The first round of the finals was a bit rocky for many of the contestants in this season of ‘American Idol.’ In fact, with the exception of a few performances, most of the contestants didn’t really get off to a great start. Luckily for almost all of them, they have another chance to make it up to us but tonight was the end of the road for Brandon Rogers.

The backup singer from North Hollywood, CA failed to wow viewers with his watered down version of Diana Ross’ “Cant Hurry Love.” Along with forgetting his words, Rogers, like some of the other contestants, allowed the backup band to drown him out. The guy can sing but he just doesn’t have the pipes for this kind of competition. The same could be said for Sanjaya Malakar, whose rendition of “Aint No Mountain High Enough” fell flat. Many would agree that it was Sanjaya who should’ve gone home first but he managed to squeak by this week, getting the second to lowest amount of votes from viewers. Phil Stacey placed third to last.

Here’s my advice for the remaining ‘Idol’ contestants based on this week’s performances:

American IdolMelinda Doolittle
Brentwood, TN
Keep on, keepin’ on girl! She’s proved to the viewers that she has what it takes to own this competition. That said, being vocally superior to almost all of the other contestants isn’t enough. She has to keep taking chances and reminding viewers of how good she is. We have short attention spans and one amazing performance by another contestant is all it takes for us to forget the front-runner for a week. It only takes one bad week to get dropped out of the competition in this show.

American IdolStephanie Edwards
Savannah, GA
She’s outshined by LaKisha and Melinda. Some people don’t like that she’s even being compared to them but lets face it – she’s a power singer whose song choices thus far have been very similar to the other two girls. She might consider changing it up a bit and trying to stray away from that type of music if only to get people’s attention (and votes). I have no criticisms with regards to her abilities. She’s gorgeous and can sing but that isn’t always enough to stay in this competition.

American IdolGina Glocksen
Naperville, IL
At this point in the competition, Gina will have to continue doing what she’s doing by playing the role of the token rock chick. There will come a point where she’s going to need to step it up big time in order to stick around but in the earlier rounds for a girl like her, consistency is key.

American IdolLaKisha Jones
Fort Meade, MD
Like Melinda, she doesn’t have much to prove. We know she’s amazing. She just needs to keep reminding the viewers of that week after week. Give people a reason to vote even if they’re pretty sure she’s safe.

American IdolBlake Lewis
Bothell, WA
Despite what the judges said about his “You Keep Me Hanging On” arrangement, I think he was wise to change the style of it and make it his own. The people love him. He’s original and a breath of much-needed fresh air for this show. The only thing he needs to do is show off his vocal range a bit more. He has the talent; he just needs to find the right balance between his contemporary arrangements, tone and style as well as his singing abilities.

American IdolSanjaya Malakar
When Sanjaya sings, I feel like he has the will to sing with this big voice but not enough air in his lungs to get the notes out. Unfortunately for him (and his fans), I just don’t think he has what it takes for the competition. While he is here, he should consider not trying to do songs that a) are too big for him and b) require a lot of background singing. A big song with a small voice is like a little kid putting on his dad’s pants and shoes.

American IdolChris Richardson
Chesapeake, VA
No more runs! Chris tends to resort to runs a lot and I’m beginning to wonder if its because he cant hold a note for more than a few seconds. It’s too much and becomes hard to listen to. Again, I want to see a little less Timberlake in him. Show us who you are, Chris.

American IdolHaley Scarnato
San Antonio, TX
Despite forgetting the words and being a bit pitchy with her performance, I really thought she showed signs of life in this week’s episode. It wasn’t a perfect performance but it did show that she is capable of hitting some great notes. I also loved the genuine way she reacted after she performed. She scored a few personality points for me this week as well as making us see that while she does have some work to do, there’s some definite potential there.

American IdolChris Sligh
Greenville, SC
Oh Sligh, what did you do to “Endless Love”?! Like the old saying goes, if it aint broke, don’t fix it. I like the fact that he seems to view this competition as a game. He has a strategy and that’s to get to the next round. He shows a genuine interest in what the judges are saying and wants to bring the best he can to each performance. Hopefully next week he’ll choose the right song and not alter the arrangement so drastically.

American IdolJordin Sparks
Glendale, AZ
I might be one of the only people out there who recognized the Land Before Time song the second they showed her singing a few bars of it for Diana Ross in her pre-performance video. I absolutely love that song and I thought she did a fantastic job with it. It was a bit shaky at times but I think that might just be nerves. At her age its understandable that she’d be nervous but if she can overcome that and keep her voice steady, she could pose a real threat to some of the other big voices in this competition.

American IdolPhil Stacey
I wasn’t all that surprised to see Phil Stacey in the bottom three. I feel like he’s shown us pretty much everything he can do at this point. It will take some really smart song choices to get him into the top six. It’s way too early in the competition to level off. Wow us, Phil!

Did you think America made the right choice in allowing Brandon to go this week? Who would you have sent packing? Who do you think is most likely to win this year?
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