'American Idol': 'Idol' experts pick early Top 24 frontrunners

andrew-garcia-katie-stevens.jpg "American Idol" just announced its Top 24 of season 9. Zap2it asked some of the "Idol" writers from around the blogosphere to choose who they think are the strongest competitors so far.

We can probably all agree on who are not the frontrunners at this point on "American Idol."

Poor Jose "Joe" Munoz and Paige Miles have barely seen the light of day and yet here they are in the Top 24. Tim Urban, who is suddenly a Top 24 member after the Chris Golightly mess, has also hardly been shown on camera either. They all have a tough road ahead to make the Top 12.

However, picking out the early frontrunners is a little harder. So who do the "Idol" experts from around the web think are the top male and female contenders of the Top 24:

Jacob Clifton, Television Without Pity:

Ashley Rodriguez, who has a great look and voice, and seems more grounded than some of the the younger ladies but still very commercial. For the guys, I think Tyler Grady's performance skills put him over the top. Adam Lambert proved that we still love a showman, and Tyler has the looks and talent to complete the package.

Daniel Fienberg, Hitfix:

Ashley Rodriguez -- Figure the show wants a female Idol this year. Figure the four guitar-playing-blondes (Lilly, Didi, Crystal and Janell) cannibalize a certain pocket of votes each week. Figure Ashley is as attractive and talented as she appeared to be in her audition. How much would "American Idol" love to have a Latina winner to celebrate diversity after two straight white male winners?

Casey James
- You can go far on "American Idol" if you can count on weekly positive reviews by at least one of the judges and you just know that Kara DioGuardi is gonna be over-the-moon for Casey every week no matter what he sings, no matter what he wears, no matter what the other judges say. The only thing that can hold Casey back is if Kara's affects get too blatant and somebody has make her cool it to prevent a scandal.

Shirley Halperin, Los Angeles Times Idol Tracker:

Katie Stevens: From note one, this 17-year-old has impressed with vocal chops way beyond her years. Confident and head-to-toe adorable, she's the ideal candidate for "Idol's" younger crowd.

Andrew Garcia: In a sea of competent singers, Andrew is a cut above. He brings creativity to center stage, something that, if executed well, the judges appreciate and applaud. We've had winners in pop, country, R&B... Allison Iraheta got so close last year, isn't it time for a Latino "Idol?"

Joe, Joe's Place Blog:
 
The female frontrunner is harder to pick. However, I believe that the very likable Didi Benami is in the front of the pack. She also has had much screentime. While she may have faltered a bit in Hollywood, her personality, her likability and her tears will allow her to make the top five. She just needs to have one or two great performances in the top 20s and that alone will push her into the end.

I think that it is no surprise to anyone that the male frontrunner is Andrew Garcia.  He's been pimped by "Idol," he's got the "backstory" that the fans eat up, plus, most important is the fact that he's got the goods to back it up.  No other contestant this season has been talked about more than Andrew. The only downfall on him being this year's frontrunner is the chance that his flame will burn too quickly, as America tends to side with the underdog. This could hurt Andrew down the stretch, but he will be going deep.

Brian Mansfield, USA Today Idol Chatter:

I don't have a front-runner at this point. I think the producers have done such a masterful job at not giving us enough of anybody that, for once, I have very little idea what's coming down the pike.

MJ, MJ's Big Blog:

Ashley Rodriquez - Poised, polished and gorgeous, Ashley is that "package artist" judge Kara DioGuardi is always talking about. Ashely won't need a makeover or much coaching, she's good to go right out of the box. As long as she doesn't appear too "perfect" -- "Idol" contestants need to be able to grow throughout the competition -- her confidence could take her through to the finish line.

Andrew Garcia -  Andrew's knack for turning a pop tune on its head recalls former Idols like David Cook and Kris Allen. If Andrew can continue to wow "Idol" fans with his unique arrangements, he'll go very far.

Andrea Reiher, Zap2it:

Katelyn Epperly is my female frontrunner. She disappeared a bit in Hollywood, but she's extremely likable and very talented, I loved her "Syrup and Honey" audition. A big first week and she's easily in the Top 12. She reminds me a bit of Carrie Underwood, in looks and background.

Casey James is my male frontrunner. He's cute and charming while still being a little rough around the edges -- the female voters are going to love him. Add in the fact that he actually can sing and he should easily go pretty far in the competition.

Rickey, Rickey.org:

Katie Stevens is the front-runner for the girls. She's young, has a great voice and has the look of a winner like Carrie Underwood.

Harder to pick for the guys, but right now the only one standing out vocally is Andrew Garcia, who has a great musician vibe about him. I don't think he will get the cougar get-out-the-vote, though

Richard Rushfield, The Daily Beast:

Katie Stevens and Aaron Kelly
As iPhones get into the hands of more and more of America's tweens, and they develop text messaging superpowers, their influence in "Idol" voting grows out of proportion with their actual numbers. One tween can easily file hundreds of text votes in the two hours polls are opened, while their elders give up after a dozen. Katie Stevens and Aaron Kelly are the perfect fun, soft-edged, magnetic personalities to appeal to the tween voters.

SirMac, Joe's Place Blog:

 
Didi Benami - They've shown her backstory a couple of times, and she cries all the time which is endearing. Couple that with some strong vocals, and her guitar abilities, and she might be the female winner "Idol" has been craving.

Andrew Garcia - He's really the obvious choice, since Idol has chosen to feature him 24/7 in their coverage. He also has shown an ability to rearrange a song to meet his needs, something both David Cook and Kris Allen shared.

The "Idol" bloggers have spoken: Andrew Garcia, Katie Stevens and Ashley Rodriguez are the frontrunners, with Didi Benami and Casey James also making a decent showing.

Who are your frontrunners?





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