Thursday, February 23, 2006

American Idol '06: Sizing up the boys

Previously on SSTOL, we got in touch with the feminine side of this season's American Idol contestant pool. Today, it's the guys' turn under the microscope.

In appearance order from last night's episode, the 2006 edition of Ryan's Raiders includes the following personnel.

Patrick Hall. Patrick's like an older, scruffier, straighter Clay Aiken — a tall, gangly Southerner with a pleasant voice who seems a tiny bit flummoxed onstage. He's one of the better singers in this year's cast, but not the most scintillating performer. Like Clay before him, he may grow into the role as the season progresses.

David Radford. This year's Sinatra wannabe. For demographic reasons, the Idol producers love having one guy each year who thinks he's channeling the Chairman of the Board. David even has the look — he's a ringer for a young Harry Connick Jr. David can sing all right, though his Rat Pack-styled take on Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" was ill-advised at best and ludicrous at worst.

Bucky Covington. Red meat for the redneck contingent. As difficult as it is to take seriously a grown man who calls himself "Bucky," the Buckster might actually be hiding a fairly decent voice in there somewhere if he didn't insist on overdoing the cowboy twang. Nah, probably not. Memorable mostly for mangling the lyrics to the Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself" during Hollywood Week. Needs to get back in the General Lee and haul tail for home.

Will Makar. Will's a nice kid from all indications, but he's in over his head here. He might have a future as a wedding singer, but not as a pop star.

José "Sway" Penala. I have no idea why "Sway" is still on the show. His selection to the Top 24 was, for me, the biggest surprise of the season thus far. He can't sing, and the gangsta-cool persona he's fronting (what was with the pimp hat he wore onstage this week?) just makes him look silly. When the votes are in tonight, Sway should be the first of the guys to go.

Chris Daughtry. Staking out the hard rocker territory in this crew, Chris is this season's Constantine Maroulis. He's got the voice, with a truckload of gravel and grit stuffed into it, but his onstage presence is less than compelling. Has the tools to advance to the final round.

Kevin Covais. Every year, the Idol field includes a palefaced teenage boy with minimal talent, whose sole raison d'etre on the show is to give little old ladies at retirement homes across America a reason to tune in. This year, Kevin is that kid. I'm sure he's a sweetheart, but I'll be glad when we aren't being subjected to his wimpy singing any longer.

Gedeon McKinney. One of the better male performers, Gedeon seems much older than the 17 years he owns up to. Although he didn't impress me last night with his lame Jackie Wilson-inspired cover of "Shout," we know he's got the pipes and the energy. His speaking voice reminds me of Dallas Mavericks head coach Avery Johnson.

Elliott Yamin. This guy continues to surprise me. He's not much to look at — I keep getting him and Chris Daughtry confused — and he's extremely raw, with no real concept of how to use his voice properly. But with some quality vocal coaching, Elliott could develop into a terrific singer. I didn't like him that much when we saw his audition, but he's growing on me.

Bobby Bennett. A large kid with a larger-than-life personality, it's too bad Bobby doesn't have a large voice to match. But he doesn't. He's entertaining, and he has fun doing his thing, but this is a singing competition, and Bobby can't sing. Will probably be the one of the first contestants dismissed, along with Sway Penala.

Ace Young. Unlike the female contingent, whose top seven or eight members are more or less evenly matched, the guys have one standout player this year, and that man is Ace Young. Ace is the total deal — he has the voice, he has the smoking hot looks, and most of all, he oozes charisma. Unless he has a meltdown (or an as-yet-undisclosed skeleton in his closet) somewhere along the way, Ace will contend for the crown at season's end.

Taylor Hicks. I know, I know. He's working the shtick a little hard. And yeah, he's goofy, spastic, and crazy weird. But I've gotta admit, he's the one contestant I look forward to seeing every week. And I'm convinced that all the goofball stuff isn't just an act — this guy just loves to perform, and he's dancing to the beat of his own quirky drummer. I don't know whether he'll survive the cut to 12, but I sure hope he does.

All that said, here (in alphabetical order) are the six guys I'd hope to see still standing when the final cast is assembled:
  • Ace.
  • Chris.
  • Elliott.
  • Gedeon.
  • Patrick.
  • Taylor.
We'll see what happens.

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