On 'American Idol' it's singers Vs. Simon

If all goes as planned, Kristy Lee Cook will blow "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell out of his socks tonight.

At least that’s what the Season 7 contestant promised last week.

It was a dangerous promise for the love-her-or-hate-her county singer, who in recent weeks has consistently earned a spot among the lowest vote-getters.

Even with her vow that the best is yet to come, Cook again earned the second-lowest vote tally.

Ironically, she was joined in the bottom three by Irish songstress Carly Smithson and the ultimately eliminated Amanda Overmyer — two singers who also followed their performances with bold retorts toward Cowell.

It spurred a commenter on the show's official message board forum to note, "The secret to staying on 'American Idol' is not talent, or looks ... but keeping your mouth shut, smiling and saying nothing!"

Arguably, this season's singers have been more eager than ever to defend themselves amid criticism from the acerbic judge.

In a show where personality has at least equal importance as talent, contestants’ newfound boldness could be a dream for producers.

What’s more, many fans favor a willingness to mouth off. It's better to appear self-assured than spineless, they reason.

Early this season, finalist David Cook responded to Cowell’s criticism by saying his job was to woo the voting viewers, not the judges. Cowell in turn said he didn’t need to be reminded of the show’s mechanics.

Did Cook come off as conceited? Sure. But at the same time, strangely, it was also the first occasion when the rocker appeared to have a genuine edginess to his personality. He escaped elimination.

Contestants brave enough to face off with Cowell have lots of material for inspiration: his English roots, his apparent arrogance, his monochromatic wardrobe. Finalist Chikezie once quipped to Cowell, "Who's your stylist? Charlie Chaplin?" When a singer debates Cowell with wit and at least a twinge of humility, he or she has potential to actually gain fans. But if not, the decision can seem, well, kind of embarrassing. Take ousted Overmyer. When Cowell criticized her lack of versatility, she noted she wanted to give fans a glimpse of what they’d see at one of her shows. Replay her soliloquy now on YouTube and it seems nothing more than a sad, sad rant. There’s a fine line between defending yourself and appearing just plain delusional, some fans reason. Why talk back? Well, because there's a slight hope Cowell might eventually take your side. When plus-size finalist Mandisa auditioned for Season 5, Cowell said “Do we have a bigger stage this year?” Later, he publicly apologized. So Cowell might be a tough nut to crack, but at least hope isn’t lost entirely. If you use the right words.