Live-Blogging The Finale: 'American Idol' In 60 Minutes

David vs. David
MTV News "American Idol" expert Jim Cantiello reports:

If you, like me, have watched every frame of this season's "American Idol," your eyeballs have endured 50 hours of highs, lows and hell-to-the-no’s. But we still have three more hours to go, "Idol" fans, and they’re arguably the most important of all! That’s right. Bust out the sappy ballads, load up the confetti cannons and if you’re Randy Jackson, dust off your military jacket because it’s "Idol" finale time, baby!

Tonight’s one-hour performance show is the David/David showdown producers have been gearing up for all season. I can’t wait to see Archuleta and Cook fight it out, man-to-man. Err, child-to-young-man. Will Archadorable nail the sure-to-be-cheesy coronation song? Will Cook be able to rock out while singing about dreams? Will Seacrest make the proceedings seem more important than November’s election? We don’t know. But we do know that tonight's duel is going to be neck-and-neck. This ain’t no Jordin-versus-the-hobbit-beat-boxer clean sweep. Every note counts! And tomorrow night’s two-hour results show is sure to be a star-studded WTF-filled epic ender.

While normally you read my “Idol” ramblings the morning after the performance show, this year’s David2 finale is way too hot to sleep on. Something this potentially explosive deserves a live blog, dangit, and a live blog is what you shall get! (Once the show starts, keep hitting refresh in your browser to get the latest updates.)


7:55 pm - Five minutes until show time, folks! This is the longest "Seinfeld" episode EVER.

7:58 pm - Fun fact: Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Paula's "I tripped over my dog" episode. Although she broke her nose, she still looked fabulous crazy at last year's finale.

8:00 pm - Cue the faked "Rocky" music. Man, Lythgoe is CHEAP! Although he sprung for Michael Buffer to open the show. And that guy is no joke.

8:01 pm - David "Sugarfoot" Cook?? I hope he calls his debut album "Sugarfoot."

8:01 pm - David "Babyface" Archuleta?? Right now Babyface is calling his lawyer.

8:02 pm - Luke Perry in the audience. His daughter (or frighteningly underage date) is already yawning. I hear you, buddy.

8:03 pm - The judges are in the house. Randy looks casual. Paula looks bedazzled. Simon looks sweaty.

8:03 pm - Nigel Lythgoe apparently just discovered boxing. It's a good thing this didn't happen when Corey Clark was on the show, because that would have been awkward. Especially if he was in the finale with his sister.

8:06 pm - The finalists are onstage! And so is a Coke bug. Let's hear it for the real star of the show, integrated marketing!

8:07 pm - How did the two prepare? Babyface giggled something about rehearsing. Sugarfoot was much more eloquent.

8:07 pm - Babyface follows Simon's advice of "hating your opponent" by telling the audience how sweet Sugarfoot is. (Is that where the nickname came from? Does that mean his feet are especially nice, too?)

8:08 pm - Sugarfoot's final words to Babyface: "You've been one of the most consistently nice people." [subtext: "But your dad is a real a--hole."]

8:11 pm - Commercial break. Why are the actors in the McDonald's Southern Style Chicken Sandwich ad all from California?

8:13 pm - The man with the Golden Ears (Clive Davis) chooses "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2 for Cookies. (Sugarfoot is SOOO five minutes ago.) He picks "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" for Archadorable.

8:14 pm - Cook is singing this U2 classic like the lead singer of Mr. Mister. You think he'll slip in a line from "Kyrie?"

8:15 pm - Okay, okay. He's doing a fine job.

8:16 pm - Annnnd he ruined it with his annoying final note. Sliding the final note up is to David Cook as singing "yeah yeah yeah yeah!" is to Fantasia.

8:16 pm - Randy thought it was a great way to start off this "duel of 2007." So, to recap: Paula lives in the future (see: PaulaGate '08) and Randy lives in the past.

8:17 pm - Simon said considering how tense Cook looked at the show open, he did a phenomenal job. By that logic, Camille Velasco should have gotten raves from Simon back in Season 3.

8:18 pm - ArchuElton begins his song sitting on fancy steps that resemble the "Your Mother Should Know" set piece from the Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" film. Will the Beatles tie-ins ever end??

8:20 pm - ArchuCutie just stepped it up with a grand, growler of an ending. Who knew he could channel a black diva?

8:20 pm - Randy is going nuts. Was that really one of the best vocals of the season? Paula's writer said, "The sun will never go down on you." Groan. Simon just said this was arguably the best he's done so far. "Round one: Archuleta!" And now the 17-year-old is getting way emotional, Brooke White style. I think this is part of a grand scheme to psyche out the youngster so the other David can have a leg up in Round Two.

8:22 pm - Commercial break number two. Let's take this time to ponder ... Anyone else surprised that ArchuEditor actually sang the words "go down on me?" I thought that kid always crossed out all the potentially risqué lyrics.

8:26 pm - Fun fact: I know the person dating the person who wrote the NASCAR theme song! Jealous?

8:27 pm - And we're back. Apparently the "songwriting competition" has been changed this year. The contestants had the "top 10" songs voted on by the public to choose from. Interesting. Cook has a fighting chance! (Yes, boxing pun intended.)

8:29 pm - David Cook sings "Dream Big." More like "Big Nightmare."

8:30 pm - Chances that this song will appear on a "Songs For Worship" compilation in the next 12-18 months? I'd say 110%.

8:30 pm - Randy said Cook "sang his face off." (The Nazi from the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is calling his lawyer.) Simon is upset that it "didn't feel like a winning moment" giving it a 6.5 out of 10. I have to agree with Cowell on this one. Where was the choir? Or the confetti?

8:32 pm - Cook's so-so round two offering proves my point. He'd never be able to sell the coronation song. He better not recycle a previous performance for round three like they typically do on the finale.

8:36 pm - We're only twenty seconds into Archuleta's song and he's already sang the words "rainbows" and "believing." (Although I don't have Golden Ears, like Clive Davis, so I might be off that. Anyone else hear "rainbows?")

8:38 pm - OMG! One of the mosh pit girls had some major Lee Press-on Nails going on. Is that you, Fantasia??

8:38 pm - ArchuPerfect sounds a little sharp on this one.

8:39 pm - Randy hated the song but said, "You could sing the phone book" for the 90th time this season. Simon liked ArchuCrier's song much better. (Read: he can picture confetti behind him.)

8:40 pm - Echoing Randy's sentiment, instead of a ghastly "inspirational" tune for the finale, why don't they force the contestants to actually sing the phone book?? [humming to myself] Aackerman, James. (310) 555-2122. Ooh-ooh!

8:41 pm - Okay, I have a moment to catch up here ... So the judges have given both rounds to Archie, but I think I liked Cook's U2 impression slightly better. Although my boss must be very happy that ArchAngel sang "Don't Let The Sun ..." because he's consistently said that David A is the second coming of George Michael. Here's hoping he doesn't get caught in a men's room or passed out behind the wheel of a car in a couple of decades.


8:44 pm - The final round! Contestant's choice! David Cook picks "The World I Know" by Collective Soul. David ArchuObvious picks "Imagine." NO!!! You already perfected that one in the semifinals.

8:46 pm - Okay conspiracy theorists (and not the dude who's upset about the songwriting competition) ... Do we think David Cook is trying to lose "Idol?" A Collective Soul song at the finale? Really, dude?

8:48 pm - And Cook is pulling the Jordin Sparks "tears" move at the finale. I guess at this point he had to.

8:49 pm - Paula is giving Cookies a standing ovation. She claims it's because David did such a great job, but I'm convinced she just wanted to prove to America that she can stand without wobbling tonight.

8:49 pm - Simon is not happy with Cook's song choice. "You should have sung 'Billie Jean' or 'Hello.'" The Rocker fires back, "Why do something I've already done?" IN YOUR FACE, ARCHULETA! This really is like a boxing match! But with less blood and more hair gel.

8:53 pm - Never underestimate the genius of the "Hell's Kitchen" writers. A severed finger tip in pancetta? Awesome.

8:54 pm - ArchuEditor is back singing "Imagine 2: Electric Boogaloo." Like he did during the semifinals, he didn't sing the first verse about "no religion." John Lennon would not approve.

8:56 pm - Sorry, ArchAngels. No matter how great he sang that, it still wasn't as breathtaking as the first time we heard it.

8:57 pm - But my opinion doesn't matter. The judges are blown away. Simon said it was a "knockout."

8:58 pm - The final montage and the producers have picked one of the few flat notes David Cook hit in the U2 song. Real classy, Lythgoe. If karma has its way, we'll be treated to a five-minute montage of you picking your nose during the season finale of "So You Think You Can Dance."

9:00 pm - BUT, they just evened it out with a bum note by Archuleta. I stand corrected.

9:00 pm - Ruben Studdard is back! I know this is two months too late, but can someone please explain to me exactly how to celebrate oneself home? It sounds like it'd be a really empowering and vaguely inspirational thing to do.

9:03 pm - Gordon Ramsey is screaming, which is my cue to power off. Post-show ramblings are a-comin' in a few ...

POST SHOW: Whew! That was a fast 60 minutes, wasn't it? I'll forgive all the boxing metaphors because for the first time in "Idol" history, the finale was shaping up to be a real fight to the finish. Cook had the momentum coming into this week, what with all the "big" moments he's had in the past several shows. But tonight's song choices -- especially the Collective Soul song -- felt way too small compared to his past highlights. If he had performed that forgettable number two weeks ago, he probably would have gotten booted.

But Archuleta stepped up in a crazy big way. We all knew he would sing the crappy first single well. ($5 to anyone who can hum the chorus right now.) But he did a pretty great job with the Elton John tune, and for any viewers who didn't watch the semifinals (a.k.a. "Idol" swing voters), I'm sure they were impressed with how he handled "Imagine."

Unless a Jeff Archuleta scandal erupts in the next 3.5 hours, Archuleta has this in the bag.

Good luck marketing that kid, Clive! Or even better: watch your back, Josh Groban! The "Bland White Guy Singing 'O Holy Night'" section at your local Borders is about to get a little more crowded.

Thanks for joining me tonight, folks. Come back tomorrow morning when we'll have a very special 60-second recap of tonight's show ready for consumption. And then tomorrow night we'll be live-blogging the two-hour surprise-filled results show!

So what did YOU think of tonight's performances? Will Archuleta be the one weeping with joy Wednesday night? Were this year's "songwriting competition" songs better or worse than last year's "This Is My Now?" And do you have any questions you want me to ask the top 12 on the red carpet tomorrow? Hit me up in the comments below!