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May 20, 2008
Idol Chatter: Simon calls it a 'knockout'

ARCHULETA.gif
Fox

Where is Laila Ali when you need her?

Oops, wrong reality show. (This boxer/cha-cha gal was on "Dancing With the Stars.")

Still, Laila would have fit right in with the theme of tonight's "American Idol" finale at the Nokia Theatre. The goal? To pit two heavyweight singers against one another in a singing three-rounder.

Dum, dum, dum, dum.

I could have done without the whole boxing set-up and the "Rocky" theme song. Then there was David Archuleta (pictured at right above, weighing in at 100 pounds soaking wet) and David Cook (weighing in at 180 pounds) opening the show in Vegas bout attire. And then the announcement: "Let's get ready to rumble!!!"

I would have preferred Ryan Seacrest belting out, "THIS is 'American Idol' "!

But, I digress.

The finale was, for me, a bit of a letdown. The "Battle of the Davids" turned into what to me was a thrown contest by David Cook. I have no proof. It's just his song selection hinted at a very talented singer who, after the summer tour, will just break away on his own. (Remember, neither of the two Davids has been in the bottom 3. He's already a winner.) Before the first song, David C. even said he thought the competition was already over. "Tonight, it's just for fun."

Can you croon Chris Daughtry?

The two Davids sang three songs each: One chosen by uber-music exec Clive Davis, one from the Top 10 songwriting contestant entries - Note: local angle; more on this below - and one of their own choice, which could be new or something either guy already had performed this season.

Both Davis and Andrew Lloyd Webber sort of mentored the guys for the final round.

Said Lloyd Webber: "It will come down to which one is prepared to dare a little bit more."

Well, David Cook dared. I'm not sure the audience cared.

First up, Davis' selections:
* David C. sang U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," a noble pick.
The judges said:
Randy Jackson: "It was a great way to start ... but I'm not sure you did everything with it."
Simon Cowell: "I could see at the top of the show you were tense and emotional. It's understandable.Taken all together, I thought it was phenomenal."

* David A. sang Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," a predictable pick.
The judges said:
Paula Abdul: "I have chills up and down my arms. The sun won't go down on you!"
Simon: "Last week you were OK. Tonight's performance was arguably the best you've done so far."

Round 1: David Archuleta

Second song: The contestants picked from the Top 10 songwriting contest entries. Bear in mind, these are songs no one has heard unless you voted at americanidol.com.

* David C.: He sang "Dream Big."
The judges said:
Randy: "The song was just OK for me. But you were singing your face off!"
Simon: "It was a bit of a lightweight, I thought. it didn't feel like a winning moment for me.The good news is, you get a third song."

* David A.: Pick me up off the floor! David A. chooses the song by Sacramento/Pollock Pines songwriter Ryan Gillmor, "In This Moment." Stoked is not even the right word. I love this song.
The judges said:
Paula: "It was just another heartfelt performance. You're on fire tonight."
Simon: "I loved the egotistical lyric. Fantastically self-centered. You definitely chose the better song. It was in keeping with the night."

Round 2: David A.

The final song - contestant choice.

* David C.: Honestly, I think this is where I really came to the conclusion that this David was in it to not win. He sang "The World I Know" by Collective Soul. Beautiful song, but so off the beaten path for voters.
The judges said:
Randy: "One of the cool things about you is that there's a lot of different sides of David Cook.This is the kind of record you could definitely make." (Without the yearlong "Idol" contract.)
Simon: "You're one of the nicest, most sincere contestants we've had. But it was completely and utterly the wrong song choice. You should have sung 'Billie Jean' or 'Hello,' " (two songs David rocked earlier in the competition).
(Afterward, David said the show was a progression, so "why sing something I've already done. But I understand.")

* David A: He sang "Imagine," which he performed early in the competition. Well, who isn't going to vote for cute-young-guy-almost-in-tears singing John Lennon? I ask you?
The judges said:
Paula: "You've left me speechless. This is what it's all about."
Simon: "In my opinion, you came out here tonight to win. What we have witnessed is a knockout."

The show ended with David C. winking and nodding to David A. He knows.

OK, so I agree with Simon: it's David Archuleta. You can take off the boxing gloves now. Wednesday night's two-hour season finale will reunite the Top 12, with numerous other appearances, show-stoppers and, of course, the mandatory confetti drop. It starts at 8 p.m. on Fox40.

And, take note: Come back to 21Q on Wednesday for my interview with Ryan Gillmor to get his reaction on having his song sung by the possible winner of Season 7.

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