Three of the Top 10 finalists for Season 20 of American Idol are aspiring country music singers, but which one has the best shot to win?

Perhaps more importantly, which American Idol finalist has the best shot at a long-lasting career when the show is over? Taste of Country's Billy Dukes and Adison Haager discuss Noah Thompson, HunterGirl and Mike Parker during an Idol breakdown that also explains why Ava Maybee was sent home.

Watch the full video to understand why Maybee was sent packing despite being one of the most talented finalists in years. The explanation can be applied to Monday night's cut, Tristan Gressett.

Noah Thompson

AH: Noah Thompson has to be the country favorite, right? His version of "Stand by Me" (on Sunday) was extraordinary.

BD: I agree to a point. I think he could win the whole thing. That’s the first time I’ve seen a country artist put their stamp on an iconic song this season. Vocally, he’s great.

AH: I feel a "but" coming.

BD: Listen, I’m not worried about who wins as much as I am what the contestants do afterward. Noah is young, I think he’s only 19 or 20. He has life to live and mistakes to make. That’s a bad bet for me. And he didn’t show me that he has a ton of stage experience.

AH: I could see that. People do come off this show struggling to connect with fans at festivals. Then we never hear from then again.

BD: Think Trent Harmon. Noah may win, because you can hide that on television when there are crowd cues for when and how to cheer. But to me it’s why so many reality TV stars don’t get record deals any longer.

Mike Parker

AH: I thought Mike Parker looked like a finished product.

BD: I didn’t love the song for him (Luke Combs' "Hurricane" on Sunday), but I did think it finished strong. I like his confidence, and even though he’s struggled with fan vote, he’s gotten a little love from national outlets already. Parade did a big piece on him that was focused on his looking for success as a Black country singer. Judges needed to save him already once, so I’m not certain he’ll be able to take votes from HunterGirl and Noah Thompson at this point, but if he can finish in the Top 6 or so he could do well after the show. I need to see him put a stamp on a song, though. I haven’t seen great from him yet.


AH: On Sunday, HunterGirl performed Sugarland’s "Baby Girl." We were critical of her song choice specifically after a pair of Rascal Flatts songs. This one was better.

BD: It was better. If she is slowly building toward her best, she’ll win this thing. Our criticism was mostly based on her stage name, which sounds like an AOL Instant Messenger handle. She’s clearly got more stage experience and a larger repertoire. So more songs sound comfortable from her. Right now I can’t blame her for saving her big guns, because frankly she can hang around for a couple more weeks with nothing but high quality, middle-of-the-road performances.

AH: Is that a compliment? I can’t tell.

BD: It is and it isn’t. She’s aiming for the fat part of the target audience right now, and hitting it. Later, she’ll need to target a smaller section and win over fans with bold song choices. So no, I don’t think she’s been the best country singer so far, but I think she hasn’t needed to be. I also really like her poise and experience to go far when this show ends.

American Idol resumes on ABC on Sunday (May 1) at 8PM ET.

Country 'American Idol' Stars Who Disappeared

We cheered for them. We voted for them. We followed them. Then, these seven American Idol stars vanished. Or, at least it seems like it.

What happened to some of country music's best American Idol contestants over the last 20 years? This list of country American Idol stars who disappeared includes a winner, a runner-up and a third place finisher, plus several early cuts who enjoyed radio success before losing touch with fans.

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