March 14, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

How Nikko Smith can win ”American Idol”

Voted off April 6, 2005

AGE 22

HOMETOWN Town & Country, Mo.

WHAT’S IN TUNE Other than a rocky ”Georgia on My Mind,” Nikko’s been consistently strong in the vocal department.

WHAT’S OFF-KEY Sure, he’s got good taste in old-school soul classics, but is there anything unique about Nikko’s interpretations?

CLOTHES CALLS He knows how to work a jaunty fedora just like Mario Vazquez, who mysteriously resigned from the contest, allowing the voted-off Nikko to return and take this spot.

WHAT IT’LL TAKE TO WIN This isn’t Karaoke Idol, so Nikko will need to learn to do more than mimic great performances of yesteryear.

REQUEST LIST George Michael’s ”Freedom ’90,” the Commodores’ ”Brick House,” Patti LaBelle’s ”Love, Need and Want You”

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