I'm just going to skip the pretense of me apologizing for liking American Idol and stuff and get right down to business.
Why she can win: As far as talent goes, Crystal has probably been the best we've seen this season. Her rendition of "Natural Woman" in the Hollywood was one of the best vocals and she's also shown an ability to play guitar and harmonica, a key attribute in the post-instruments idol world. Also has a nice single mother doing it for her kid storyline to back her up and get votes.
Why she can't win: Crystal's general dirty hippie look and lack of pearly white teeth may make it tough to gain votes with much of America, specifically the large southern voting contingent. The Idol stylists will have their hands full trying to turn her into a pop princess. The folky style also may not have what it takes to win on the show.
Why he can win: The judges have praised him through the roof for his "original" take on a Paula Abdul song (turning it into a lame Jason Mraz knockoff -- real original) and for his vocals which are undeniably the best among a weak class of guys this year. Like Crystal, he's also got the single parent just trying to make it work story going for him.
Why he can't win: America loves the sensitive guy strumming on his guitar when it's a super-hunk like Kris Allen, but will they vote for it when it's an overweight Hispanic guy with annoying hipster glasses? I'm gonna say no on this one.
Why she can win: Powerhouse vocals at age 16 (Get ready to hear Randy say "raw natural talent" and "you either got it or you ain't and you got it" many times in the coming weeks). A good and original sob story involving a grandma with Alzheimer's. She's got the look and youthful energy to appeal to the coveted Hannah Montana disney crowd.
Why she can't win: Being a 16 year old performing on Idol is undoubtedly nerve-racking. For every bold and fearless 16 year old contestant like Allison Iraheta, there's seemingly millions of epic fail trainwrecks like Stevie Wright from last season.
Why she can win: Her "Hey Jude" performance was the best of the entire audition round and she put on a similarly great performance in the opening round of Hollywood Week (on a Kara Dioguardi song no less -- now that takes some talent). Also has a good look and another excellent sob story with her "doing it for my dead best friend" story. Plays an instrument as well and has an original vocal style.
Why she can't win: There's stiff competition among the girls this season, and it's going to be hard for anyone to separate themselves from the pack. Didn't get much TV time during group week or the final audition.
Why she can win: America loves their country music, and Janell has basically the entire country package (ie she's a good looking blonde with above average vocals). She also showed some originality during hollywood week with her country spin on "American Boy", and the judges tend to eat that crap up with a spoon.
Why she can't win: She flopped her final audition, leaving many to wonder whether she has "what it takes" to succeed on the big stage. Doesn't have massive Carrie Underwood vocals and may not have the versatility to handle all the theme weeks.
Why he can win: Again, America loves their country music. America also seems to love shy 16 year old boys (not that it helped me in high school), especially when they transform into talents on screen. Kelly can score a lot of votes with the southerners and 13 year old girls, which are crucial.
Why he can't win: Had a pretty rough hollywood week and forgot the words to his songs approximately 3.2 billion times. He needs to overcome his oh-so-adorable nerves to have a shot at this thing.
Why he can win: He's a good looking dude (in case Kara hasn't pointed that out enough times for you) who can play the guitar. Seems to have pretty good blues vocals.
Why he can't win: Didn't show a whole lot of versatility and his voice may not be strong enough to handle the theme weeks. Not much personality (although good looking guys frequently get away with that on the show).
Why she can win: Killer vocals and a very good look. Doesn't have much competition in the R&B and soul genres with so many folk/country singers this season.
Why she can't win: Hasn't had much TV time. Could fall into the Lil Rounds trap of being a very good singer who doesn't have the originality to "make a song her own".
Might have a chance
Todrick Hall - showed a lot of personality in his audition, but may not have the vocals to go too far.
Tyler Grady - Chicks will likely eat up his cliched Jim Morrison look, it's just a matter of singing well enough (he didn't get much TV time either).
Lilly Scott - Has a unique look and jazzy, soulful voice, but might not have the whole package that America wants to see.
Siobhan Magnus - Was impressive vocally in the brief times we saw her in Hollywood week. Needs the Idol stylists to do a lot of magic.
Lacey Brown - Is an idol veteran after making the top 50 last year, has a unique look and good voice. Needs to stand out from the crowd though, as many other singers may be co-opting her niche.
Lee DeWyze - He sucks, but America loves their Nickelback and Daughtry knockoffs.
Jermaine Sellers - Received high praise from the judges in his first audition and has some personality. Needs to stop being a jerkface before America turns on him.
Michael Lynche - Has a good voice and a newborn daughter, but there's rumors that he's been disqualified.
No chance of winning, so everyone can laugh at me when one of these people does
Haeley Vaughn - Has some talent, but most country voters won't vote for a black girl (harsh, but true) and she seems very prone for an Idol stage-fright freakout.
Alex Lambert - Must have pictures of Simon Cowell or something, since he sucked at every single step of the Hollywood rounds and has no personality, yet inexplicably was put through. Can maybe sneak into the top 12 as a vote for the worst candidate, but that's it.
John Park - Seems to be talented, but I'm not sure if his look (this is just a euphemism for him being Asian if you didn't catch on) will appeal to most of America.
Jose Munoz - Who?
Katelyn Epperly - Was underwhelming whenever she got screen time. Competition among the girls is way too stiff for her to slide by more than a couple of weeks.
Michelle DeLamor - Who? Has gotten basically no screen time, but there's a chance I end up regretting listing her here.
Paige Miles - Who?
Tim Urban - Was a last second replacement for a disqualified contestant. Was never even approaching being good in any of his previous auditions and wears a winter hat indoors.
My Prediction: I'm going out on a limb slightly and sticking with Janell Wheeler as my pick to win AI9. She's shown originality, plays the guitar, and obviously has the looks. It just seems like America is due for a country winner, and she's the best country contestant they've had since Carrie.