Who Should Win Season 9 of American Idol — And Who Will

With its ratings slowing eroding and the people that are still tuning in griping that the contestants are sub-par, it could be the beginning of the end for American Idol. Simon, the only voice from the judging table that really matters, won’t be returning and the high hopes we all had for Ellen as a replacement for Paula haven’t quite panned out. But we argue that, with the exception of Tim Urban, this season’s contestants are some of the most genuinely talented. A large majority of them actually play an instrument (in some cases, several) and, as a whole, their voices are quite good.

Unfortunately, they aren’t very exciting — and in the world of reality TV excitement is easily confused with talent. There is no Adam Lambert this year. But there are a few hopefuls that could — and should — have careers in the music industry, no matter who wins. With just three contestants left standing, we’ve decided to break down each of their odds of taking the title (and give you a few reasons why they may not too).

1. Crystal Bowersox

Why she could win: It’s been a while — three years to be exact — since a woman won American Idol, and we think viewers are ready to crown another Idol queen. Crystal has positioned herself as a retro-style bluesy rocker and this formula clearly works in the real-world of the recording industry (see Joss Stone, Duffy, Adele). Plus, she’s stolen the show several times this season: Her version of “People Get Ready” from several weeks back is undoubtedly one of the finest performances on the show ever.

Why she may not: The clear favorite since the Top 20 was announced back in March, there may be some Crystal backlash coming. Her performances last night were OK, but she may have lost a bit of ground to Lee Dewyze (who stole the show with his take on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”). We still think Crystal fans will still take to the phones in droves, but it’s going to be a tight race.

2. Lee Dewyze

Why he could win: Like Kris Allen last season, Lee has fallen just under the radar but, similar to Kris, his strong performance throughout the season (never in the bottom three) belies a strong fan base that could pull through for him in the end. He’s also the most improved this season and is certainly coming into his own at just the right moment. He owned the show last night and this could put him over the edge.

Why he may not: Crystal fever is still pretty high and she’ll be tough to beat. Plus, Lee’s modern rock persona has been done (his style is similar to the two immediate past winners, Kris Allen and David Cook) so he’s not breaking any new ground.

3. Casey James

Why he could win: Despite the fact that he’s not the favorite, Casey James is an extremely talented performer and probably the strongest musician the show has seen in a very long time. Like Lee, he could be a sleeper success story this season. Though he has appeared in the bottom three several times, he managed to stick around longer than contestants with seemingly much larger fan bases. This could come down to his Johnny Lang-style blues rock or his classic good looks. Either way, Casey shouldn’t be counted out just yet.

Why he may not: He’s up against some stiff competition. Both Crystal and Lee have large and vocal fans that have kept them on top during the results shows and its clear this isn’t something that Casey has in his corner. Plus, his performances last night didn’t do him any favors. He fared much better with his take on John Mayer’s “Daughters” (chosen by Randy and Kara), but it did little to make up for his disastrous take on “OK, It’s Alright With Me.”