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James Durbin Fever Spikes in Santa Cruz (VIDEO)

05/12/2011 04:54 pm ET | Updated Jul 12, 2011

In a year when we all could use a little more emotional sunshine, look who comes along to surprise us all -- one of the most impressive performers we've seen in years. Yes, that would be you, James Durbin.

It's enough that Durbin had the chops to make the cut to be among the top contenders on the über hit American Idol, quite another that he's actually proven he has creativity and -- this is good -- longevity. Oh, how The Durb has impressed. We raised our eyebrows when he belted out "You've Got Another Thing Coming" (by Judas Priest). We sat back and watched, rather amazed actually, by how well he wielded his vocal strength -- with enough restraint -- to deliver a winning rendition of Paul McCartney's soulful "Maybe I'm Amazed." Bon Jovi? Stevie Wonder? Bring it. The Beatles? Please -- his rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" made some fans do just that.

That's all rockin' and wild, folks, but Durbin stands out for other reasons. Sporting both Tourette's and Asperger's Syndromes, he's raised the level of awareness for those with "disabilities."

"I have Tourette's and Asperger's, but Tourrette's and Asperger's don't have me," Durbin recently shared. "I don't let it take advantage of me. It's not who I am."

Godspeed, kid.

Now that the man actually stands a great chance of nabbing that "Idol" crown, here In Santa Cruz, where the 22-year-old is from, Durbin Fever is high. Weekly "Idol" viewiing parties are in full force -- one, in fact, at Capitola's Pizza My Heart, has a packed house. But should Durbin arrive in the coveted Top Three slot this week, there's a strong possibility that Santa Cruz will welcome the guy home -- nothing like a parade and a local performance to keep these Cruzans rooting for him.

I recently attended a festive "James Durbin Night" at a popular local pizza joint. Check out what everybody had to say about Durbin (below). In the meantime, take note of the top five Durbin videos --thus far -- in the slideshow.

UPDATE: It's on, it's off? Wait ... it's on. In an unexpected turn of events, Fox/American Idol decides to let Durbin have those coveted hometown celebratory events typically slated for the Top Three Idol contestants left standing. (See here.) This, after news of Durbin's stunning boot off the popular show Thursday night. (Is this thing rigged? Are Idol producers just craving a female win this year--let's face it, Scotty is less competition. Onward ... look for more updates on Durbin's fab hometown soirees soon.

Durb Watch: The Top Five James Durbin Videos