Kelly or Justin? See what we say. After ''American Idol'''s final faceoff, EW.com's expert picks a winner

By Jessica Shaw
Updated September 04, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Listening to Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini perform their final three songs of the entire series was more exhilarating, nerve-wracking, and goosebump-inducing than any other event the Kodak Theatre has ever seen. It would be impossible to simply give each one a grade about how they performed. After all, so much went into how we all voted (or didn’t ’cause of that damn busy signal) — the song choice, their vocals, their stage presence, overall look, and, of course, what the judges thought. Read on and see, based on tonight, who deserves to win tomorrow night.

SONG CHOICE
You had to know Justin would whip out ”Get Here” for his song choice since his crooning of this lovey-dovey tune made Paula weep oh-so-many weeks ago. Though slightly less soulful than that tear-inspiring performance, Justin proved his vocal range and put every ounce of his soul into the song, proving that he picked the perfect song for his final show. As for Kelly, pretty much the opposite could be said. How is it possible that she choked with one song to go and went for the severely played out Aretha tune? You just knew Simon was banging his head against the wall since he told her all along to ditch the Aretha jingles and sing something that showcased her range. Pretty much any other song would have been better, but we’ll still respect Kelly in the morning.
Justin: A
Kelly: C

VOCALS
It’s not that Justin’s voice is bad, because the guy can hit those high notes and can belt out some impressive sounds (even though he was sounding a bit hoarse by the end of the show), but when you put him against Kelly there’s no competition. Sung by an inferior talent, ”A Moment Like This” and ”Before Your Love” would be cringe-worthy, but admit it: You were ready to buy Kelly’s CD, lock the door, close the blinds, and listen to Kelly belt out cheese-a-rific lyrics like ”I never lived before your love” over and over and over again.
Justin: B
Kelly: A

STAGE PRESENCE
When Justin is on the stage, there is no way to not get sucked in by his Chippendale’s dancer meets choir boy presence. He stands with his legs 3 feet apart almost as if to say he’s not moving even if you try to pull him offstage. He winks at the camera. He touches the hands of adoring girls in the front row (hands that will never be washed again, mind you). Kelly keeps to herself a bit more while she’s performing, which gives her an air of elegance that eludes Justin. Sure, she giggled between notes of her final song and kept awkwardly winking at her loyal fans, but who cares? She doesn’t need to seduce anyone with movement; as soon as she opens her mouth, the audience is hers.
Justin: A-
Kelly: B+

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