Well, we're starting with Michael "Let's Get Ready to Rumble" Buffer and the two Davids in boxing gear. So we can forget dignity...
(I'm starting late again. Will catch up during the commercials. And will be posting about "Dancing With the Stars" later.)
Ryan pumps up the crowd. Introduction of the judges. Rules: three songs each. Ryan again says the competition is very close. Boxing-themed video with Jim Lampley. Footage of the Lizard King, Clive Davis, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. More Lampley.
Enter (well, re-enter since they did the boxing thing) the two Davids. Archie has won the coin toss and will sing second. David C plays the crowd, David A sounds terrified. Ryan asks Randy what it's going to take, and Randy offers a series of homilies about leaving it on the floor. Paula says may the best man win. Simon says you've got to have a desire to win and you've got to hate your opponent.
David A says David C is awesome. David C says whatever he says will now seem trite. Then says David A has been one of the most consistently nice people, the competition's over and "we're just having fun." Break.
Introduction of Clive, who picks the first songs. More Lampley. Could we please kill this metaphor?
David C, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Perfect song for him, and he starts very prettily. Gets strong, band amps up, good command of the stage and the camera. B plus. Randy thinks it was a great way to start, but not sure if DC did everything he could with it. Paula says "David Cook has arrived, amen, amen." Simon thought he looked tense and emotional at the start of the show, so the performance was "phenomenal."
David A. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." Also perfect for him. He's also playing the camera well, and keeping his eyes open most of the time. Getting a big anthemic treatment from the band. B plus also. First round: Draw on my card, but I suspect both singers' fan bases are fully mobilized. Randy calls it one of the best performances of the season, "flawless." Paula says her heart is still pounding and "the sun is never going to go down on you." Simon says he was OK last week and tonight was "arguably the best you've done so far. ... Round one goes to Archuleta."
Round two: Choose one from "America's 10 favorite entries" in the "Idol" songwriting contest. MORE OF THIS STUPID BOXING STUFF. STOPPPPPP!!!
DC, "Dream Big." He has the guitar. Ridiculous lyrics but they're burying a fair amount of them in the mix and his gravely vocal. Still, I don't feel as if he's all that connected to the song, however hard he may be trying. And the song is bleh. B. Randy says the song was just OK but DC "was singing your face off." Paula, sounding ever more as if she prepared her remarks ahead, praises him. Simon thought the end of the song was OK and DC made the most of what he had, but it didn't feel like a winning moment.
DA, "In This Moment," the 2,000,000 "American Idol" song to have the word "Moment" in the title. Or that's how it seems. And this lyric is even worse than on DC's song. But it's in DA's comfort zone, and he can do that big vocal thing. But it's not as good as his first performance, and this song seems to go on forever. C plus. Randy says DA is "so in the zone." Paula says "it's like you're on fire tonight." Simon loved "the egotistical lyric," but that DA chose the better song. Simon gives the second round to DA. I give it to DC, but I know there are a zillion voters who will feel otherwise..
Round three: Contestants' choice. DC picked "The World I Know" by Collective Soul. DA's doing "Imagine" again.
DC starts acoustic. Brooding perf. Slow build. This is a good statement about what he wants to be, even if it's not a big tactical "Idol" move. Solid B, but he left DA too much room to go over the top. Randy says he's showing the sensitive side of DC and "this is the kind of record you could definitely make." Paula says he's "standing in your truth," and stands to applaud him. Simon says DC is one of the nicest, most sincere contestants they've had but the song was "completely and utterly" wrong -- he should have gone back to "Billie Jean" or "Hello." DC says "why do something I've already done?" He's clearly put the competition in his rearview mirror; it's what he said earlier in the show about just having fun now.
DA to close. Pretty but just not to my taste, and there's no point in grading it. I would rather hear DC again. But this is the kind of performance that wins this thing. Randy says DA is the best singer of season seven. Paula calls it "the culmination." Simon says "we've witness one of the great finals" but DA "came out here tonight to win, and what we have witnessed is a knockout."
Well, the logic of the show and the singers who have won in the past all point to DA winning -- as it's been almost from the beginning. But I suspect DC decided to hand it to him in the end. It's almost as if he said, "Here, kid, it's more important for you."
Ruben Studdard comes onstage to sing "Celebrate Me Home."