'Idol' Wins With All-David Finale

The dueling Davids vying for "American Idol's" crown share an aim and a name. The similarities end there.

David Archuleta, 17, is the squinting, boyish crooner with an aw-shucks demeanor and a penchant for dreamy ballads.

David Cook, 25, is the gel-coiffed, unshaven emo-rocker with quiet self-assurance and versatility.

Archuleta and Cook are locked into the tightest sing-off since Season 2's Clay Aiken-Ruben Studdard bout, "Idol's" most-watched finale and the only other to feature two male finalists.

It's a pairing many expected -- and wanted -- in tonight's last performance show (Fox, 8 ET/PT) and Wednesday's two-hour finale (8 ET/PT), after which one King David will reign as the seventh Idol.

Although Cook has emerged as the online betting favorite, the close matchup of singers with Season 7's most fervid fan bases could boost the finale audience to end a year in which still-No. 1 Idol has lost 8% of its viewers.

Neither Archuleta, "Idol's" front-runner for much of Season 7, nor Cook puts much stock in talk of favorites.

"I've tried not to pay attention to what everybody has been saying. I've just wanted to stay myself. I didn't want anything to get to my head," Archuleta says, although raves for Imagine in the semifinals had him concerned he might be seen as peaking too early.

Cook says he was fortunate to avoid early scrutiny. "I kind of liked coming in without all the buzz. It allowed me a couple of weeks to find myself," he says. "Each week, my goal was just, 'Don't take last.' So now I've kind of run out of options."

The D-day battle royale comes as no surprise to the Idol faithful. In online chatter, Cook and Archuleta are the most popular finalists, ranked first and second respectively by Nielsen Online.

"We've been heading for David vs. David since Week 1 of the finals," says Glenn Gamboa, pop music writer at Newsday. "They've been in a different class. It's not strongly tilted toward either one, but I think Archuleta will win."

Conservative older fans, young speed-dialers who vote multiple times and casual viewers who drop in for the finale should push the Utah high school student over the top, he says.

"I'm very happy with the two singers left, who I think will be the most commercial," says executive producer Nigel Lythgoe.

Lythgoe says several booted singers could have gone the distance, too, in a field most observers say is superior to last year's. "I was sadder this year with people leaving, when Michael Johns left, when Carly (Smithson) left. At the same time, we still have some really good people on the show. It wasn't like (Chris) Daughtry leaving, where you went, 'Are we strong enough now that he's gone?' "

Tonight, Idol moves to the 7,100-seat Nokia Theatre, where each singer will perform three songs.

Cook says his songs offer a chance to show off his versatility. "There's an eclectic mix, which I'm excited about. I get to do the real intimate stuff, I get to do the rock song, and I get to do everything in between. I'm stoked."

Archuleta couldn't get at least one song cleared for tonight. "Hopefully, the song I ended up with will work. I'll do the best with it," he says. "I have done my best to show my vocal ability. I wanted to show people why I love music, and I think I've managed to do that."

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