Ranking the final 3 on American Idol

Jimmy Iovine said last week he has no idea who will make the Idol finals. That it’s simply too close to call.

Well, Wednesday night, the final three contestants will get three chances to set themselves apart.

Each will perform a song of their own choosing, a song Jimmy has chosen and a song the judges have chosen as they perform one last time for a spot in next week’s season finale.

In hindsight, Idol was exactly suspenseful last week. Especially after Hollie Cavanagh stumbled on her second song Wednesday night.

Everyone figured she’d be going home Thursday night, and that’s exactly what happened.

This week?

Well, I think we can count on a little more suspense.

The rankings …

1. Jessica Sanchez (2): In the past, I’ve sometimes cringed when Idol spotlights its youngest contestants, as though the show is determined to create a teen sensation, whether the singer is worthy or not. Here’s the thing about Jessica — and Jennifer Lopez has pointed it out a couple of times — she seems so mature on stage, you forget she’s just 16. I mean, do yourself a favor and rewatch last week’s performance of “I’m Telling You.” Very rarely have we seen such an impassioned performance from such a young singer on the Idol stage. That was certainly more impassioned than anything we saw last year from either finalist.

2. Joshua Ledet (1): And Joshua turned in a wicked performance of “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” last week too. So why does he slip to number two after a brief stint at the top of my rankings? Simple. I keep being reminded that not everyone loves the way he sings. Jimmy Iovine helped remind me of that last Thursday, when he criticized Joshua for taking “Raise Me Up,” his first song from last week’s show, to church. That style is likely to turn off more voters than Jessica’s growl. And I’ve got a hunch that Jessica will pick up more votes from Hollie’s elimination than Joshua will.

3. Phillip Phillips (4): And if there’s a more divisive Idol contestant than Joshua, it’s Phillip. He’s an artist I keep hearing. And the powers at Idol sure thought his artistry was in full bloom when he performed “Volcano” last week. I’m afraid I’m in the contingent that respects Phillip for being a great guy and a pretty good singer, but doesn’t quite get the hype. Other than he’s a cute guy who plays guitar, like Idol’s last four winners. And I would have been more impressed with the artistry of “Volcano” if Joshua and Jessica hadn’t followed him to the stage that very same night and turned in far superior vocal performances.

Check back Wednesday night. As usual, I’ll be live blogging during the performance show and providing song by song grades.

Follow the links attached to each singer’s name above and you’ll land on a page where you can watch all of their past Idol performances.

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