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Ann Powers on 'Idol': Hollywood winnowing in five easy steps

February 11, 2009 | 10:02 am

As any grade school kid knows, choosing teams is just the beginning of the game. The "big room" episode of Hollywood Week places stronger focus on certain contenders and banishes others, but it offers very little to music fans. As Cecile Frot-Coutaz told Rabbi Richard Rushfield in a previous "Idol Tracker" post, this is the time for figuring out who we like ... as people, not as singers. What did we learn from the two-bite brownies' worth of performances we saw during Tuesday's episode? Not enough to merit a full review. But I can make five observations that should carry through into the real competition.

1. This is one strong year for the fellas. Two already seem like surefire members of the Final Five, (oops, sorry, the other show I'm obsessively watching right now is "Battlestar Galactica"), and three others could jump into that elite with one killer turn. I'm talking Awesome Adam Lambert and the more-than-sympathetic Danny Gokey, plus Manwich Michael Sarver, Gokey's BFF Jamar Rogers, and Stephen Fowler -- who got through despite flubbing his song twice, which means the judges really like him. (So does Melinda Doolittle, by the way. She told me so during an interview just this afternoon.)

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