Working mom LaKisha Jones has received some criticism since amazing Simon with her performance of Jennifer Holliday's "And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going" early on—but Simon says he's not writing her off yet. "She's very, very capable of doing what she did a few weeks ago," he says.
Simon likes Virginia native Chris Richardson—who is sometimes compared to Justin Timberlake—because "he's contemporary." "But I'm a little bit worried about the singing through the nose," Simon says.
According to Simon, Blake Lewis—who wowed judges early on with both his beatboxing and his singing talents—"is a pop star." And, singing sailor Phil Stacey also gets some credit for his outstanding performance during country week.
But Simon's favorites this season are two women with big voices—former backup singer Melinda Doolittle and 17-year-old Jordin Sparks. "I've got a soft spot for Melinda. ... She's a fantastic singer. Now she's got to go out there as a star," Simon says. "Jordin I thought was sensational this week."
"At this stage of the competition right now I'm excited," Simon says. "Any of these guys could win."