The winner of American Idol's 12th season won't be announced until May 16, but it seems as though, if it were up to the judges, one contestant would already be wearing the crown.
With the field narrowed to a fierce foursome - Candice Glover, Kree Harrison, Amber Holcomb and Angie Miller - who would all be deserving of a first-place finish, there's no telling who will be sent home along the way. But as the ladies prepare to duke it out over the next several weeks, the judges seem to be nudging one contestant ahead of the rest. And that would be Amber Holcomb.
Amber is arguably the most marketable of the four finalists. She's young (19), attractive, has a thousand-watt smile and killer dance moves - Randy Jackson even compared her to Rihanna last week - and oh, did we mention she's got a great voice as well? So is that why the judges are pushing her into the spotlight so much? Is it because Amber has found herself in the bottom two in recent weeks and the powers that be want this to be a real contest heading into the finale? Pick any theory you want, but the fact remains that the judges are trying to position her as the frontrunner - ahead of even Candice, who is widely regarded to have given one of the best performances in American Idol history with her cover of "Lovesong" two weeks ago.
Last week, Amber's performance of Mariah Carey's "Without You" was just okay at best, but still earned a standing ovation from the judges (minus an unimpressed Nicki Minaj) - including Carey herself, who literally begged America to vote for Amber last week and questioned why viewers didn't "get" her. Added Jackson: "I hope America gets it right. ... This girl does not belong in the bottom."
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The judges also repeatedly praise Amber for being "modern" and "current," and their effusive praise is reminiscent of the feedback that was given to Scotty McCreery. The Season 10 winner was repeatedly told that he could make a lasting mark on the industry and lauded for doing essentially the same routine week after week - which led many to speculate that his victory had been pre-ordained.
It's also worth noting that the judges have yet to use their save on any of the eliminated contestants this season. And while the save has allegedly reached its expiration date at this point, there's still an extra week in the schedule (the finale is scheduled for May 16, but if one person is sent home each week from now on, the finale would fall on May 9). So there's a decent chance that there will be a non-elimination week down the road, regardless of who gets the lowest number of votes.
The fact remains that, with such a talented pool of finalists, there's a good chance that Amber will be the one who's voted off this week. But maybe not, if the judges have anything to say about it.
What do you think? Are the judges playing favorites this season? And who has the best shot at winning? Weigh in below!
American Idol airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8/7c on Fox.
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