'American Idol' Judges Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson Say David Archuleta Doesn't Have Contest Wrapped Up Yet

Plus: Paula wants finalists to sing her hits; Randy says viewers shouldn't punish hopefuls for their professional pasts.

When they're not busy calling people "dawg" or debuting comeback singles during the Super Bowl pregame show, "American Idol" judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul are clearly spending their time reading MTVNews.com.

That much was obvious when we caught up with the dynamic duo backstage at "TRL," because they immediately took issue with something we wrote about "Idol" late last month — namely that baby-face crooner David Archuleta had all but wrapped the competition up, based on the strength of his cover of John Lennon's "Imagine." (Check out MTV News' trip to Archuleta's hometown.)

Not so fast, they cautioned. Things aren't over yet — not by a long shot (which was a bummer to hear, because we totally had Archuleta in our newsroom "Idol" pool). And if you think you had the competition figured out by now, well, you haven't seen anything yet.

"He's in the leader's role right now, for sure, but also there are some other talented boys too. Jason Castro did [Leonard Cohen's] 'Hallelujah,' last week. There's David Cook too," Jackson said. "And on the girls' side, there's Carly [Smithson], there's Brooke [White]. They're coming on. It's too early to tell. You got to keep an open mind, America."

"For me, it's always been hard, sitting in the judging chair, because I don't like having to judge them. I would like just sitting there enjoying them, but I have to give a critique as well," Abdul added. "So I'll say that the final 12, they haven't really let loose yet. And I [am] — and I think most people are — looking forward to seeing what they have inside of them."

Totally. Like, is Amanda Overmyer filled with whiskey? Or is Syesha Mercado just as annoying inside as she is outside? And how about David Hernandez? Er ... OK, Paula: What would you like to see from the top 12 then?

"There have been contestants in the early stages of the auditions that come in and sing my songs, both male and female. And shall we say it's rather challenging. But even when they try their hardest and they're not very good, Simon will say, 'It's uncanny. It's remarkably better than the original,' " Abdul laughed "[So] I think when it comes into the final 12, they're all afraid to do one of my songs, so I would encourage one of the guys to take on 'Straight Up' or 'Cold-Hearted Snake.' "

Come to think of it, that would be pretty awesome. And as for Jackson, well, he doesn't think the top 12 really have much of anything left to prove. In fact, if he had his way, the one thing he would change is viewers' constant focus on the fact that some of the remaining contestants — like, ahem, Smithson and Kristy Lee Cook — were signed to major-label deals before appearing on "Idol." To him, none of that really matters.

"The thing is, they weren't successful [before], therefore they need this show. The rules of the show have always said you can't currently be signed to a recording contract, so you could've had 12 failed deals, and obviously you only need 'Idol' if those deals didn't work out," he said. "It's the wrong kind of way to look at it. It's a singing competition. It's open to one and all between the ages of 16 and 28. Come on down. Do your thing. Every year, we've run into people who were in a boy group or a girl group or whatever. So the rules have never veered from where they started."

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