Tonight on American Idol, the last three contestants each had three opportunities to persuade fans to grant them one of the two spots in next week's finale.
In the first round, the judges picked the songs. Paula chose the Billy Joel ballad ''And So It Goes'' for David Archuleta, and she wasn't disappointed, as she was moved by David's ''pure and stunning performance.'' Simon, however, felt it was ''a bit predictable.'' Randy gave Syesha Mercado the chance to sing a track by one of her favorite artists, handing her Alicia Keys' ''If I Ain't Got You.'' Randy applauded Syesha for stepping up her game when it counts, but instead of congratulating her for making it into the top three, he declared the singer number three. Number one, at least in Simon's mind, was David Cook. He chose ''The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face'' for the rocker, prompting Ryan to suggest that David Cook has won more than Simon's vote. Randy and Paula enjoyed his performance, but not as much as Simon, who told David, ''I thought it was one of your best performances to date.'' Not surprisingly, Simon declared David Cook and himself the winners of round 1.
Round 2 gave the contestants the freedom to pick their own song selections they all might second-guess after fielding the harsh critiques from the judges. David Archuleta kicked off round 2 with a hit meant to connect with his younger fans, Chris Brown's ''With You.'' Randy was enthusiastic that 17-year-old David took a chance on something youthful and new, but found lyrics like ''my boo'' a little off-putting. Simon agreed, telling David bluntly, ''It was a little bit like a Chihuahua trying to be a tiger.'' Syesha didn't fare much better with her choice, ''Fever.'' Her onstage antics strutting around the stage, a chair in tow drew only heat from Simon, who declared it ''quite a lame cabaret performance.'' David Cook's take on Switchfoot's ''Dare You to Move'' fell flat with the judges too. Randy thought it was ''a bit pitchy''; Paula, noting the difficulty of condensing a song's arrangement for time, felt the performance was anticlimactic. ''I think all three of you had an okay middle round,'' Simon said generously.
The judges saved some negative feedback for the producers, who chose the songs in round 3. David's rendition of ''Longer'' had Simon rolling his eyes and balking at Dan Fogelberg's ''gooey'' lyrics, though he elicited audible screams of joy from the Archuleta fans in the audience when he predicted that Little David was a shoo-in for next week's final round. The vibe wasn't as cheery for Syesha, who sang an up-tempo track, ''Hit Me Up.'' ''I don't know if it's going to be good enough to get into the finals of American Idol,'' Paula warned her. Things looked considerably brighter for David Cook after his rendition of Aerosmith's ''I Don't Want to Miss a Thing.'' ''David Cook wins the night,'' said Simon, and Paula was on her feet, shouting to Rocker David, ''See ya in the finals!'' If voters concur, the all-David final many have been expecting for weeks finally will be set.
For a full analysis of tonight's show and your chance to weigh in with your own comments, check out Michael Slezak's American Idol TV Watch. And tell us who you expect will be going home by voting in our poll below!
''And So It Goes,'' Billy Joel
''With You,'' Chris Brown
''Longer,'' Dan Fogelberg
''If I Ain't Got You,'' Alicia Keys
''Fever,'' Peggy Lee
''Hit Me Up,'' Gia Farrell
''The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,'' Roberta Flack
''Dare You to Move,'' Switchfoot
''I Don't Want to Miss a Thing,'' Aerosmith