Just cut to the chase: Candice Glover is this year's best in "American Idol."

Sure, Kree Harrison and Amber Holcomb have the chops to contend, but Candice is in such a class by herself -- she's the black Adele -- it'd be a shame if she didn't win. Wednesday night, she even got Mariah Carey to get up out of her seat and glitterbomb her.

Even more evident? Lazaro Arbos has to go home. If he doesn't, the producers are playing a card they used in "Pop Idol" in Great Britain: prey on audience sympathy. If you have any sense of that edition, Gareth Gates, another singer with a stuttering problem, got into the finals and was viewed as the one to beat. (The trump card? The winner actually confronted Simon Cowell and won audience support.)

Arbos was so off-key it was difficult to listen. AND he was singing a Carpenters song (Who can't stay on key with those?). Even Mariah -- who was reprimanded for being too nice -- let him know he was a little weak. No kidding. The guy sounded like he was being held against his will.

Janelle Arthur was a bit better, but didn't distinguish herself enough. She's a cover artist, not an original. (The original country artist? That's Kree Harrison). Look for her to be in the bottom two with Lazaro.

Angie Miller fell in the middle (she's still uncomfortable with songs that aren't done at a piano) and Amber Holcomb found her voice (without Burnell Taylor around to disrupt). She has a Beyonce/Whitney quality that could prove most threatening to Candice.

Amber could be a big pop star; Candice will find her niche as an R&B icon.

Interestingly, the contestants were forced to sing Hal David/Burt Bacharach songs for the first half. You could have asked them to sing opera and they would have been more comfortable. For the second half, they got to choose ones they wished they had written.

Kree and Janelle picked country (natch); Amber covered Beyonce; Lazaro opted for Robbie Williams (again, another misstep); Angie found refuge behind a piano and Candice owned "Lovesong."

We learned a bit about the judges, too: THEY TALK TOO MUCH. Mariah rambled every time she got the spotlight (perhaps she could be a one-term judge); Randy Jackson fell back on old cliches ("in it to win it," "the best performance of the night"). Nicki didn't hide her preferences. Keith Urban was the only one to provide helpful criticism.

So, at the midway point, it's very easy to cut bait. Lazaro and Janelle, buh-bye. Mariah, nice meeting you.

Amber, Candice and Kree: Start thinking about your final songs. You're in it to win it dawgs.