Editor's note: Every week Times Free Press Life staff members review the latest developments on "American Idol."
CLINT COOPER: The week America has its first say about the talent on the revamped "American Idol" has arrived. Auditions have passed, the Hollywood rounds have passed, the Las Vegas round has passed and the boring, final-24 selection show-and-a-half has passed. The Top 12 men sang for their musical lives on Tuesday night, and the top 12 women take the stage tonight. All Chattanooga area "AI" eyes will be on 16-year-old Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School student Lauren Alaina Suddeth. Based on her air time thus far, the show's producers likely feel she is one of the favorites. Her poise in the upcoming rounds, where America votes and where the pressure intensifies, will tell the tale. I'd be hard-pressed to pick her closest rival because there appears to be a lot of talent among the contestants. That said, I think the men are an overall more talented group.
KAREN NAZOR HILL: At this point, I tend to agree with you about the men being the more talented group. But that can easily change. I've been watching "American Idol" since the beginning, and I think this might be one of the most talented group of singers I've seen to date. I'm all about Lauren. The teenager is amazingly talented and seems to be a down-to-earth, good person. I'm very impressed with her communication skills, too. She's friendly, poised and never seems to be nervous. But the young lady has serious competition. I don't think there's going to be much room for error this year.
CLINT: The guys are an interesting lot. There is Jacob Lusk, who showed such amazing range during the Hollywood round; James Durbin, who has Tourette's syndrome but really can hit the high notes; Casey Abrams, whose solid vocals were accentuated by his prowess on several musical instruments; Scotty McCreery, whose deep bass is a country star waiting to happen; and Paul McDonald, the Nashville resident whose voice is so interesting and different (and his mom, Susan, teaches at UTC). And that's just a few. I can't wait to see what happens among these few guys and the others, who may be just as talented.
KAREN: McCreery has an incredible voice, but I don't see a country music singer winning the "American Idol" title. And, I have to say, I was disappointed in McCreery and Clint Jun Gamboa when they kicked 15-year-old Jacee Badeaux out of their group during Hollywood week. I know McCreery has apologized for not standing up for the kid, but the whole situation just rubbed me the wrong way. I am, to date, a big fan of Casey Abrams. He's got the talent and a personality that will go a long way. The fun has just begun.