It seems soon, but we’re already in the final stages of Season 14 of “American Idol.” During Wednesday’s episode, the top 16 performers were whittled down to the top 12.
Although each contestant gave a brief one-song performance during the March 11 broadcast, the focus of the episode was to reveal who the 12 singers are that will go on to the final rounds. With the show changing its format this season, we don’t have much time to spend with these dozen talented contestants. To help make sure you get your fill of the Season 14 top 12 finalists, below is a breakdown of each hopeful’s journey thus far.
This 18-year-old came out as one of the judges’ wild-card picks for the season. Although she wasn’t voted directly into the competition by the public, her voice and enthusiasm for music has carried her into the top 12. Singing competition show aficionados may remember Duru from her brief stint on NBC’s “The Voice,” where she managed to get Adam Levine’s chair to turn around sight unseen. Although she didn’t end up winning the competition that year, she’s back at it and clearly on her way toward winning it all on “American Idol.”
This 22-year-old singer has gotten some pretty decent mileage out of the song “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown. It was his audition song as well as his big song to get in the top 12, and it worked out perfectly. Despite being beloved by fans and certain critics, some of the judges haven’t been too kind to Beckham’s performances thus far. Check him out and decide for yourself.
OK, I’ll say it: In addition to being the youngest contestant from Season 14 at 15 years old, he’s also one of the youngest-looking singers that the competition has ever had. His age has been both a blessing and a curse for him in the show thus far. On one hand, he seems to have a Justin Bieber or One Direction effect on the young ladies in the audience. Having said that, he’s still maturing, and his voice is ever-changing. The judges have expressed their concern with his inexperience, particularly Harry Connick Jr. Still, having mastered multiple instruments and having a voice that makes his fans swoon were enough to get him this far, perhaps those talents will reach a little further.
As People Magazine notes, Jackie “Jax” Cole has already cultivated a fan base for her unique sound and look. She’s got the voice to keep her in the competition, but strange choices (e.g., last night’s back half of The Beatles' “I Want to Hold Your Hand”) really don’t do her any favors. Still, if her biggest problems stem from her out-there wardrobe or performance choices, those are easy things to fix in the coming weeks of the competition for this 18-year-old New Jersey native.
The main thing to know about this 23-year-old singer is that she’s a total weirdo -- in a good way. With her off-color hair and quirky personality, People magazine likened the Virginian to “New Girl’s” Zooey Deschanel. During Monday’s episode, she performed Tallest Man on Earth’s “King of Spain” to the delight of the crowd. Sure, she’s got some odd choices for songs and performances, but they’re never boring. Frankly, for a competition that’s circling the drain anyway, a little dose of Cook’s oddball style might be exactly what the show needs to wake up its audience.
After being eliminated from last year’s competition due to inexperience, the 17-year-old singer is back and doing better this time around. She’s in particularly good shape, as she’s the season’s perfunctory country-leaning singer. While this sets her apart from the others in group performances in a slightly negative way, she shines in solo performances by capturing a musical genre that appeals to a large number of Americans. Even if you hate country music so much that Walker’s performance made your ears bleed, it’s possible your opinion simply will be outvoted.
Entertainment Weekly categorized this singer’s role in the competition best, saying, “I’ve always felt that he’s one of those Idol contestants who sticks around because he fills a ‘cute guy with a guitar’ quota.” While TVLine gave his performance a much more shining review, the fact of the matter is that, being the oldest person in Season 14 at 29, he has a lot more expected of him, and he’s simply not living up to it just yet.
Middleton’s role in the competition thus far has been as designated hype man. Although he’s been chastised by the judges in the past for masking his vocals with an incredible sense of showmanship, it’s hard to argue with the end result of his time on stage. Still, with the judges breathing down his neck to pick a slower, more vocal-focused song in the coming weeks, it looks like this contestant’s real test has yet to be taken.
This 21-year-old shot to the forefront of “Idol” fans' hearts in New Orleans but had a relatively modest showing since then. Still, he seems to be saving his knockout performances for when they really count. His rendition of Lorde’s “Royals” on Wednesday was enough for the judges to make him the first wild-card pick of Season 14. Admittedly this contestant is a bit of a head scratcher, because he’s proven he can deliver but not with consistency. Then again, it’s possible we haven’t seen his best work yet.
With Clark Beckham the favorite to win it all, we can consider 23-year-old Owen our safety net. In the event that Beckham gets sent home (or inexplicably starts to stink up the “Idol” stage), odds are good we’ll immediately default to the man who performed Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” to solidify his position in the top 12. His only real hurdle is standing out among the other performers. At this stage in the competition, it’s not enough to be the most talented, you’ve got to lobby for America’s votes, and being quiet as a mouse is not the best way to do that.
Another stellar talent in Season 14, this 19-year-old can belt out a Motown song like she was born with a microphone in her hand. However, her performance last night left a bit to be desired. Still, one misstep at a stage where it doesn’t quite matter isn’t necessarily the worst thing.
Pretty much everyone had the same thing to say about 16-year-old Tyanna Jones from last night’s show: While she’s got the talent to be in the top 12 and 100 percent deserves her spot there, her singing could use some work in the coming weeks. Many other performers are miles ahead of her in terms of vocal consistency. This is the point in the competition where nitpicky little things like that can be the difference between an “American Idol” crown and a one-way trip back to Jacksonville, Fla. It’s worth mentioning that her inexperience is somewhat excusable as she’s only one year older than the youngest contestant of the season.
"American Idol" airs Thursday, March 12 at 8 p.m. EDT.