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Idol announces Top 24

As “American Idol’s” Hollywood Week has come and finally gone, viewers at home can take a collective breath, release the DVR fast-forward button and relax as the legitimate contenders take the stage.

No more manufactured waiting room drama or judging room insignificant questions. (Did anyone honestly believe how participants would influence the outcome?) No more watching singer elation or anguish from the voyeuristic eye of the elevator-cam … and no more crying from Josh Leming.Thank the heavens above for such favors. We can now focus on the main event.Oddly enough, Jason Castro, Luke’ Menard, Garrett Haley, and Jason’ Yeager gained a seat under the big tent without having a single note hit the airwaves. If as a quartet, they sing a set (or fall) outside the L.A. County limits, do they make a sound?No worries about lack of familiarity, though. Only last year’s 11th-place finisher Stephanie Edwards was failed to score notable face time prior to the semifinals. Call me a conspiracy theorist (you’ll have many opportunities throughout the season!), but I think the so-called ”power to the people” was once again trumped for producer-manufactured television.All nonsense aside, this season promises to be long on excitement with a deep talent pool and no contestants that broke away from the pack — yet. Then again, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Iconic chin scruff, nifty moniker and all, Sundance Head was preordained to go far in Season Six … only to fade quietly in 16th place.A quick rundown of some favorites, dark horses and doubtfuls…Favorites
The teenybopper contingency is represented with David Archuleta, who is destined to make the girls who’ve previously voted for Sanjaya Malakar, Kevin Covais, and John Stevens all warm and squirmy once again. One difference: Archuleta is vocally superior to the three youthful heartthrobs.Michael Johns is a top gun — hosting potent pipes beneath his sleeves and from his mouth. He could make Pavoratti material sound good.For the ladies … Amanda Overmyer has a rugged growl encased with nerves of steel. Remember: pressure situations are a daily existence for nurses. If Overmyer is able to ”light and shade” her content as judge Simon Cowell suggested, look out.Carly Smithson has gained a LOT of camera time in the early going, which can play a role in collecting a fan base. Fantastic clarity and vocal range along with an updated visa, will help the Irishwoman.Dark horses
Asia’h Epperson is a small-town girl with big city talent and lots of motivation. If Epperson’s song selection knack continues to be keen, she’ll be a force. Her hoarseness during Hollywood Week (fighting off a cold?) keeps her being a front runner.Joanne Borgella has plenty of hardware and potency to go a ways. It all depends on where her head is at. If she’s preoccupied or lacks confidence due to her “plus size” physique, it may be an early exit for Borgella. This writer quietly roots for her to step up, blast — and challenge.Viewers vote on the darnest things. When talking about Chikezie Eze, viewers may remember the name, but stay ‘cause he has game… along with a warm voice and a casual disposition.I’m guessing David Cook is the Season Seven thinking man’s musician. Cook has intangibles galore and a voice that’s more elegant than his appearance.Doubtfuls
Danny Noriega and Brooke White both seem shaky. Noriega’s boy diva style won’t translate too well with viewers and White, although a sometimes-intoxicating reminder of Carole King, is simply too volatile. White could explode into tears at any moment.The Top 24 lineup Men:
Daniel Archuleta, 17, Murray, Utah;
Colton Berry, 18, Staunton, Va.;
Robbie Carrico, 26, Melbourne, Fla.;
Jason Castro, 20, Rockwall, Texas;
David Cook, 25, Tulsa, Okla.;
Chikezie Eze, 22, Inglewood, Calif.;
Garrett Haley, 17, Elida, Ohio;
David Hernandez, 24, Glendale, Ariz.;
Luke Menard, 29, Crawfordsville, Ind.;
Danny Noriega, 18, Azusa, Calif.;
Jason Yeager, 28, Branson, Mo.:
Michael Johns, 29, Los Angeles by way of Australia. Ladies:
Amanda Overmyer, 23, Mulberry, Ind.;
Brooke White, 24, Van Nuys, Calif.;
Joanne Borgella, 25, Hoboken, N.J.;
Kristy Lee Cook, 24, Selma, Ore.;
Amy Davis, 25, Cedar Lake, Ind.;
Asia’h Epperson, 19, Joplin, Mo.;
Alexandrea Lushington, 17, Douglasville, Ga.;
Kady Malloy, 18, Houston;
Ramiele Malubay, 20, Miramar, Fla.;
Syesha Mercado, 21, Miami;
Alaina Whitaker, 16, Tulsa, Okla.;
Carly Smithson, San Diego by way of Dublin, Ireland. The top 12 men will perform on Feb. 19, the top 12 ladies will sing on Feb. 20 and Results Night will be on Feb. 21. All shows start at 8 p.m. on Fox. Don’t miss it!

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