Even an expert sometimes needs a second opinion — which is why when MTV's resident "American Idol" expert, Jim Cantiello, wanted to analyze the remaining three contestants, well, who could be better to ask than previous "Idol" contestants? Four, in fact: season five's Kevin Covais, season four's Anthony Fedorov, season one's Tamyra Gray and season two's Josh Strickland, all of whom weathered the pop-culture juggernaut and know of what they speak. The group recently met to discuss all things "Idol" — but particularly, how they see this season shaping up. Below are some highlights from their lengthy roundtable.
On This Year's Contestants
Josh: I'm very impressed with the talent this year. I think early on I wasn't so much, but then when they finally decided to choose their top 12, I was actually pretty impressed. And now I'm really getting into the final [three].
Kevin: Week after week, this season is just getting progressively better. I'm really excited about the talent they have remaining. They're all extremely talented and they [all] bring something different to the table, so it's good.
On This Season's Highlights
Kevin: For me, it was Blake a few weeks ago. I thought he was incredible doing Bon Jovi. I loved it.
Anthony: Melinda has been a big highlight for me this year, from day one. As far as a standout performance, it would definitely be Blake's Bon Jovi.
Tamyra: I'm gonna say the whole Sanjaya controversy! [Everyone laughs.] Because it was hilarious. I thought that was funny.
Josh: I was gonna say [the same thing]. It was kinda phenomenal. It made people watch. They wanted to see if he was going to get booted off next.
Does Blake Lewis Have A Chance Of Winning?
Kevin: I'm a huge Blake fan. There has never been a guy like Blake Lewis on the show before. I think what we could see is [something] very similar to last year's format, where there were three guys and a girl left, and this year there were three girls and a guy left. I think the girls could end up splitting the vote and we could see Blake in the finale. I think that might be how it turns out.
Anthony: The thing I love about Blake is the fact that he's so different and he's so good at that beat-box thing. It's just, realistically, if you're an A&R person and you're making a record with Blake Lewis, what kind of record do you make? If he finds a way to incorporate what he has to make it right and for people to enjoy it, then he'll be very successful because nobody's ever done anything like it before on the show.
On Melinda Doolittle And Her Potential For A Career
Anthony: As I've said so many times before: if Melinda doesn't win, it ain't fair — so they'd better get it right. I hope America gets it right.
Kevin: I think she'll definitely make a classic album.
Tamyra: A classic album! She has a classic voice and that's kind of why I'm going so much for the Melinda/Jordin showdown, because it would be a proper showdown. Like, you know, let's just be honest — if it's a guy and a girl it's completely different. The dynamic is different. But when you have two people who are even, that makes for a great show.
Do The Judges Influence Votes — And Is Jordin Sparks The Judges' Favorite This Year?
Josh: To me it's so obvious. Basically, throughout all the seasons, you can always tell who they're trying to push, or who they're trying [to get] America to vote for. It's interesting to see what has happened this season, because at first it was Melinda. They definitely wanted Melinda to win. But they would always tell her "Come out a little bit more, out of your shell." And she hasn't yet. You can tell that they have shifted because they tried to bring her out and bring her to that status of pop idol.
Anthony: The judges get their favorites. I do think that their comments do affect the voting to a certain extent. I think the problem that you have with Melinda is that she's been so good for so long. She's been consistent. [But] one of the keys to being successful on the show is [that] the American public want to see you develop as the show goes on. Do you even call it a fault that Melinda has been that good? She's been just consistent the whole time, so where does she go from here?
Could A Diva Ever Win "American Idol"?
Josh: I don't know why America doesn't vote for them, but I feel like the show basically [wants] a competition. And when you have people with such a good voice, it's not fun for everybody to watch and sit there and vote.
Tamyra: Not only that, I think you don't want to hear someone scream at the top of their lungs every single song. It's like, OK, we've seen you do that. What else can you do? Can you tone it down? Can you give me sexy, and still show and preserve that quality of your voice without having to bust a lung?
Kevin: In terms of the diva, I think the show is definitely getting there. Jennifer Hudson made it to round seven or so, and I know we had Mandisa last year, who definitely went off way too early. I think America's definitely getting there with that vote. They're embracing the bigger voice.
Who Will Win?
Kevin: I think Jordin.
Anthony: I'm gonna go with Melinda — that's my girl.
Tamyra: I'm gonna have to go with Melinda. Truthfully, I don't know. I'm gonna go with Melinda just 'cause I wanna see her get it.
Josh: I don't know. I really don't ... OK, fine! Melinda. Most of the time it's a big surprise.