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American Idol recap: Nine Guys Finish Last

Little David Archuleta’s winning performance of ”Imagine” made all the other men singing tonight look like also-rans, but we saw reason for some of them to hope

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Davids Idol

American Idol

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
Reality TV

He has the eyes of Bambi, only darker and perhaps 11 percent more earnest. When the camera catches his broad, open, guileless grin, you can kind of understand how a mother feels the first time her baby looks up at her and smiles. And when he sings — oh, that voice! — grandpas (and Paula) grab their handkerchiefs and dab the corners of their eyes, remembering simpler days when ”nice boys and girls” were the toast of the airwaves.

The judges adore him. The tweens in the audience can’t stop screaming for him. And, perhaps most remarkable of all, he doesn’t give off that whiff of creepiness that too often clings to youthful performers — you know, the forced maturity, the soulless ambition, the ability to come up with a polished but uninteresting sound bite the minute the cameras start rolling.

In fact, as David Archuleta closed tonight’s episode of American Idol with a beautiful, slowed-down rendition of ”Imagine,” I jotted a single word on my notepad: ”Inevitable.” And while that’s an adjective I hate to use only halfway through the second week of the season 7 semifinals, it’s one I cannot ignore, either. So, what the heck, let’s confront it:

Is David Archuleta’s season 7 Idol victory simply inevitable?

Maybe, but I sure as hell hope not!

It’s not that Little David — and we’ll call him Little David for now to distinguish him from the other two Davids left in the competition — doesn’t seem like a genuinely nice kid, or that he didn’t offer a unique, pitch-perfect arrangement of a John Lennon classic, or that he hasn’t shown more star quality and stage presence in two weeks of performances than all the other male contestants combined.

It’s just that a 13-week victory march isn’t going to make for a very compelling season of my favorite television program. In other words, just because the waiter is pushing the Archuleta special with every fiber of his being doesn’t mean I don’t want to look at the entire menu. And let’s not forget, this time last year, Idol‘s sixth season looked like an epic showdown between Melinda Doolittle and LaKisha Jones, and they wound up finishing third and fourth respectively.

So while it’s true that none of the nine other dudes matched Little David’s ”Imagine” tonight, a few of them performed well enough to keep themselves in (distant) striking range of the adorable front-runner. Now all David Hernandez and David Cook (and maybe Jason Castro, Danny Noriega, and Michael Johns) have to do is hope that Little David’s voice isn’t quite finished changing (and for the worse) or that TMZ is about to reveal the kid is secretly managed by Dina Lohan.

And anyway, even if it’s going to be the season of Archuleta, let’s just be thankful that there’s a real race heating up for the five other spots reserved for male finalists. After his uninspired and rote ”In the Midnight Hour” kicked off last week’s show, tonight we got a very special edition of How David H. Got His Soul Back — which he provided by covering the night’s coolest number, ”Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” with a vigor and intensity that managed to convert even Simon into a fan. Okay, it’s true, there were a couple of rough patches, especially in David H.’s lower register, but the growling, dramatic way he ended the number was a nice (and rather grown-up) contrast to the teen-dreaminess that seems to be defining the season. If there’s a workmanlike, Elliott Yamin-ish contestant in the field who might outlast some of his more buzzed-about rivals, I’d put my money on David H. Plus, bonus points to the guy for choosing funky, up-tempo numbers two weeks running.

NEXT: Simon hazards!