American Idol -- Top 3 Showdown

UPDATE: Go Kris! Everyone thinks Adam is the favorite and since his appeal skews older, he probably is. But Kris is gonna give him a run for his money. I said this last year (wrongly) about the showdown between the two Davids. But I'll say it again: a tie goes to Adam. If Kris dominates, he could squeak out a win.


OK, I'm writing to you from Cannes where I'll be covering the film festival for Huffington Post and other outlets. With no wifi in my apartment (something that better change quick), I had to wait till now to check out the episode.

So is this the finale? Is Simon right when he says Adam Lambert is fated to win? Or could Kris Allen or Danny Gokey surprise everyone the way David Cook did last year? This does feel like a triumphal march for Adam the way it was for Carrie Underwood a few years ago. But nothing is written in stone. Yet. My quick impressions:

DANNY GOKEY -- For his first song, Paula selected "Dance Little Sister" by Terence Trent D'Arby, a left-field choice out of the guy's comfort zone that could give him a chance to remake his Middle Of the Road image. Actually, it worked pretty great for Danny who didn't seem as dull as he's been for the last few weeks. He even scatted a bit! But he'll never beat Adam (Kris is the only one with a shot). Randy and Paula approved while Kara and Simon were less enthused. It's been a great season for Paula: she's been just as goofy and New Age-y as ever but has really been giving focused, good comments. For his second song, Danny chose Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful." After weeks of out and out boredom, Danny came through at the end with another strong performance and this time it was controlled and sweet, along with the predictable build-up towards the end. All the judges raved, probably guaranteeing he'll be in the finale. (I say that before hearing Kris's last song.)

KRIS ALLEN -- For his first song, Randy and Kara chose "Apologize" by One Republic. Another smart choice. I hated the burbling synths and what sounded like a drum pad and would have preferred just Kris and a piano. But his vocals sounded great and he was smooth and so on target. Simon spent his time dissing Kara, with all the judges ho-humming the performance. Only Ryan nailed Kris's best asset: that quiet confidence. For his second song, Kris chose "Heartless" by Kanye West, which seems pretty oddball to me. (Not a Kanye West fan, me.) What do I know? Kris stripped the song down to just an acoustic guitar and absolutely knocked it out. Great, great performance. Danny does a 35 year old song and belongs on adult contemporary radio while Kris seems extremely contemporary and smart. Totally deserving to be in the finals and give Adam a serious run for his money. I'll be saving that one.

ADAM LAMBERT -- For his first song, Simon chose "One" by U2. Another good choice; it gives Adam a chance to tone down the histrionics and deliver emotionally the way he did with Tears For Fears. Well, that's what I thought. I forgot of course he could go the Mary J Blige and in the middle he tore it up a la Adam. (And looked a lot like an elf; surely eh should get at least a small role in The Hobbit.) Randy ignored the performance. Kara dissed Kris by insisting Adam made it his own. Paula and Simon rave, with Paula insisting he'll win and Simon threatening the world if Adam doesn't make it into the finals. Adam, oddly, pointed out how beautiful the lyrics are, as if everyone doesn't know that already. For his second song, Adam chose Aerosmith's "Cryin'." Another savvy choice because it allows him to leave people with a rock vibe and link him to Steven Tyler (and Freddie Mercury) rather than Broadway. He did what he did, of course. It was good but not great. Randy said he's a rock star, Kara and Paula and Simon raved, with Simon smartly urging people to vote and not take anything for granted.

Everyone thinks of Idol as a show dominated by teenage girls speed-dialing for their favorites. But the average age of the viewer has crept up to 40 now. Hence David Cook over David Archuleta. So what appeals to the parents might just be the winning ticket. That said, I think both Danny Gokey and Adam Lambert appeal to older folks while Kris skews younger. That should mean Kris gets into the finals but faces a tougher road to win it all. However, he had the single best performance tonight with "Heartless." So it ain't over.

Kris and Danny in the bottom two and Danny goes home.