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'Idol' Tracker: The ladies' closing arguments

March 6, 2008 |  7:56 am

Kadymalloy And so the ladies have made their closing statements, their last attempts to warble their way into our consciousness and earn a slot in the finals have been recorded. The question for the female half now hangs in the air as ominous and unforgiving as a Simon Cowell dismissal: with an epic battle brewing on the boys’ side, the battle foretold in "Idol" scriptures between The Chosen One and the Duende From Down Under, between the incarnation of Idol’s sweetness and light and the embodiment of the show's long squelched id -- with this Armageddon beckoning on the horizon, are any of these girls equipped to play a role as it reaches its final stages or are all destined to serve as cannon fodder in the next six weeks?

This column has long been of the opinion that "American Idol" winners should be female; that men have no place in this competition except to serve as comic foils and sidekicks. In a just and rational world, that is how it would be.  But we may now be facing realigning forces that scatter our notions of right and wrong to the wind (more on that tomorrow). In every "Idol" finale but one, thus far at least, one of the two slots has gone to a woman (although, admittedly one of the two slots has gone to a man in all but one season).  We must now consider the possibility, however, that in this May, none will be able to claim their seat on the Kodak stage.

Wednesday night the girls took a step forward. The waves of mass panic that seemed to sweep over their ranks in previous weeks had dissipated and most turned in credible performances. But in a year when at least seven of the boys are very plausible contenders for the final four, did any of the girls rise to that level? Let us examine the contenders.

Kady Malloy (in photo) now wears an expression I’ve seen well before. It adorned the face of Chris Sligh in Season 6 and it said more than anything “Get me out of here!” After a couple of tough weeks, the spunk seems to have been drained from Kady; she seems to nurse no hope of being a force in this competition and is bearing it as best she can until the ax falls -- which likely will be soon. 

Kristy Lee Cook has traded "I will be the next 'American Idol'" for "finishing in the Top 10 would be great," a defeatist attitude that guarantees that even that wish will not be granted.  Publicly stating you are not in it to win is like a presidential candidate saying he or she doesn't really want to be president, but is in the game to get the VP nod.  Admitting such a thing guarantees you will get neither job.

Asia’h Epperson’s effervescent energy might have taken her far in a weaker year, but in this season, something more intense is needed to make it to the top tiers.

Syesha Mercado thus far represents the competition’s greatest unrealized potential. Possessing not just a lovely voice but the purest star quality of any of the girls, she has it in her to go all the way. But to date, she has yet to deliver a star-making performance, and time is quickly running out for her to do so.

Brooke White has performed well and will be with us for a while yet, but ultimately the Carly Simon routine is in too minor a key for her to be a Final 4 contender.

Ramiele Malubay has some star quality and an appealing voice. Her emotional range may however seem too limited and her incipient signs of brattiness too alarming to carry her to the final stage.

Amanda Overmyer, described by my colleague Ann Powers as the anti-heroine of the candidates, may actually be at the vanguard of fulfilling what ultimately could be this season’s legacy, broadening the definitions of what kind of singer an Idol should be, particularly broadening that definition on the female side.  As previously stated, this column opposes that effort, believing that Celine, Whitney and Faith are all the role models "Idol" women need.  However, Amanda’s unorthodox approach may prove a tonic to fans looking for something new, and rocker is a proven voting block with serious power.  She has the potential to go very far, but her unorthodox persona makes it highly unlikely that she will find her way to the Kodak.

Which leaves Carly. She has the vocal skills and sense of the emotional theater (she did play little Cozette in a touring Les Mis company after all) of a competitive singing performance to go all the way, even to upset Michael Johns for that final seat. But she retains a nervous reserve and certain brooding character that she still must shake off if she is going to connect with the audience -- particularly the younger demographics.  But that may be to her benefit as showing growth during the course of the season is one of the crucial traits that makes an Idol.

And tomorrow we shall know their names.  An anxious world awaits.

--Richard Rushfield

Photo courtesy of Fox