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Keith Johnson, Deseret News
David Archuleta - singing at Murray High - has legions of fans.

It's the Dueling Davids. The Singing Stand-off. The battle of the boys.

So, who is better?

Obviously, it depends on whom you ask. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone seems to know who should win "American Idol."

But what about vocal teachers and professional musicians? Which of the two young men is better technically? Who is the better performer?

Turns out, much like the rest of the country, opinion is split. Interestingly enough, it's the age difference that most professionals have noticed.

"I think his youth is what distinguishes David Archuleta," said Jim Christian, who has worked professionally for more than 30 years as a director, teacher, actor, writer and producer. He is director of musical theater studies at Weber State University.

"As somebody who teaches college, nobody comes out of high school with their act together — they just don't. He has so much grounding in pure talent that I think it's pretty amazing. I think that the word 'phenomenon' is appropriate to apply to him."

Christian's not alone. Erin Carlson, a vocal coach and area performer with many leading roles on her resume as well as a singer with the popular local band the Disco Drippers, also commented on Archuleta's age. "You just don't find that kind of sound from a 17-year-old kid."

But with Archuleta being so young, Cook may have the edge as far as the actual performance. "I think I tend to have sympathy toward Archuleta because he's so young," Carlson explains. "I think a lot of performing comes from experience. This kid blossomed from nowhere and has so much voice that's going to grow like a weed. What other high school kid do you know who can get up there and do that? I wouldn't be like that now."

Local professional musician David Evanoff has worked in the music business for 30 years, writes and produces music for film, TV and special events and has worked on projects for Disney, Universal Studios and numerous half-time extravaganzas, including the Olympics Opening Ceremonies, Liberty Bowl and Orange Bowl.

"Certainly, David Cook has age and the sound that comes with a maturity," he said. "Archuleta has an amazing instrument, but at 17 there's no telling where that instrument will end up. The sky is the limit for that young guy. Cook has a maturity and a color and a tone."

In the "American Idol" world where singers are groomed, made-over and coached by "American Idol," it can be hard to maintain your own style. "It's amazing to go back you can see this online — how Archuleta has turned into a complete performer — being taught by 'American Idol,'" Evanoff said. "Cook came with a style and a swagger and a confidence that has been bolstered by the show."

Christian had this to say: "Week after week, Archuleta gets up there and it doesn't even seem to matter that they're trying to give him a make-over. You still hear and feel that youthful honesty in his sound and in his presentation. He really has maturity of musicianship that is miles beyond most of his peers."

Carlson also noted, "Think about how young Archuleta is. He's a 17-year-old kid who is fighting the changes still — his voice won't stabilize until he's 26. For him to have such a handle he's obviously careful with that (his voice) all the time."

Overall, our expert panel agrees that both singers are good technically.

Both singers have become polished performers.

And that we're in for a real showdown tonight.

So, we're back to square one. Which one do you like? Which sound do you like?

Tonight's voting will tell.

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