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Fantasia Barrino heads to American Idol finals

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Viewers send Barrino to 'American Idol' finals

By VICKI HYMAN, Staff Writer

North Carolina is sending another native to the finals of Fox's "American Idol." A trio of impressive performances Tuesday night convinced viewers to give High Point native Fantasia Barrino a shot at the title and a recording contract.

Barrino, 19, a quirky, soulful singer raised in the gospel tradition, will face Snellville, Ga., high school student Diana DeGarmo, whose baby face masks an inner Ethel Merman. "Idol" viewers ejected warbly Hawaiian songbird Jasmine Trias on Wednesday.

After several near-ejections, DeGarmo has been picking up steam in recent weeks. But Barrino has been by far the most praised contestant, even if the praise consisted of "Dude, you're just the bomb, dude." (That was thunderstruck judge Randy Jackson on Tuesday night.)

Last year, Raleigh native Clay Aiken made it to the finals, although Birmingham, Ala., singer Ruben Studdard took the title.

But Aiken also won a recording contract, and both have since released top-selling albums.

On Tuesday's show, the three contestants had to sing three songs: one they chose, one picked by a judge, and a third chosen by guest host Clive Davis, the legendary music producer who has nurtured Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys.

Barrino awed the judges with her rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools," then strutted through the audience with judge Simon Cowell's pick, the early Tina Turner hit "A Fool in Love." She closed the night with Houston's "The Greatest Love of All."

Barrino, a single mother who had been living in Greensboro and trying to get her high school diploma before auditioning for "Idol," beat out 70,000 contestants for her shot at fame. An early favorite, her cover of the Gershwin classic "Summertime" sealed her front-runner status and led Jackson to declare it the best "Idol" performance ever.

"When she did 'Summertime,' that let everybody know what time it was," said Ricky Price of Asheboro, whose wife is a Barrino cousin who used to sing with the "Idol" star. "As far as voice goes, her range, her style, she's totally everything they said they were looking far. She's the total package."

Even if she doesn't take the title, Barrino probably has a bright future. After her vigorous workout of "A Fool in Love" Tuesday night, producer Davis told her that if he saw her perform like that in a basement in Kansas, he would sign her immediately.

Guess what, Clive? You're not in Kansas, she does perform like that, and you can sign anyone you want. You may get your chance.

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The Greensboro Coliseum will be shown live on national TV next wednesday on the final American Idol Show for the season. Clay Aiken will host the big party bash at the event and parking is FREE! Much like last year when they showed a packed RBC Center in Raleigh for Clay in the finals, The Greensboro Coliseum will also be filled in the 23,000 seat arena. Clay Aiken will not sing though because the show is about Fantasia. So if you are an American Idol fan in North Carolina. Come over to the Greensboro Coliseum for the biggest, live broadcast party bash in American Idol history!

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