Even Lee DeWyze's friends and fans have to admit that the 24-year-old former paint-store clerk from Mt. Prospect, Illinois, got out-sung by his "American Idol" rival on Tuesday night's final performance show. While Bowersox belted out strong versions of "Me and Bobby McGee" and an emotional "Up to the Mountain," Lee seemed nervous and sometimes struggled to hit the notes on R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" and his potential coronation song, U2's "Beautiful Day."
But momentum is a funny thing, and if there's anything the soft-spoken DeWyze had going into the last sing-off, it was a head of steam. The judges appeared to turn his way late in the game after a few weeks of so-so performances from Bowersox, whose friends are, of course, also confident she'll pull it out.
Like MTV News' "Idol" experts, Lee's longtime friend Brian Friedopfer predicted that his pal would emerge triumphant at the end of Wednesday night's (May 26) two-hour finale. "He's going to win," Friedopfer said. "The Nokia [Theatre] is a different element for both the constants and the judges. Lee may have been a little nervous, considering the theater was filled with 7,000 people, but the judges didn't hear what they think they did. I guarantee that if and when they watch it back, they'll realize Lee did a fantastic job with the songs that were given to him, and America knows it. Lee DeWyze will be crowned the next American Idol tonight."
If there's anyone in Mt. Prospect who has reason to grin with pride from ear to ear, it's Dr. Pat Tedaldi-Monti. The dean of students at Prospect High School, which Lee attended from ninth grade until halfway through his senior year, said despite the singer's off night, she's confident he'll win. "Lee had a bit of a rough night, and Crystal did very well, but we're real confident that he's going to be the next American Idol," she said.
When DeWyze left her school, the teen's parting words were, "I'm going to be a rock star ... and you [and my other teachers] are going to be in the front row, and I'm going to be playing a really big concert."
He's almost there, and despite Bowersox's good night, she thinks Lee is going to make that promise come true. "The next American Idol will be from Mt. Prospect," she said. "He predicted it."
One of his oldest friends, Vince Ferrara, 26, agreed. "I still think he's going to win," said Ferrara, who's known Lee for almost a decade. "I think he had a pretty good performance, and I didn't agree with what the judges said, that he was pitchy. If anything, Crystal had the better song choices, and they suited her voice more. I still think he wins, because he has the momentum and he's done so well for so many weeks."
And what if he does win? Ferrara will watch the finale at home with friends and plans to go to a local bar to celebrate the result. "If he wins, I might just have to start bawling," he said. "Because it's so unbelievable that he's made it this far. No matter what happens, he's changed his life. ... It's forever changed, and he's touched so many people. It's so moving."
Do you think Lee will win the "Idol" crown? Let us know in the comments!
Join Jim Cantiello for our live stream of the "American Idol" finale red carpet tonight at 6 p.m. ET, only at MTV.com.
Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.