‘Idol’ Preps for the Battle of the Davids

Did you really think it would go any other way? After some 56 million votes were cast, American Idol said goodbye to Syesha Mercado on Tuesday night, clearing the path for a face-off of season-long front-runners David Archuleta and David Cook.

The exit capped a tear-inducing hour recalling the top three’s hometown visits, including keys to the city, high school reminiscences and video montages tracing each one’s journey from obscurity. “You guys did an amazing job. You should be well proud of yourself,” Randy Jackson said before Syesha sang her swan song. “Give yourselves a big round of applause.”

The penultimate performance show featured three songs divided into three categories: contestant chosen, judge selected and producer handpicked. No one wowed the judges except Cook, who it was revealed actually auditioned for the show on a whim, originally there to support his brother. Season-three winner Fantasia Barrino did anything but “Bore Me” with a new magenta mane and a booty-shaking performance, leaving Simon Cowell  nonplussed with his mouth agape.

Musically, the two Davids are worlds apart, with 17-year-old 11th grader Archuleta a magnet for tween dreams everywhere and 25-year-old former Tulsa bartender Cook a rocker to his core.

Though at this point, it’s purely a popularity contest, neither D has any reason to worry. Record deals, Broadway stints, movie roles and a never-ending supply of barely dressed babes are just waiting in the wings regardless of who takes the big night.

Still, as Simon predicted, “We’re going to have a real humdinger.” The American Idol finale airs May 20.