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'American Idol': Down to Three

Scotty, Lauren and Alaina play musical chairs to determine who makes the finals.

Purely in terms of musical quality, last night may have been the best performance show of the season. The remaining contestants, Scotty, Lauren and Haley, were blessed with good song choices in all three rounds.

Good night for Randy too. He managed to squeeze in self-aggrandizing links to two out of the nine songs. That's better than 20%. Good looking out, Dawg.

My favorite came right away, after Scotty opened things up by covering Lonestar's "Amazed". Detouring from critiquing the performance, Randy boasted, "Great song. I recorded that song – produced it – with Boyz II Men a few years ago."

I never thought I'd say this, but I found Scotty really impressive last night. Good songs, good vocals, and he finally stopped making those googly-eyed faces while he was singing.

Did you notice that after giving Scotty his second song, Thompson Square's "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not", (video of performance, below), Jimmy Iovine wedged in a Randy of his own? Of the song, Iovine said "It reminds me of the great Tom Petty albums I got to work on." Really, Jimmy? That's an awful long way to stretch just to pat yourself on the back.

Lauren had her moments but she was a little shrieky on her middle song, "If I Die Young" by A.E. Housman, oops, I mean Perry.

Her fashion sense is really addled, though. Where does she find these outfits? The Toddlers & Tiaras section at Walmart?

I've said all along that Haley has the best voice in the competition and last night she finally had some songs she could load up on (even if she started that Alanis Morissette way below her vocal range).

But if she's going to do this singing thing for a living, she's going to have to learn how to move on stage.

Tonight is really the most important of the season. The Idol winners automatically get a shot at a career. The second place finishers – from Clay Aiken to Adam Lambert – often catch some reflected glory. But nobody remembers who finished third on Idol. Even if Jennifer Lopez assures us that the semifinalists are "all great artists."

That's actually a left-handed compliment on Idol this season. If you're not a "superstar", you're nothing.

For the first time, I'm reluctant to project the results. Damned if I know who's going home. My heart says Lauren, but my head says Haley. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Lauren goes.

Who do you think won last night? And who is eliminated tonight?

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