American Idol – Will it be Crystal or Lee?

American Idol – Will it be Crystal or Lee?

Here we are folks – the last performance show of American Idol, Season 9.  It seems like only 4 months ago that we started this journey – ending tonight with the hopes and dreams of Crystal Bowersox and Lee Dewyze hanging in the balance – reliant upon the dialing skills and patience of TV watchers everywhere.  How was the show?  Well – let’s take a look.

With the final performance show, the production moved to the Nokia Theater, and had an audience of 7,000 in attendance.  This was the big stage, and you could tell right off the bat that Crystal was nervous.  Not only did someone knock the microphone out of her hand on the way in, she wasn’t sure where to go during the intro.  Not the best of starts – but hey, at least she and Lee weren’t dressed in boxing attire (that groan you hear is David Cook, having an unpleasant flashback).

Tonight’s show featured each contestant performing three songs – their favorite from the season, a producer’s choice, and the single they will release, should they win. But – there was a twist.  This year, for the first time in Idol history, the winner’s single won’t be an original song.  It will instead be a cover tune.  Smart move?  Total disaster?  We’ll talk more about that later.  First, let’s talk about the three songs themselves:

Round 1 – Contestant’s Choice

“The Boxer”  – Lee chose to reprise his “anthem” from inspirational week.  Given that they showed his father singing heartily along with it last week during the visits home, it’s not that surprising.  He did the song well, but it’s never been one of my favorite tunes.  Melodically, it just leaves me flat.  It feels a little meandering and lost – much like Lee’s vocals on occasion this season.

“Me and Bobby McGee” – Crystal chose to go with her rendition of this Janis Joplin classic.  Crystal didn’t have a truly bad week this entire season, so she would have been safe with any choice.  She chose to go with the song that really cemented who she was, and what she wanted to be on the show.  She chose well.  The venue added a scope and breadth to the performance that only served to make it better.

Round 1 went to Crystal

Round 2 – Producer’s Choice

“Everybody Hurts” – This was the point at which it began to become clear that the producers where pulling for Crystal. I really don’t care for this song.  Then again – I really can’t stand REM, so it’s not that surprising.  To his credit, Lee made it better than the original.  Unfortunately, that’s like saying someone repainted “Dogs Playing Poker” in the style of Picasso and made it better.  At the end of the day, you still have “Dogs Playing Poker”.   For all of the drama and build up over the last few weeks (and my own comments last week, notwithstanding), it was evident that the powers-that-be wanted this to be Crystal’s night.  Sure – they did give Lee the full gospel choir on this song; but once I saw that they were also being used on Crystal’s final song, I began to think – maybe the producers had to pay them for the entire night anyway and thought – what the hell, let’s just throw them out there with Lee too.

“Black Velvet” – I was really nervous for Crystal at the beginning of this song.  It was clear that she was uncomfortable, and I was certain that she was either going to tumble down the stairs in those heels, or leave one stuck in the floor lighting as she walked across the stage.  All of that being said – if you closed your eyes and just listened – you realized that she crushed the song.  She was full of soul, and swagger, and attitude.  The producers did her no favors by taking her out from behind her guitar, but they did give her a song that she could sink her teeth in to and really show a killer instinct.

Round 2 went to Crystal

Round 3 – Winner’s Single

“Beautiful Day” – At this point, Ryan really hadn’t made it clear that the finalist would be doing cover tunes for their winner’s singles.  As “Beautiful Day” started up, my wife and I turned to each other and said, “That sounds like the U2 song”.  Then we realized – it was the U2 song.  Finally, the producers had decided to spare the contestant the horror of performing some cheese filled ode to making people proud or, God forbid – magic rainbows (that groan you hear now – still David Cook…).  Unfortunately – they picked a terrible song for Lee.  It just didn’t fit him at all.  You lost all of the timbre and rasp that makes his voice so unique.  You lost what little emotional connection he has to the audience.  You lost him in the manufactured moment.  It just didn’t work – on any level.  Great – it’s a U2 song.  Let’s all be impressed.  All hail Bono.  The problem is, it was the wrong song for Lee.

“Up to the Mountain” – Everything that went wrong with the song choice for Lee, went right for Crystal.  She was center stage, with her guitar, singing a beautiful song by Patti Griffin.  She was focused, she was open, and she was comfortable.  When the choir came out and filled the auditorium up with that gospel blanket of sound, I knew – this was Crystal’s night.  That song was the perfect exclamation point for her entire journey on American Idol.  I only hope they let her make that type of music on her album.  When it was over, you could tell how nervous and overwhelmed she was.  Even Crystal was in awe of the crowd and the opportunity that was in front of her.

Round 3 went to Crystal.

There you have it – based on the performances, I think you have to give the night, and the competition, to Crystal.  The big difference was – Lee came to sing, Crystal came to perform.  The big question is – did Lee build up enough public sentiment and momentum over the last few weeks to overcome Crystal?  Has Crystal been the frontrunner for too long?  Can the legions of teenage girls voting for Lee be defeated?  Looking back at past history, I still think Lee has an excellent chance to win. Will it be the right choice? We’ll have to wait and see – but being a non-winner never hurt Adam Lambert, Chris Daughtry, Kelly Pickler, – and it wouldn’t be the worst thing to ever happen to Crystal either. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow night to find out what happens.

Speaking of tomorrow night – I can’t wait to see who they have planned to perform with the Idols.  I hope they do it right, and don’t just pull in some random artist with an album to promote (or anyone with a connection to Perez Hilton).  I also hope that they let Crystal perform an original tune, and turn Casey loose on the guitar.  Finally, I hope they give Simon the send off that he deserves.  He has made American Idol a national obsession.  Both Fox and 19 Entertainment owe him a debt of gratitude.  I hope they pay it off with class and style.  We’ll find out tomorrow night.

See you then.

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