"Tonight, I think we've witnessed one of the great finals," said Simon at the broadcast's conclusion. "In my opinion [Archuleta], you came out here tonight to win. What we have witnessed is a knockout."
Both Davids performed three times during the broadcast -- a song chosen by RCA chairman Clive Davis; a song selected from the seventh-season's songwriting competition; and a contestant's choice, which could have been a previously performed number or a new one. Andrew Lloyd Webber served as the musical mentor, as he did during the seventh week of the finals.
"I think tonight you've both got to leave everything on the floor," said Randy Jackson at the beginning of the broadcast. "You've got to bring everything that you've got tonight. This is a duel."
Last night's Idol finale also relocated from the Kodak Theater -- the site of the first six finales -- to the Nokia Theatre, which is at the center of Los Angeles' L.A. Live, a new four million square-foot complex that opened last October. The Nokia Theatre features a studio audience seating capacity of 7,000 while the Kodak Theater could only seat 3,400 people.
The following is Reality TV World's recap of the performance broadcast in the order which the finale went down. Also included are comments from each of the three judges -- Randy, Paula Abdul and Simon -- as well as additional information about each performance.
On Wednesday night beginning at 8PM ET/PT, Idol's seventh-season champ will be crowned based on home viewer votes cast immediately following last night's episode.
David Cook, a 25-year-old from Blue Spings, MO who currently resides in Tulsa, OK
First Song: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2 (Clive Davis' choice) Randy said: "I think it was a great way to start off this duel of 2007. [Randy meant 2008] Very nice song choice, I mean great song. I don't know if you did everything you could do with it, but I love the scoop of the note at the end. That was hot baby. Hot!" Paula said: "Well you may not have found what you're looking for but we have found David Cook. (cheers) We need to look no further. David Cook has arrived. Amen, amen. You're in great voice tonight." Simon said: "You know David, I could see at the top of this show you looked very tense, very emotional -- and I can understand why. So taking all of that together, I thought it was phenomenal." Additional Info: Clive told David he "looked for a song that captured the yearning of a generation" when picking "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"... Andrew called it a "tough song" to do.
David Archuleta, a 17-year-old from Murray, UT
First Song: "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" by Elton John (Clive Davis' choice) Randy said: "David, it doesn't matter what happens right now. You've got to know one thing, this is one of the best performances of this whole season. You picked the right time to peak baby! That was flawless and unbelievably molten hot! Crazy vocals... Crazy!" Paula said: "I've got to tell you my heart's still pounding. I've got chills up and down my arms. (cheers) The sun is never going to go down on you because you bring out so much sunshine in everyone throughout the whole world through your singing. David, that was a beautiful, beautiful, stunning performance. I'm so excited, tonight is unbelievable." Simon said: "Okay, okay, okay. It's very easy to get overexcited tonight. David, I'm going to be honest with you. I thought last week you were okay. I thought tonight's performance was arguably the best you've done so far. (cheers) Taking everything into account, Round 1 goes to Archuleta." Additional Info: David won the coin toss to determine who would perform first or second during the final performance episode. He chose to go second... Andrew reiterated to David the importance of not singing with his eyes closed. "I'm just going to keep my eyes on the prize," said David... One sign in the audience read, "David I need a date 4 prom," while another read, "Marry me David Archuleta"... After the judges comments, Idol host Ryan Seacrest said David was "almost in tears of excitement."
Second Song: "Dream Big" by Emily Shackelton (Contestant's choice from songwriting competition) Randy said: "Alright, so the beginning of Round 2 for the king of the duel. I'll tell you what, the song was just okay for me. But what made it really work was your voice dude. You were singing your face off right there. Nice... nice." Paula said: "David, a song in your heart, a guitar in your hand. We millions who sit were all mesmerized by you. This is a great way to take a song we don't know and fall in love with it. Congratulations." Simon said: "Using the boxing analogy, it was a bit of a lightweight I thought. I thought the end was okay. You made the most of what you had. Bearing in mind that this is supposed to be a winning song, it didn't feel like a winning moment for me. (boos) Just an opinion! Look, the good news is we've got a third song, right? That was a six-and-a-half out of 10." Additional Info: David played guitar during his performance... After the judges' comments, Ryan asked David how he felt. "I feel good," he answered before the magnitude of the moment apparently hit him. "I playing in front of 7,000 people. I feel great."
Second Song: "In This Moment" by Ryan Gillmor (Contestant's choice from songwriting competition) Randy said: "Once again for me the song... I wasn't crazy about the song. But here's the deal, man. Right now, you are so in the zone that you could sing the phonebook and it would be good. So that was another hot performance. You're in the zone baby." Paula said: "It's just another heartfelt performance. It doesn't matter what song you're singing. It's like you're on fire tonight. It's pure magic. That was why you are in the spot that you're in -- in the finals. Congratulations." Simon said: "I love the egotistical lyric. Fantastically self-centered! You definitely, definitely chose the better song there. Much more in keeping with the night. Round 2 goes to David Archuleta."
Third Song: "The World I Know" by Collective Soul (Contestant's choice) Randy said: "One of the cool things about you is that you're showing people tonight a lot of different sides of David Cook. That was a very nice, sensitive side of David Cook. I love Collective Soul and I've been saying this for weeks now -- I think this is the kind of record that you could definitely make and get by with. Very nice job dude. Very nice." Paula said: "I look up at you up on that stage and you're standing in your truth and you're delivering unbelievable songs with integrity and originality. I truly applaud you David Cook, I do." Simon said: "David look, I just want to say publicly that you are actually one of the nicest, most sincere contestants we've had. I thought that was a beautiful song, but I'm going to be honest with you -- it was completely and utterly the wrong song choice for you on the night. (boos) You should have sung 'Billie Jean' or 'Hello.'" Additional Info: Andrew advised David to make the song "more of a cry of passion"... David said he chose the song because there are "a lot of heavy-hitting parts" and added it's one he's never performed before... David also played guitar during this performance... David defended his song selection following Simon's comment. "For me, this whole thing has been a progression. So the way that I was looking at it was why do something I've already done? But for the record, I completely understand what you're saying."... After the judges delivered their comments was, David was visibly emotional as tears welled in his eyes.
Third Song: "Imagine" by John Lennon (Contestant's choice) Randy said: "David Archuleta... I'm really happy and proud that it's the two Davids standing on the stage because we thought all season it would come down to this. Dude, you are so good tonight. You are exactly what this show is about -- finding the best singer we can find, and the best singer of Season 7 is right there!" (cheers) Paula said: "It's the culmination David, and you've left me speechless as I was when I first heard you sing this song. You were stunning tonight, you were stunning tonight." Simon said: "We've taken a little bit of stick this year -- the competition. But at the end of the day, this show is about finding a star. Tonight, I think we've witnessed one of the great finals. But here's the difference. In my opinion David, you came out here tonight to win. What we have witnessed is a knockout." Additional Info: Andrew advised David to make the audience and home viewers feel the same way he does about the song... David had previously performed "Imagine" during the semifinals. "I think that was my best performance," said David on the first time he sang it. "It's a song I can really connect to."... David was also emotional, with tears forming in his eyes... Idol second-season champ Ruben Studdard closed the live performance episode by singing "Celebrate Me Home," which served as the seventh-season "farewell song" heard after each of the Top 12 finalists was eliminated from the competition.