NEW YORK – So will it be David or will it be ... David?
Scruffy rocker David Cook faces off against wholesome cherub David Archuleta in Tuesday night's "American Idol" finale, with each Dave vying to be crowned the winner on Wednesday's results show.
The David-versus-David finale was practically sealed weeks ago. But predicting the winner? Not so easy.
At Votenumber1.com, 62.62 percent of fans were predicting that Archuleta, 17, would win, with Cook, 25, getting 37.38 percent.
Photo Essay: David Archuleta
Photo Essay: David Cook
Meanwhile, at DialIdol.com, where viewers log on to vote for their favorite, Cook had 64 percent of the vote, while Archuleta had 36 percent as of Tuesday morning.
Never before has an "Idol" contest seemed so evenly matched and — here's the kicker — suspenseful.
In seasons past, there were obvious front-runners: Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Fantasia Barrino, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks. But this time, it's anybody's game.
"I'm delighted with the finale," said Nigel Lythgoe, an executive producer for "American Idol." "It's one of the strongest we'll ever see. As Simon [Cowell] said, the finale will be a humdinger. I can tell you, for a fact, with the top three contestants, every one won a week. That's very rare. Usually we have an out-and-out winner from day one. I think people [viewers] have changed alliances and recognized talent as it's grown."
Archuleta, the singing prodigy from Murray, Utah, has been unstoppable since the beginning. The humble, giggly teen with the angelic voice — and less-than-sympathetic stage dad — easily breezed past other viewer favorites like power-belter Carly Smithson, doofy Jason Castro and hottie Michael Johns. The Arch's greatest hit: a simple version of "Imagine."
"I've never heard as exquisite and melodic a singer," Lythgoe said, adding that Archuleta will only improve as he gets older.
But Cook, of Blue Springs, Mo., is tough competition. The former bartender (who does crossword puzzles in his spare time) emerged a front-runner somewhere in the middle of the season, and has shown talent for picking songs that suit his edgy emo-rock sensibility. Even tunes from the Neil Diamond repertoire (see Cook's radio-ready take on "All I Really Need Is You").
"Cook's got an enormous career ahead of him," Lythgoe said. "He's also, ahem, 'easy on the eyes.'"
After getting rid of what was perhaps the worst haircut in "Idol" history, the now-stylin' singer has attracted countless female fans who've been swayed by his sly grin and bright hazel eyes that hint at mischief beneath.
"Whoever wins on 'Idol' will be as hugely successful" as previous contestants Underwood and Chris Daughtry, Lythgoe said.
One thing is for certain: Both Davids will win record contracts with Sony-BMG, which signs the show's winners and popular runners-up, so they'll be OK either way.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.