Mississippi has yet to produce an "American Idol" winner, but as the show wraps up its 15th and final season, two Mississippians are favorites to take home the title, The Clarion-Ledger reports.
McComb native La'Porsha Renae and Amory's Trent Harmon await Thursday's (Fox, 7 p.m.) reveal to see whether they are among final four contestants. The duo should not only feel good about next week's show but the overall title, according to Las Vegas and leading "Idol" blog, American Idol Net.
Las Vegas-based prediction site Gold Derby puts Renae as the odds-on favorite to take home the title, giving her a 63 percent chance to win at 8/13 odds. Renae's performance last week channeled her own story of leaving an abusive relationship into Mary J Blige's "No More Drama" that brought judge Jennifer Lopez to tears.
"Voters love a back story, and she's got a story not far from Season 3 winner Fantasia," said American Idol Net's Branden Barker, who cautioned that her likely position as the final female contest could hurt her in final voting. "A female hasn't beaten a guy in a finale since Jordin Sparks beat Blake Lewis in season six. So if history is any indication, La'Porsha is going to have to fight to win."
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Although Gold Derby only gives Harmon a 5 percent chance to win the overall title, it says his performance of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man" last week is enough to solidly keep him safe for another week. Vegas and AIN project Sonika Vaid to be eliminated this week, leaving Renae as the final female contestant. The last female winner, season 12's Candice Glover, defeated another woman, Kree Harrison.
Harmon has been a favorite of Barker's since releasing a top-five prediction in early February, when he gave the top spot to the Amory native. Barker said he was immediately attracted to Harmon because he reminded him of previous winners Phillip Phillips and Lee DeWyze, "but (Harmon's) arguably more talented."
"A lot of the voters are teenage girls and older women, so you can never underestimate the power of a good-looking dude with a guitar," Barker said. "All that aside, Trent is a true artist. He's the kind of artist you want to listen to beyond his time on 'Idol.'"
The show has yet to reveal the top three vote getters during the season, Barker said, but polls run on AIN consistently put Renae and Harmon ahead of Dalton Rapattoni and MacKenzie Bourg.
Renae said that she and Harmon have bonded over being from the Magnolia State.
"We're the only really country people with really deep accents here," Renae said by phone. "We have a lot in common, so we talk a lot about Mississippi and how we miss the food most of all. California is the health. ... There is no sweet tea here; it's been torture."
Barker said he's sad the show is closing but that its finale season has produced one of its best groups of talent in years and brought a sense of freshness.
"After Kelly Clarkson sat on the judging panel for an episode, you sort of realize they could have been doing all of these great things the past couple of seasons to bring the show back to life."
Renae said the cast is often so busy that it can be hard to think about winning, even this close to the end.
"I think because it is the final season, it's the most privileged title of all of the seasons. Sometimes we don't even think about it because we're busy all of the time," Renae said. "Then one of us, mostly Dalton, will say 'we're the top five out of tens of thousands,' and he will start naming names, and we'll be like 'Oh, my God. We beat out all of those people.' We shock ourselves sometimes."