SPOILER ALERT: 'American Idol': Syesha Mercado ousted as the field is down to two
Mercado had struggled through much of the season -- occupying a seemingly permanent berth in the bottom tier -- before finally surging in the final weeks and outlasting all her 12 fellow female contestants. In the last month, she seemed to find her voice, however, performing jazzy, Broadway-esque songs that accentuated her light touch.
However, in this week's final-three performance show, she struggled to keep pace with alternative rocker David Cook and 17-year-old sensation David Archuleta. In particular, her rendition of the sultry standard "Fever" left the judges cold. Simon Cowell even termed it bad cabaret.
Mercado was ousted in a week in which more than 56 million votes were cast to choose the finalists. The show also featured tear-jerking video packages of the remaining contestants' journeys home, where they all were met by massive crowds.
With two finalists each drawing on massive popular support, next week's finals could be the closest race for the crown in the show's history. Archuleta has become a 'tween phenomenon this season, with his soulful renditions of ballads and giggling, youthful manner. Cook has surged in the last six weeks, rising from the lower ranks of most predictions and winning over fans with his dramatic alternative-rock takes on popular songs.
Check back later for a full report from the scene at the Idoldome.
-- Richard Rushfield