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'American Idol': The final four

We are there -- that point in any "American Idol" season where you can be assured of a thousand, no a hundred thousand, stories on who will win this thing and just how good are the final four. 

Welcome to one-hundred thousand one.

Let's go. Jacob Lusk? His departure was as surprising as the rising of the sun this morning. Something happened to Jacob during this ride -- becoming less engaging than more engaging. The harder he tried, the more he receded. In those early Hollywood rounds he was the one to beat -- so pyrotechnic were his pipes. But it all became showy toward the end, more about beating out those notes and forcing nice -- always nice -- comments out of the always nice judges. But viewers ultimately weren't buying what he was selling.

Before we go through the rest, one thing to remember: "Idol" was supposed to find a superstar this season. Unfortunately for "Idol," she already got away. One of two possible record-selling keepers, Pia Toscano, was gone mid-rounds. Now, the final four ...

- Lauren Alaina: Country pipes have kept her in the hunt. But she's the weak link. Possibly, but not certainly, the next to go. 

- James Durbin: Beloved by fans who have elevated him to some sorrt of lofty status, as if he's -- I dunno, stretching here -- a young James Hetfield or something. Nice kid, nice voice, nice stage presence, a couple of weeks ago I was certain he was going to win. No longer certain.

- Hailey Reinhart: Absolutely the most surprising of our finalists; no one would've bet she'd be standing here by mid-May, but there she is. Why? Well, she's good. And works hard onstage. And connects with the audience and judges. But here's the question: If this got down to her and Lauren, who would auds pick? I'm guessing Lauren. So Hailey very possibly could be the next to go. 

- Scotty McCreery: Couple weeks ago, I figured this was all over. Durbin wins. But even bloggers with cloudy  hindsight and even cloudier foresight are allowed to change their minds every now and then. Just about all this season I figured Scotty would ultimately win. Of all the singers, he was comfortably in the place that said exactly who he was: a country crooner with a pleasing voice and stage presence. His fans were locked on him from the get-go, and haven't deviated since. That's a huge benefit for any Idolist because it means they can count on their votes no matter what. But under pressure from judges, or maybe just under pressure from himself, he ventured out of his comfort zone; the country lines became muddied, and briefly, so did his image. But this week, it all worked out just fine: A  performance that rightfufly satisfied the judges and his fans as well. He had his single best week of the season, and on the eve of the final four, that's the best time to have your best performance. He goes into next week the clear front-runner. This whole thing should come down between him and Durbin, but at this point, edge goes to McCreery. By the way, I think McCreery could sell records ... 

 Of course, bloggers reserve the right to change their opinions.

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