competitors. Perhaps it’s because he knows how to change up a well-worn melody without completely destroying it, or perhaps it’s his ability to connect on a visceral level with the material he’s choosing. Still, needs to work on the technical aspects of his vocal. Buying a belt might help, too.

3. Katelyn Epperly (Last week No. 8 ): Surprised in Top 24 round with an appealingly raspy cover of the Beatles’ “Oh Darlin’,” then continued her forward momentum by taking to the piano for a haunting take on Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” Sure, not everyone loved the funereal tempo, but an Idol journey without some risk usually leads to an early exit these days, no?

2. Siobhan Magnus (Last week No. 5): That note! I mean…

1. Crystal Bowersox (Last week No. 2): Roared back from a scary medical stay with a clear, confident, and ultimately poignant cover of CCR’s “Long as I Can See the Light” that improved upon her  shaded rendering of Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket” from the previous week. A mortal lock for the top 12 right now, and while she’ll need to amp up the originality in her arrangements, her biggest obstacle going forward might just be early and relentless over-hyping from the Idol judges.

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Image Credit: Frank Micelotta/Fox

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