1. Trenyce. This girl just rocketed to the top for me. Not only has she got a fantastic voice (she's been good before, but last night she hit it square on the musical G-spot), but she also has stage presence, a killer smile, and she's *gorgeous* to boot. As of last night, there's nothing holding her back from being an American Idol. Unfortunately, I suspect she'll lose out by being too many people's second choice, after the emotional first choices - for people cheering for Ruben or Clay or Josh...for whatever reason. I think she's the best bet to be the highest placing female.

2. Clay. The classic underdog. Geekchic du jour. The Willow of the AI Scooby-gang. The guy can sing. But he *is* theatrical. He acts the emotions in his songs like a silent-film star, only not silent. And he definitely is very good, and with his recent make-over, it's easy to understand why SO many women love (wuv) him. With the best stage presence (b/c he should be working Broadway, IMO) of the group, and with a great voice and the 'underdog boost', he is a great bet to finish in the top 3, and given the 'sentimental favorite' status he seems to have going for him, I'd not be surprised to see America vote him through to a win. If he doesn't win, there's no question that we'll see many broken hearts. Like when Bambi's mom died.

3. Ruben. Ruben can sing. Ruben can really *sing*. His voice is smoother than the baby-oiled inner thigh of a nubile flight attendant on a particularly raunchy *lay* over. Or, for those G-rated readers, a divinely warm-fudge smooth voice. Ruben has the sound of a professional singer - and a long-term professional singer at that. Plus, he's likable. But Ruben needs more style - that 205 jersey was a cute concept one time, but is getting to be so 5 minutes ago now. And although he may be the only one Simon hasn't called on it so far, Ruben's weight ~is~ a bit of an issue for him, limiting somewhat his style options. But other big men pull off funky styles, so he can do it. He just needs a good stylist to be #1.

4. Kimberly C. Our second Kimberly from last night is the first Kimberly on my list. She has a country-edged voice that commands attention, dominates most any song she digs her spurs into and still manages to massage in a rock-vibe undertone. She might as well have 'cross-over potential' tattooed on her pickup- driving white butt, b/c you can bet that Simon sees not only her good looks, but this potential when he looks at her with dollar signs in his eyes. She very well may have won the competition last year (though that can probably be said about many of this crop - most would have definitely been top 4 material last year). Kimberly is the gal half the fans want to hate. Kimberly C could easily be an easy bet to finish #1, with her already established pop-star looks. But the anti- Britney anti-sextart backlash has, with the help of some questionable editing early in the show, caught her in its undertow. And with her Pink-on-the-block styling sending out confusing signals...she falls to this spot, though she's my personal pick as the 'would do the best as AI' contestant.

5. Josh. Sir, Yes Sir! And yes, Josh has almost everything going for him to be *the* American Idol. Good looks, a solid, if unspectacular voice, and enough stage presence right now to get by. Add to that the patriotism angle, and it's likely that Josh will make the final 4. Unfortunately, he may not get the chance. There's no question that this this Marine is going places. Unfortunately, it's probably Iraq.

6. Rickey. Rickey disappointed a bit last night. But this guy is a wildcard in this show. He will likely get better and better as his confidence improves. He also would benefit hugely from some more style advice. The golf-shirt chic thing ain't working for me. But he's got a great pop-voice, and he's likable, if a bit kooky. And I managed to talk about him for a full paragraph without mentioning Hercules! Well, almost.

7. Vanessa. Sassy!! I love this girl. She's just punk enough, but her voice can be soooo smooth and sultry. She does lows so well. She's got decent motion and emotion on stage, but not quite up there with the best. Also, I'm not sure the AI audience is going to ever pick someone with pink/red hair to win this thing. She's very good, but will likely be beat out by the more popular kids.

8. Corey. I grudgingly put him here. I have to be honest. I don't like him, and his voice doesn't do much for me. That being said, going out and goofing off while in LA for the first time is not something I *should* hold against a kid forever. A mistake, fine, but move on. And he is a bit wild, which could work in his favour. But I would not be devastated if he lost. I think he'll go sooner than later, despite the judges' gushing.

9. Carmen. She had the *perfect* song choice for her unique voice this week. I really enjoyed her performance, and she seems sweet. She has the whole sweetness/cuteness factor working in her favor as well. Her main detriment is her lack of exposure. I can't imagine many people voting for her over their 'long term' faves from weeks past. As such, I think she will unfortunately be an early casualty, and may well go this week (assuming someone is voted off - which is in question given the info about Josh possibly being shipped out). If she manages to stick it out for 2 or 3 weeks, she could well gain a solid following.

10. Julia. The backlash backlash has started, I think. For her performance, I give her 5/10. 4/5 for voice (she *does* have a beautiful voice, to my ears) and 1/ 5 for performance. Could she *be* any more stiff and dull?? She *has* to jazz/funk it up a lot more to stick around. I think she has potential to be MUCH higher, but equally, if she doesn't shape up, she could be gone quite early.

11. Kimberley Locke. The big disappointment of the evening. I *like* KL a lot, and I still hearken back to her duet with Frenchie - where she MORE than held her own - as promise of more and better things to come. Last night, however, was neither more nor better. Kim L and Trenyce flipped positions in my mind last night. She needs to REALLY step it up.

12. Charles. He seems so young. Nothing wrong with him or his voice, per se, but among his final 12 competitors last night, he did look like the weakest link. He seems like a good kid, and I wondered if he'd get a shot on AI 2004 or 2005 until i went to the AI site and saw that he's 24 years old. Yeesh! Still, it seems like his voice and his confidence still need a year or two to mature. Then I would like see what he can bring. I think it's a toss up b/w Charles and Carmen for who'll be voted off first. He might have a few more fans, so he may have a week's reprieve. He has the least room for notching up his performances, I think (we've seen his best, I think), so he'll go early.