At the top of American Idol tonight, host Ryan Seacrest lays it out for us: It's the acoustic rocker vs. the glam-rocker, Conway vs. California, the guy next door vs. the guyliner.

So it's either Kris Allen or Adam Lambert winning this thing tomorrow night. First we have to see how they do tonight, though.


To determine the order, there was a coin toss last week; Kris won and has opted to go last. (Good call.) Tonight, the final two will be singing their favorite performance from the season, a song from creator Simon Fuller and the winner's single (co-written by Kara DioGuardi). He also warns us ahead of time that even though it's scheduled to go for two hours, it's probably going to go long, "so set your DVRs appropriately." Fox could also set the schedule appropriately so that the DVRs knew it was going to run long, but whatevs. We've talked about that enough this season.

Adam Lambert is up first. In an interview, his parents say he wouldn't sleep through the night and would scream (cue footage of his shrieking a high note) every night. He adds that he was talkative and active and loud as a kid, "kind of like I am now." His reprise is "Mad World." Another good call. This was surely the performance that made me stop being irritated by him and really listen to his voice. (Said irritation has come and gone on and off since then.) He nails it again. Randy Jackson: "This is it, we're down to the wire. I love that you're singing something you sang during the season." Uhh, Randy? That's what they have to do: revisit a favorite song from the season. Anyway he gives him an "A+ for Adam." Kara DioGuardi is glad he picked that performance because it shows off his artistry and changed up the game for everyone else. Paula Abdul says she is unbelievably proud of him after his long journey and tells him to bask in his moment. Simon Cowell thinks, maybe because of the long coat, it was a little too theatrical, a little Phantom of the Opera.

Kris Allen says he didn't like to sing in front of his family when he was a kid because he was shy. His reprise is "Ain't No Sunshine," which he sang for "popular download week" back in March. He's on the piano again, but no string section on stage with him (they're with the band), and he does a lovely job again. Randy says he loves that he can tell what kind of artist he will be and that he saves the best for last -- that this was awesome. Kara says he creates an intimate bond with everyone in the audience, which is so hard to do. Paula says he "awakens the spirit" in all of them. Simon says they need to remember that it's a competition. He says that last week, he wasn't sure America made the right choice, but he takes that all back after his performance. Pressed by Ryan to call who won the first round, Simon gives it to Kris.

Adam's second song is "Change is Gonna Come." That's a pretty soulful choice for Adam, and he definitely puts his all into it, showing that he can handle it. But for me, this is one of those times that the calculatedness of his performance means that I don't connect emotionally with him. This doesn't mean he doesn't hit the notes; he absolutely does. And it doesn't mean that I don't think he ever totally connects emotionally with a song; he absolutely did with "Mad World." Randy says he can sing his face off, and "that was unbelievable." Kara thinks it was his best performance and interpretation of a song in the entire competition. Paula says it was the best she has ever heard him sing "ever ever ever ever ever." She adds that he is going to be iconic. Simon says, "You are 100 percent back in the game."

Kris takes on "What's Goin' On?" He's on guitar, and on stage with him are a bongo drummer, and another percussionist and a bass player. I like the vibe of the performance, and he has some fabulous moments, but he does miss couple of notes here and there. Randy says this is "a real-life duel competition." He thought it was a little "light" for this big room. Kara says he has been true to himself from day one, and she likes that Simon Fuller picked a socially conscious song for him. Paula says he tore it up and made Marvin Gaye proud. Simon says, "It was like three friends in their bedroom strumming along to Marvin Gaye." He thought it was too laid-back. And round two, Simon says, goes to Adam "a million percent."

Lastly, Adam sings the season single, "No Boundaries." Despite being co-written by Kara, the single is predictably cheesy, about climbing another mountain, taking people by the hand, and so on and so forth. Why does the winning single have to be all, "Hey, look, it's a message about how I won something." Randy says he can sing the phone book, but this was not his favorite, adding that it was a little pitchy. Kara says she is moved and proud for him to sing her song. Paula says she is proud and that adjectives can't express what he has brought to this season. She says he can sing whatever he wants, and she will be in line. Simon says he isn't going to judge the song, he's going to judge Adam. He says that he believes they have found a worldwide star in Adam.

Kris has to sing about the climbing of mountains etc., too, after the break. I was thinking this song would suit Kris more, but he has a rough go of it. Among other things, he appears to totally botch a line, singing it a verse early. He also has some pitch issues here and there. I wish he'd kept it simple and gone with less bombast for this one. Randy says he should be proud of what he has accomplished so far, though he thinks maybe the key was too high at first and he couldn't hear himself in the monitor or something. Kara says she doesn't want him to be judged on that song, agreeing that it was too high. She says she hopes people vote on the season. Paula says he should take it in, and that she thinks it's been a compelling finale. Simon says his highlight tonight was the first song, but that overall, Kris has come very far from his first audition and that he deserves to be in the finale.

Then, what? After the closing time for the show, Carrie Underwood comes out to sing "Home Sweet Home." 

So who did the best tonight? I think Adam probably performed better, but at this point it just comes down to taste. Did anything happen tonight to change who you were going to vote for? I'd guess not. At this point, it's probably down to whoever's fans can dial faster and more often. What do you think?

(Photo by Michael Becker / Fox)