"American Idol" has returned to the airwaves, and after six seasons of cabaret-caliber singing and the occasional breakout superstar (think Carrie Underwood), the new season is all about originality. At least that's what the judges say. The caustic Simon Cowell wants someone "fresh" and "current." But the new Top 12 Guys look pretty familiar.
Oozing boyish charm, and seemingly just past puberty, 17-year-old David Archuleta looks a little bit like the lost Jonas Brother. Archuleta calls to mind another teeny-bopper contestant — Season Five's Kevin Covais, the scrawny singer who was affectionately dubbed "Chicken Little." One important difference: Archuleta can actually sing.
Not since Sanjaya Malakar himself has a contestant displayed such an uncanny ability to disgust Simon Cowell. The meanie judge said Noriega's take on Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" was "verging on grotesque." Like Sanjaya, the pariah of Season Six, Noriega is young, lanky, and seems prone to on-stage thrashing. While Noriega's vocals aren't so bad, his Pete Wentz haircut pales in comparison to Sanjaya's luscious mane.
Bartender David Cook is edgy, but not too edgy. He rocks, but not too hard … kind of like Chris Daughtry when we first met him during Season Five (before he became the multi-platinum recording artist he is today). Cook's throaty voice sounds similar to Daughtry's, inspiring words of praise from "Idol" judge Randy Jackson, who said: "Dog, that was good, man."
Well, this isn't exactly fair. Chikezie (pronounced chick-EASY) isn't as heavy-set as Season Two champion Ruben Studdard (and he certainly seems more lively), but when Chikezie opens his mouth, there's an old-fashioned, silky smooth quality reminiscent of The Velvet Teddy Bear. And like Studdard before him, Chikezie has a smile that warms Paula Abdul's heart.
Bandana? Check. Scraggly Axl Rose-like locks? Check. Scruffy facial hair? Check. OK, you get the picture. Florida native Robbie Carrico lists Rob Thomas as an influence, but he seemed to be channeling Season Four runner-up Bo Bice when he made a rock anthem out of "One is the Loneliest Number." Unlike Bice, Carrico reportedly dated Britney Spears during his boy-band days. (Seriously.)
He's sweet and soft-spoken, just like that guy from Season Three. And that other guy from Season Six. Or was it Season Five? Whatever.