More than the slipping ratings or the sliding sales, this year's class of American Idol finalists reflects the changing fortunes of the TV juggernaut. On the whole, they're a decent, competent bunch, destined to make decent, competent music. But they also reflect the judges' decision to value work ethic or flash and competence over unpredictability. When the biggest finalist controversy is whether Tim Urban should have slid across the stage, you know there's a problem.
Lee DeWyze, of course, won the competition and the recording contract. Here's a look at this year's other nine finalists and their possible futures:
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Hometown: Elliston, Ohio
Most likely to: record an album. Bowersox is the only current Idol finalist other than DeWyze to have a contract. Her album is due out in late fall.
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas
Most likely to: become the next big blues guitar star. Jonny Lang, you have been warned.
Hometown: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Most likely to: hit Broadway. Big Mike and his Big Personality should be right at home there.
Hometown: Sonestown, Pa.
Most likely to: join Rascal Flatts. Seriously, wouldn't that be awesome? When Gary LeVox gets tired, Aaron could run onstage and fill in. Barring that, Aaron could very well end up being the biggest star in the bunch by taking over country music.
Hometown: Cape Cod, Mass.
Most likely to: become an indie-rock sensation. Dropping her last name and hooking up with a rock band that would stand up to her big screams could make her the American answer to Florence and the Machine or Marina and the Diamonds.
Hometown: Duncanville, Texas
Most likely to: land a Disney TV franchise. Teflon Tim has the looks and the winning personality to become the next Zac Efron. Or at least the next Kevin Jonas.
Hometown: Moreno Valley, Calif.
Most likely to: become a critics' darling. Garcia never really caught on to how the show worked, but he had a sweet voice and a knack for arranging that should be developed.
Hometown: Middlebury, Conn.
Most likely to: join Glee: The Next Generation. Her hyper-driven nature and precocious personality make her a shoo-in to be Rachel Berry's long-lost little sister.
Most likely to: play the next Lilith Fair. Despite the success of her artistic sisters Colbie Caillat and Ingrid Michaelson on the pop charts, Benami somehow didn't catch on with voters. She has some time to work that out.