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Published: Wednesday, 5/23/2007

Lewis vs. Sparks: Who will be the new American Idol?

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/weblink_icon.gif> READ: <a href=http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070519/BLOGS01/70519029><b>Erika Ray's reality TV blog</b></a> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/weblink_icon.gif> READ: <a href=http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070519/BLOGS01/70519029><b>Erika Ray's reality TV blog</b></a>
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Two are still standing, but just one will be crowned the Season Six American Idol tonight.

Blake Lewis is going up against Jordin Sparks for the title during the two-hour second half of the two-night finale at 8 p.m. on WUPW-TV, Channel 36.

Will Lewis' beat-boxing make Sparks fizzle? Or will Sparks burn up the competition?

Many Idol fans in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan were positively certain that Lewis, 25, of Bothell, Wash., would come out on top.

Other fanatics were absolutely sure that Sparks, the bubbly 17-year-old contestant from Glendale, Ariz., would be victorious.

Kristle Ebright, 10, of West Toledo, said even though critical judge Simon Cowell occasionally has some harsh words for the young contestant, she's been rooting for her since the audition rounds.

"Her vocal is really good. It's right on track," said the Meadowvale Elementary School student. "I think Jordin should win because she's a lot more better. I've been hoping for her from the beginning."

Sparks' performances have been all over the board this season. She shines like the biggest star one week, then flops the next.

Take last week, for example. Cowell said her rendition of "She Works Hard for the Money," was "very good," especially the end. Less than 30 minutes later, he told her that, at 17 years old, the song "I (Who Have Nothing)" was too old-fashioned for her and that he wished she had chosen a different song.

Die-hard Idol fan Robbie Klinger, 27, of Toledo, said it doesn't matter what Sparks sings because she is amazing on stage.

"Her performance skills are outstanding," she said. "She's a triple threat. She's beautiful and charismatic with talent. I hope Jordin wins. She would be my choice."

Those who chose to guess that Lewis would be the winner liked his unique style. "He's different," said Mike Mills, 36, of Sylvania Township. "They've never had anyone like him get this far with a different shtick."

Lewis has been applauded for his bold risks with a smattering of beat-boxing thrown into the mix during his performances.

After it was obvious that Lewis was having a blast onstage with "When I Get You Alone" last week, Cowell said he enjoyed the performance. "I actually really liked that," he told Lewis. "This is what I've liked about you throughout the competition - you take risks and you look like you're having fun."

Kristen Bourbau, 32, of Sylvania Township said that she knew that Lewis was going to go far in the competition.

"He has a different energy," she said. "I like the way he throws his personality into the songs."

Still other devoted Idol watchers didn't want to choose between Lewis and Sparks because they were still mourning the end of former Idol contestant Melinda Doolittle.

"Her rendition of 'Nutbush City Limits' was better than the Tina Turner original," Peggy Giordano, 58, a sociologist at Bowling Green State University, said about Doolittle's performance last week. "I found myself getting up off the couch to actually vote. I voted twice for Melinda, and then was crushed that this had no effect on the results."

Though she had been called the most consistent competitor of this season, Doolittle, 29, of Brentwood, Tenn., was given the ax in a surprise elimination last week.

"I think Melinda Doolittle should have been in the finals with Jordin Sparks," said Kelli Bell of Sylvania. "She's the only one who was consistent from the beginning to the end."

But it's because Doolittle is no longer a contestant that Sparks will prevail over Lewis, according Ron Myers, 56, of Northville, Mich.

"I really believe a lot of who gets votes depends a lot on who gets kicked off," he said. "I think most of [Doolittle's] fans will probably vote for Sparks."

Fans also would have liked to see Sanjaya Malakar, 17, from Federal Way, Wash., and Haley Scarnato, 24, from San Antonio in the in the finale. "I think it would be funny for Sanjaya to be in it 'cause he would lose so bad," said Audrey Miklovic, 12, a student at McCord Junior High School. "He had no chance of winning."

Malakar made headlines this season because of his longevity on the show, even though he was one of the other most consistent contestants - the one with the most negative feedback from the judges when it came to his voice.

Scarnato was a favorite of Mr. Mills. "I liked her performances," he said. "She was always spunky. She never sounded terrible." But after millions of votes, America has chosen to put Lewis and Sparks in the finale, which is just fine with Mr. Myers.

"I think whoever America voted for should be in the finals," he said. "It's really not a talent contest. It's a popularity contest."

Every time she mulls over who she thinks will come out the winner, Ms. Bell said she wavers between the two contestants.

"I don't know," she said. "I think Blake has the originality edge. If he wins, that'll be why. But I think Jordin will win."

Contact Erika Ray at: eray@theblade.com or 419-724-6088.



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