Last night on “American Idol” Kris Allen, Adam Lambert and Danny Gokey, the final three Season Eight contestants really stepped up their game, making it one of the toughest nights for voters nationwide to decide who ultimately should remain. On Wednesday, the one with the least amount of votes phoned in will be eliminated. It has come down to the wire and the power of the final three. And each of them has come so far.

Each remaining Idol contestant visited their hometowns and prepared two songs: one chosen by the judges and the other a personal pick. The song choices are seriously important at this stage in the competition.

Let’s first review the performances where the final three sang songs chosen by the judges.

Kris Allen, from Conway, Ark., displayed layers of talent singing “Apologize” by OneRepublic, which was chosen by judges Kara and Randy. Allen sang while playing the piano, which I think complemented his performance. It was a confident performance, though shy of being great. The judges said he definitely has a future in the music business. Overall it was a good and popular song choice, and Allen did a nice job.

Adam Lambert, from San Diego, Calif., sang “One” by U2. Simon chose the song, and it was a good suggestion. Lambert’s musical arrangement was a bit strange, however. While definitely original and unique, it was all a bit weird. The song is so widely known that it’s hard to hear it in any other way than its original version. Either way Lambert has incredible vocals, and the judges still feel he’s in the good zone, calling him an excellent musical strategist. Paula described his performance as brilliant and superb. It would be an upset, they said, if he were not in the final two.

Danny Gokey, from Milwaukee, Wis., sang “Dance Little Sister” by Terence Trent D’Arby, chosen by Paula. I hate to admit it but this was a terrible song suggestion. Gokey never heard of the song, and it didn’t allow him to showcase his vocal range especially now when the competition is really heating up. Although Danny’s threads were cool and especially his boots, the song was outdated. Young people who watch the show need to hear a tune that is new, fresh and hip. And that was not the case here. The performance overall was just okay, and Gokey tends to make unusual dance moves when he’s on stage rather than focusing on the singing.

Things got better however during the second part of the show when the top three made their own personal song choices. Here’s a recap.

Allen, by far gave the best performance of the night, singing “Heartless” by hip-hop superstar Kanye West. Accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, Allen’s version and musical arrangement was masterful, and the song choice was right on. It was bold, risky, exciting and very hip. Talk about originality, he nailed it. Kara said his decision to sing this song showed fearlessness. Allen, despite his solid vocals, is by far the most artistic of the remaining three. He gets mad props, and I’m a big Kanye fan.

Lambert chose “Cryin” by Aerosmith, demonstrating his true rock spirit. Honestly, I though his performance was just okay, and his high vocal moments are getting a bit boring for me. Don’t get me wrong, I like rock music but there are other genres that are more universal and resonate with me better, if you know what I mean. Lambert’s voice and vocal range is getting to predictable. I don’t think it was a great song choice, and he should have mixed up the arrangement a bit. It’s just too old of a song. Lambert had a good night but I won’t be surprised if he’s in the bottom two. Sorry, I’m just saying.

Gokey chose Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful.” Again, an old song that just did not resonate well for my taste. Gokey’s vocals were tender and soft. He has that groovy-gospel-raspy voice, which is cool. But I found it a bit boring, till the middle where he picked up steam and ended the performance well. Overall, despite a unique arrangement, Gokey’s performance stood at average.

At the end of the night, all three really brought it. If I had to pick my favorite, well that’s obvious, it’s Allen. I like Gokey and Lambert, but Allen really showed true artistry and originality and sang songs relevant to music lovers today. Lambert definitely has an amazing voice, but I didn’t appreciate the arrangement on his first song, and his second choice lacked originality. For Gokey, well I think Paula chose a terrible song for him, and I thought his second song fell short of great.

So there you have it, my prediction based on originality and last night’s performances, I think Allen deserves to move on. His songs were what young people listen to and want to hear in 2009 and that’s important. Gokey and Lambert will be in the bottom two and I have a feeling Gokey will be voted off. I think it will be a shock if Lambert gets the boot, but I won’t act surprised.

But honestly, what do you think? Share your comments below.

plozano@ pww.org

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