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Originally published Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:31 AM

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Your guide to the 'American Idol' tour singers

With the "American Idol Live" concert tour making its way to Seattle (July 18, 2012), Seattle Times arts critic (and "Idol" watcher) Misha Berson offers her take on this season's top vote-getters.

Seattle Times theater critic

'American Idol Live'

7 p.m. Wednesday, at KeyArena, Seattle Center; $26.50-$62 (800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com).
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It's like a boyfriend you can't give up on, despite his many trespasses. Or a hunk of junk food with an appalling lack of nutritional content, but you still can't resist it.

It's "American Idol," a TV-singing contest (maybe you've heard of it?) which every year I plan to ditch.

There are way too many other TV-singing contests now ("The Voice," "Duets," "X Factor") out there competing for my ears and eyeballs.

Their talent is as good or better; their judges are sharper tacks than "Idol's" gushing glam diva (Jennifer Lopez), spacey rocker (Steven Tyler) and inarticulate hipster (Randy Jackson). The theme nights and song choices aren't so hokey and repetitive. The coaches are cooler.

And they don't have "Idol" voting rules, which heavily favor pre-adolescents whose little digits text/dial a gazillion votes while most adults have better things to do. No wonder the "Idol" viewership is slipping, along with the odds of it launching another star like Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood.

But this week, the tour of the show's 2012 top 10 vote-getters comes to Seattle's KeyArena. And darnit, I somehow know the best and worst voices and personalities in the bunch. And some of their mildly colorful back stories. And all about their hairstyles.

OK, I'll fess up: I got sucked in again this year. So if you somehow escaped the last decade of "Idol," and yet still might turn up at Wednesday's "American Idol Live" concert, here's a little cheat sheet on the Top 10, from a highly ambivalent "Idol" watcher:

Colton Dixon: Skinny Christian rocker from Tennessee with a robust voice and a penchant for color-streaking his locks and rearranging familiar songs for the worse.

DeAndre Brackensick: This teenage sort-of soul singer had the best hair on the show (long, burnished corkscrew curls to fling around), and the most hyperactive falsetto.

Elise Testone: A dark-horse favorite of some viewers, with scratchy, smokey rock-club pipes and an attitude that said, "I'm a 28-year old Charleston, S.C., pro, and I have to put up with this?"

Erika Van Pelt: Her rich alto was one of the best voices but too mature and ungimmicky to stand a chance. Desperation had set in when the Rhode Island 26-year-old traded her blond locks for a scary black dye job and pixie cut.

Heejun Han: There's always a jokester, and this Korean-American New Yorker got bawled out for not taking the competition seriously enough. Props for working with disabled children, but extreme pitchiness got the dude voted off.

Hollie Cavanagh: Strangest accent: part Texas drawl, part British (thanks to her Liverpool roots). Rigid body language, but what a powerful sound poured out of that little bitty 18-year old.

Jessica Sanchez: Even smaller and younger (16), this first runner-up has been gunning for superstardom since she was a toddler. No style of her own yet, but that huge, Whitney-esque voice could clear your sinuses.

Skylar Laine: Spunky country kid who loves animals and guns. Can belt it out like Reba.

Joshua Ledet: Most exciting performer, by a mile. The Louisiana gospel-soul shouter with the fly collection of soulman suits kept me tuning in, but, sigh, he only made it to No. 3.

Phillip Phillips: Purple heart for terrible kidney-stone condition during competition. Cute, Dave Matthews-ish, Georgia-bred guy with a guitar, a nicely gruff voice but little versatility. Heartthrob winner, with a single that's sold half a million copies. The ways of "Idol" are ever mysterious.

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

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