Pop Culture

'Idol' ladies head into semifinals on pretty even ground

After the men have their semifinal round broadcast on Tuesday, it’s the women’s turn to take center stage on Wednesday. Twelve remain in the competition, and only six will survive to advance to the final group.

Here are 10 questions about the season 10 ladies that will determine who makes it to May and who goes home early.

Can anyone break the run of bad luck?
Women won four of the first six seasons of “American Idol,” but the table has definitely turned since the “Idol” gender wars.

No woman has won since Jordin Sparks in season six. The finale was all-male in seasons seven and eight, and while Chrystal Bowersox came in second a year ago, she was the only woman among the final five. So it’s safe to say this season’s crew doesn’t have to do very well to match the results of their predecessors.

How will the teens fare?
Thia Megia and Lauren Alaina were both 15 when they auditioned, and are the youngest two singers remaining in the competition. Teens can often have a hard time adjusting to the constant pressure of the “Idol” workload, but Megia has already dealt with vocal coach Peggi Blu’s meltdown with a hearty “whatever, old lady” and fought through it to the semis.

Alaina, on the other hand, broke down in tears after Jimmy Iovine wasn’t pleased with her rehearsal in Vegas. Though she has been one of the early favorites of the “Idol” cameras, that’s not a great sign for her going forward.

How long will 'Idol' milk Turner's story line?
Turner got a respite from her duties cleaning other people’s messes when she successfully navigated Hollywood to reach the semifinals. Pictures of her cleaning up have been staples of the screen every time Turner has been mentioned … which hasn’t been often, compared to some of her rivals.

She’ll have to sing well early to survive, and hopefully that will happen so we can hear backstage footage of her shouting “I am not your maid … anymore” if her fellow competitors leave the “Idol” house in disarray.

Can Rachel Zevita handle the heat?
Zevita has a big voice, but she has a trait that doesn’t usually bode well for contestants: She’s so eager to please that she tries to give everyone what she thinks they want as opposed to what she can do well. That usually leads to disappointment and confusion. (For you long-term “Idol” watchers, Mikalah Gordon of season four comes to mind.)

J.Lo, who is her biggest fan among the judges, called her out for that in last week’s show by warning, “You can’t be wondering, ‘What does the person in the third row want me to do? Why isn’t he smiling?’ That’s not what it’s about.” But if Zevita can’t stop focusing on the reactions of that figurative fan, she’ll make an early exit.

Will the Wisconsin singers split the vote?
Fans of politics may note that Wisconsin has gone through some contentious political maneuverings as of late. If the voters there want a break, they can turn to “Idol” on Wednesday and watch the four who auditioned in Milwaukee attempt to advance to the next round.

Haley Reinhart, Naima Adadapo, Tatynisa Wilson and Megia all have fond memories of the state because it’s where they got their golden tickets. But for anyone from there looking to pick one to root for, Adadapo is the only actual Wisconsin native among the quartet.

Tatynisa Wilson? Really?
Wilson was the most surprising selection among the semifinalists, mostly because the footage “Idol” showed was of her forgetting the lyrics in Hollywood. Usually that’s the kiss of death, but apparently she did better when the cameras were turned off, because here she is among the final 12 women. But based on the footage “Idol” chose to show us, she has the most ground to make up.

Will the Miss Congeniality strategy work?
The women who were controversial in Hollywood (looking at you, Tiffany Rios and Ashley Sullivan) are all gone. In their places, we have a lot of women who seem like very nice people to hang out with. Julie Zorrilla, Ashthon Jones, Megia, Karen Rodriguez … it’s going to be hard to vote any of them out for personality reasons.

But while nice is a definite asset among those looking to advance, it’s not enough to win on its own. All the women have to be able to sing as well as they smile, or none will make the final 12.

Will having a friend help the New Yorkers sing better?
Pia Toscano and Rodriguez auditioned in different places (Toscano in Jersey City, Rodriguez via MySpace), but both attended the same New York high school and have performed together in the past. That relationship was evident in both their tandem interview with host Ryan Seacrest in Las Vegas, and their impressive duet in Sin City to "Can’t Buy Me Love."

While the workload and the enforced co-mingling tends to bring everyone closer together, it has to be nice for both to have a friendly face to rely on. The ready-made companion has to make the Iovine criticisms go down a lot easier.

Who is Kendra Chantelle, anyway?
If you missed the Nashville auditions, you probably had no idea that Chantelle even existed on the show until her Vegas duet with Paul McDonald made the airwaves.  She’s another woman who has to make a positive first impression in the semis because she wasn’t given much of a chance to develop a fanbase.

Which six will make the finals?
While some of the men were able to separate from the pack in the auditions, none of the women seem to have a clear lead on their rivals. All need standout performances to avoid blending together.

The two teens, Alaina and Megia, got enough early airtime to have an advantage. The little we’ve seen of Jones has been impressive, Reinhart has the voice to go far and Chantelle has that country vibe that has served previous hopefuls very well in the past. But Zorrilla’s voice may not be powerful enough for her to win, but she comes across as so likable that it will be hard to send her home.

But there is very little separating any of the 12, so all the conventional wisdom could fly out the window as soon as Seacrest introduces the first of the dozen Wednesday night.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington. Follow him , where he live tweets each "Idol" show. Want to get the latest Entertainment news? Follow TODAYshow.com Entertainment .

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