It all comes down to this: Blake Lewis. Melinda Doolittle. Jordin Sparks.
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I have to say, I don't think there has even been a tighter Top 3. Notice, I use the word "tighter" and not "best," because, truth be told, I'm not sure this is the best Top 3, cumulatively. There is no Kelly Clarkson in the bunch, no Carrie Underwood or Clay Aiken -- in other words, no single contestant who can rank in the pantheon of "greatest Idol contestants" ever.
What we do have, however, is three very different performers, and, for the first time, three possible winners. In my eyes, there is no clear-cut favorite at this point, as there was in the past with Kelly, Fantasia, Carrie, and Taylor. In fact, the last time there was such a fierce battle this close to the end was back in Season 2, when Clay and Ruben were duking it out for the title. Think about it -- Nikki, Kimberley Locke, Jasmine and Diana, Vonzell, Elliott -- as talented as some of these contestants were, none of them really had a shot at taking home the prize. But I could easily forsee a Blake victory, a Jordin victory, or a Melinda victory. That makes for an unpredicatable and, hopefully, very exciting Top 3 show.
As I have done since the start of the Top 12, I will try and predict who is in danger going into this week. As always, song choice and performance order could impact what happens, but for now, here are my thoughts...
Jordin has all the makings of an Idol champion -- she's youthful and very marketable, she knows how to nail a high note, and her fan base has been growing each week. I can't help but sense a bit of a Jordin backlash brewing (not helped by the fact the producers clearly want her to win), but I think she has engendered enough goodwill over the past five or six weeks to advance to the finals, if not win the whole thing. She's the only contestant capable of hitting thrilling high notes, which, let's be honest, is a pretty necessary staple of American Idol finales. It's hard to imagine she won't make it to the Top 2.
Chances of going home: 20%
I've been nervous about Melinda the last few weeks, afraid that her remarkably consistent performances might lead her fans to get complacent and forget to vote for her. She managed to avoid ever facing a Bottom 3 showing, which would seem to indicate she's got the support necessary to make it to the finals. And I'm feeling confident she will raise her game after being criticized last week for not stepping far enough out of her comfort zone. The question is, then --wll the youth support for Jordin and Blake be her undoing? If she comes out tomorrow night and knocks it out of the park, I think she'll be okay.
Chances of going home: 30%
Blake is, without a doubt, the most original contestant the show has ever had. His originality, however, might be his undoing -- he is a very divisive contestant, with some people absolutely loving him, and others hating him with equal passion. There's no question his supporters will be working overtime to try to get their boy into the Top 2, but I'm guessing his ultimate undoing is going to be his voice. Can we really anoint a winner who isn't in the same league, vocally, as his two other competitors? Will marketability and musical originality win out over sheer vocal chops? In the end, American Idol is a singing competition, and I think the voters are going to choose two contestants for the finale who, quite simply, have the best voices. And as much as I love Blake, he is not one of those contestants.
Chances of going home: 50%
So, there it is...the way I see it, we're in store for a Jordin vs. Melinda finale. Let's see what happens...