It's been a month since I rattled off these first impressions of the finalists. Having now seen them perform a few times each, I feel that I'm a bit more in the loop, so let's revisit/update those earlier on the remaining nine contestants.
Michael Lynche. I was wrong about Big Mike, he's way more talented than I initially gave him credit for. I wrongly assumed that he was a cookie-cutter R&B artist. He's becoming more confident and personable with each passing week (quite similar to Ruben Studdard's growth to mega-popularity in Season 2), and he's shown that he can succeed by taking risks -- I thought that his take on "Eleanor Rigby" was bold and adventurous. I don't think the voters "punished" him for Beatles Lennon and McCartney Week, I think it was just one of those fluky occurances where a fairly good contestant ends being a bit lost in the shuffle and finishes last. This is exactly why the "judges save" exists, or least why it should exist. At least they saved a talented artist this year.
Casey James. His version of "Jealous Guy" was the best performance on last week's show. He doesn't carry himself like a star or look particularly like a star, and that's a huge problem for him in the weeks ahead. But he's great every time he takes the stage.
Andrew Garcia. Quirky contestants usually don't fare well on this show, e.g. Chris Sligh, Didi Benami, and Megan Joy, all of whom crashed out long before the halfway point of the finals. Last week gave me a brief glimpse into a mildly successful Andrew Garcia as a full-on Buddy Holly clone, but he really has no business still being in the competition.
Katie Stevens. What a mess. The judges have no idea what kind of music she should sing, she has no idea what she wants to sing, and nobody has any clue how she should look. They've tried prom princess, teen R&B idol, and the worst of all, last week somebody had the bright idea of dressing up the girl (who's always criticized for not looking young enough) like she just walked off the set of "Falcon Crest". She has to go.
Tim Urban. This guy is a bit of a genius. He realizes his serious vocal limitations, but each and every week, he figures out how to maximize whatever talents he does have and manages to turn in an enjoyable performance.
Siobhan Magnus. People are finally starting to realize that she's Danny Gokey with even worse taste in eyeglasses. Coasting through 70% of the song and belting out the glory notes won't fool all the people all the time, so I was impressed at how good she sounded with her more scaled-back performance from last week.
Lee DeWyze. He's been building his confidence and has become a bit of a sleeper pick to make at least the top three. But is he a star? Is he a rocker like Adam Lambert or Chris Daughtry who you can see on magazine covers and MTV awards shows? Can anyone really get the least bit excited about a Dave Matthews soundalike emerging from season nine of AI, besides the most hardcore Dave Matthews fans?
Aaron Kelly. He's hard to hate, because the kid can flat out sing. Out of all the remaining nine, I have no idea what's going to happen to him from here on out.
Crystal Bowersox. She doesn't have much of a personality when she's off the stage (and my gut feeling tells me that she doesn't get along too well with the other finalists) but on stage, she's still untouchable. Maybe her starkly serious (or some might say, mature beyond her years) demeanor might cause people to sour on her by the time we hit the top five, but otherwise I can't imagine a scenario in which she doesn't at least make it to the finale.