Only one week to go and, I have to say, I’m still waiting for the one big “Moment” from American Idol this season. We are down to the top 3 and while I still watch the show each week, I can’t say that I’m nearly as invested in these contestants as I have been in the past. That being said, we are still getting ready to crown this year’s winner, so there is at least a modicum of excitement in the air. Who will it be – Lee, Crystal, or Casey? This…is my American Idol recap.
One thing was very clear from tonight’s show – the judges and producers have decided that they want Lee and Crystal in the final (they gave Lee a mini-gospel choir for God’s sake.) They might as well have just put up a giant sign – “Vote for this guy; trust us – we are the producers”. That’s not to say that Lee doesn’t deserve to be in the top two. He did a good job tonight. I just can’t help but feel for Casey a little.
Speaking of Casey, he had the dubious honor of leading off the night. I didn’t like the way Ryan did 2 minutes of interview, and then threw each contestant directly in to their song. You could see that Casey was still struggling to get his guitar pick out of his pocket as his first song was starting. He performed “Okay, It’s Alright With Me” by Eric Hutchinson. Not a bad performance, but still somewhat forgettable. I agree with Randy – this is the type of music he should make. Unfortunately, had he put this song on an album, I think it would be considered filler.
Casey’s second song was “Daughters” by John Mayer, as chosen by Randy and Kara. It was a much better performance than the first song, but Casey got a giant, collective yawn from the judges, even as Kara and Randy dislocated their elbows, patting themselves on the back for their song choice. It was a good performance, but Simon nailed it in the critique – it wasn’t dramatic enough. Still, I enjoyed it. I hope that, on the finale, they finally let Casey loose to REALLY play guitar. These 10-15 second bites just don’t do his talent justice. Let the boy play.
(As a complete aside, am I the only one who found it weird that both Casey and Crystal found out about their songs while visiting a AT&T store, surrounded by TENS of people? Lee didn’t even get a trip to the AT&T store – he just got a close-up on the private plane. I’m anxious to see more footage of the trips home tomorrow night. Where the crowds larger at the other stops? Tonight was a little underwhelming.)
Crystal was put in the second / fifth spot for the evening. To me, this was the producers saying – look, we think she’s safe and we really need to give the pimp spot to Lee to make sure he makes the finale. Her first song was “Come To My Window” by Melissa Ethridge. 10 seconds in, with the acoustic guitar and harmonica, I turned to my wife and said – “I like this already”. Then 5 seconds later, the band came in and ruined the song. It was too fast, to jumbled, and the harmonica was left to hang around Crystal’s neck for the entire song like an anchor. Crystal, the guitar, and the harmonica alone could have been magic. Instead, it was blazing mediocrity.
Crystal’s second song was “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney, as chosen by Ellen. Crystal sang it well, but it was a little jarring to hear her sing about what kind of man she was. Regardless of what she said after the song, she looked uncomfortable and stiff without her guitar and mic stand. Not my favorite performance of hers.
Last, in the coveted third / sixth position, was Lee. His first song was “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Great song choice for him. It fit his voice well, and he really seemed to connect with it. Would it have been better as an acoustic only performance – yes. Still, he killed Casey and Crystal in song choice for round one. Someone needs to tell all of the contestants – stop picking songs because you “love them”, or they are “your favorite”. Pick a song that sounds REALLY amazing when you sing it. That’s how you win.
Lee’s second song was “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, as chosen by Simon. I have to say – Simon has yet to make a bad song choice for a contestant in the round of three (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Catherine McPhee, anyone?) The same held true tonight. This was a great choice for Lee, and really set him up to shine…BUT… it still fell a little flat. Look, he had all of the elements – great song, great voice, mini-gospel choir – this was a performance tailor made to be a “MOMENT”. The problem was – it wasn’t. It was good, but it didn’t give me chills. The arrangement was a little stale (far too much 1970’s, Neil Diamond, trumpet for me) and the director that keeps putting in the split screen shots of the contestant and the band should be shot. The performance wanted to be big, but wasn’t. It didn’t hold a candle to Bo Bice’s “In a Dream”, or Chris Allen’s “Heartless” for example. Still – I think it was good enough to score him a spot in the finals.
That was the show. I think we are on our way to a Crystal and Lee showdown next week. And, all of the sarcasm above notwithstanding, I think that they both deserve it. It will be interesting to see what sort of God-awful singles they will be saddled with, and if they can rise above them. I’ll even go out on a limb and predict that we may see yet another Idol surprise winner. Crystal has been the favorite all season, and has seemed unbeatable – but Lee is coming on strong. The “underdog” has done well in the past – just ask Kris Allen and David Cook. I’m just saying.
See you tomorrow night.
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