Michael Caulfield/WireImage
April 10, 2008 12:00 AM

Jordin Sparks, last year’s American Idol winner — the show’s youngest at 17 — is now a year older and probably a lot wiser, having released an album (with two top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart) since winning the nation’s most popular reality TV show ever. Still a huge fan, Sparks sounds off on the current crop of Idol contestants — she favors the guys, by the way — getting back on the Idol stage (for a performance airing on Thursday’s elimination show), and whether or not she stays in touch with her former costars. –Jed Dreben

So what’s Sparks’ take on this year’s talent pool? “I like the guys,” she says at a recent shoot for a public service announcement for DoSomething.org and Staples’ school supply drive in Hollywood. “I do like the girls, too, but in terms of what I see every week from the guys, I’m just like wow!”

Here’s what she had to say about each of them: David Cook: “His arrangements are incredible and that’s incredible to take some songs that he’s taken and change them up like that.” David Archlueta: “He’s adorable, just makes you want to put him in your pocket and he’s just so cute! But he’s got such a huge voice and it’s like almost flawless every time.” Jason Castro: “I love his vulnerability. If he messes up he’s just like, ‘Oh well.’ He’s not scared or anything, he’s just totally normal and relaxed.” Michael Johns: “He’s got some soul. It’s awesome!”

What about the girls? “The girls are so sweet — so amazing!” Here’s what she said about each of them: Carly Smithson: “She has a huge voice and I love the fact that she’s not scared to show her tattoos — I know that’s kind of off topic of music and singing but the fact that she’s okay with herself is amazing! And that’s great, and it’s cool because see that and that translates through the camera that she’s confident.” Syesha Mercado: “Amazing, humongous voice and a beautiful smile.” Kristy Lee Cook: “I love her country twang. I love that she sticks to her roots — sticks to her guns.” Brooke White: “Obviously, she’s just so sweet and she plays piano like no other.”

What was it like being back on the Idol stage?It was crazy being back on the stage and knowing that I wasn’t going to get judged. I knew that I would be okay once I walked off. … It was good to be back there. I saw the judges sitting there and Simon smiled at me and winked at me, and Randy was like “What’s up?!” And Paula is just as sweet as can be. It was amazing. I missed it. I didn’t want to leave.

How about the new stage?I’m so jealous of the new stage this year, it’s not even funny. There are no grids on the ground so the girls can wear their heels and don’t have to worry about falling or tripping on their faces like we did last year.

Do you keep in touch with the other season 6 contestants?The beauty of text messaging you can just send the “Hey, I miss you!” We keep in touch a lot. Chris Richardson, Melinda Doolittle and Sanjaya Malakar came out to help me with my Super Bowl charity event back in January. They’re all doing very well, working on some music stuff. Phil Stacey‘s working on his album. Blake Lewis, obviously, I see him out here a lot. He’s doing well working on his next single … It’s really cool to see how well everyone is doing. I miss them all so much! Michael Caulfield/WireImage

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