May 21, 2007 06:25 PM

As Blake Lewis and Jordin Sparks prepare for their final American Idol showdown, public opinion is divided about who will be the sixth winner. Even the unabashedly opinionated Simon Cowell isn’t sure who will win. “I think they both have different strengths,” he recently told reporters. “One’s a better entertainer and one’s a better singer, so I think it will be down to what they do on the night.” But when it came to other Idol-related topics, Cowell was his characteristically outspoken self. Check out what he had to say about his playful quibbling with Ryan Seacrest, his thoughts on Melinda Doolittle’s exit, on Sanjaya mania and Kelly Clarkson’s controversial upcoming album.

On Finale Predictions
“I think they will both chose their favorite song from what they’ve done over the past 11 weeks – and I’m hoping Blake will do the Bon Jovi song because I thought it was his best performance. And I don’t know what Jordin will do.”

On Fighting with Ryan
“It’s rather like having a silly little dog who wants to jump up on your lap and you just swat the dog off. Occasionally in a very stern voice you have to say ‘no.’ And that’s how I deal with Ryan.”

On Melinda’s Next Step
“I don’t think she should try and compete with too many of the R&B artists out there at the moment. I think she’s more of a throwback to people like Gladys Knight and Tina Turner. And I think she should play to her strengths.”

On Contestants Talking Back
“I encourage it. I don’t think they do it enough because I think they all think they’re going to be voted off if they’re rude to me. I think it’s the opposite. I think the more rude they are to me, the more votes they’ll get. I think off camera they’re going completely nuts complaining about me. Then on camera they’re just smiling and I don’t understand that. I think it should be two-way. If I’m rude to them, they’re more than entitled to be rude to me back.”

Kelly Clarkson

On Sanjaya Fever
“I would never want to be in a situation where we cast the 12 as just normal people because I think it would be boring. The panel is wacky enough and therefore I think the contestants should be a bit strange as well. And I thought the whole Sanjaya thing was hysterical. I’m happy now because he’s out. I don’t think I’d be happy if he was in the finals, so I can now be quite smug about it.”

On Kelly Clarkson’s New Record
Kelly Clarkson is not an artist who’s in it for the money. She has a lot of integrity and this is a record she wanted to make. And I admire her for that. … It’s not as commercial as her last record, but any Kelly Clarkson record at the moment is a pretty good record compared to the competition because she’s an incredible artist.

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