Does Archuleta have it wrapped up? What are their dream songs to cover? The finalists answer these questions and more
American Idol

To say the scene last night at the American Idol Top 12 party was hectic would be a little like saying David Archuleta is cute. The dozen finalists hopped along the massive press line — practically every major market Fox affiliate was there — that stretched along the candy-color cubist façade of the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, Calif. All 12 contestants gamely answered the tidal wave of questions from journalists who knew this would most likely be their last chance to talk with these kids until they either get the boot or belt out an unspeakably cheesy pop song at the Kodak Theatre finale.

Inside the party, the contestants’ friends and family, a few party crashers, and previous Idolers including Blake Lewis, Gina Glocksen, and Constantine Maroulis milled about sipping ”Sour Simon” martinis and noshing on Wolfgang Puck finger food. As for the finalists, they showed a love for country music, some mixed feelings about dipping into the careworn pool of popular Idol songs, and a steadfast attachment to keeping their hair as is. And, yes, David Hernandez finally talked about all the press attention on his alleged strip-teasing past. (Additional reporting by Shirley Halperin)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What do you think about buzz that David Archuleta’s already got this whole competition sewn up and it’s really a race for second place?

MICHAEL JOHNS: Oh, this isn’t the finale?! Oh, I didn’t know! [Shakes fist at sky] Damn you, Archuleta! No, David’s a talent, man! What were you doing at 17? I certainly wasn’t that composed and singing that great. He’s phenomenal. All praise to him.

DAVID COOK: The finale’s in May, so we got a long way to go. But he’s a fantastic performer, and more importantly, he’s a fantastic guy. Whatever happens, nobody here doesn’t deserve this — and that’s a double negative, but that’s okay.

SYESHA MERCADO: I stay away from all the opinions in the media. I’m very focused on myself. I know this is a competition, but I’m competing against myself. There’s things I know I have to work on as a performer, and every time I go out on stage, I critique myself. I’m my own worst critic.

DAVID HERNANDEZ: I don’t let that stuff get to me. Archuleta’s a talented, talented kid, and on top of that, he is an incredible person. So the competition, it can go any way. It wouldn’t be the first time that things have happened unexpectedly.

RAMIELE MALUBAY: I love that he gets all that hype, because he is the most humble person you will ever meet. What you see is what you get. He’s a sweet guy. He definitely deserves all the praise he gets.

DAVID ARCHULETA: Aw, naw, not yet! [Laughs nervously] So much happens in this competition. Anything can happen. You can start out really well, but you just have to see where it goes from there. It’s totally unpredictable.

NEXT PAGE: The theme nights the finalists can’t wait to tackle

Episode Recaps

American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

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