Jordin Sparks

Tuesday Night's Idol: Jordin Looks (and Sounds!) Like a Winner

05/23/2007 at 01:05 AM EDT

Tuesday Night's Idol: Jordin Looks (and Sounds!) Like a Winner
Frank Micelotta/American Idol/Getty
PEOPLE critic Tom Gliatto thinks the last song was the determining factor.

Episode 38



The hour-long performance finale with Blake Lewis and Jordin Sparks ended with what I first thought was an incredibly dumb idea: They both were made to perform a soggy new inspirational ballad called "This Is My Now," the winning entry in the show's songwriting contest. But it became the defining moment of the night and maybe the season, showing how an unfamiliar, not terribly distinguished piece of music can be completely transformed from one voice to the next.

Blake sang it first. As Simon Cowell helpfully pointed out a few days ago, Blake is more performer than singer, which meant that he was at his weakest here. He didn't know what to do with "This Is My Now" other than sing slowly, walk across the stage at a meditative pace and try to suggest this was a meaningful musical moment. Jordin, on the other hand, Simon has defined as just the opposite – more singer than entertainer – and she really proved it! She just stood there, opened her mouth and out came beautiful music colored with emotion. She somehow infused the song with radiance and strength.

She also cried.

Simon gave her a thumb's up while and effectively quashed her rival with a fist. He told her: "You just wiped the floor with Blake on that song."

Tomorrow night ought to be her "now" – her then? The tenses are awkward, but you know what I mean.

For more from last night, see AOL's Idol coverage.

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