Recap: 'American Idol' Finale Performances: Crystal vs. Lee
Wow, kids. We're reached the "American Idol" finale. Or at least we've reached the first-night performance component of "American Idol." Then, after two hours tomorrow night, we'll actually know whether our next Idol is Crystal Bowersox or Lee DeWyze.
But on Tuesday (May 25) night? We're singing. How did Crystal and Lee acquit themselves with their trio of performances? They're singing one song of their choosing, one song selected by Simon Fuller and their first sing (not to be confused with the traditional coronation dud).
Click through for the full recap...
Singer: Lee DeWyze
Song: "The Boxer"
My Take: I was in the minority in not loving this performance during Inspirational Week. We're really seeing the dangers of poorly rehearsed live TV tonight? From Crystal's two mic-fumbles on her entrance to the strange two second shot of the floor of the Nokia Theatre, this is a bit rough. Lee's performance? Identical to what he did last time, though it's possibly drowsier and less engaged. Maybe he's in awe of the venue? Maybe he's also overwhelmed to be starting the finale off?
Ellen, Randy, Kara and Simon Say: Yo, listen. Randy thinks that was a great way to start it off. He didn't think it was energetic and he predicts this will be a duel to the finish. Ellen thought it was even better than the first time. Kara agrees with Randy, presumably on the "low-energy" part, not on the "great" part. Simon expected a lot more passion. "That was a kiss on the cheek, when I want a kiss on the lips," Simon explains.
Singer: Crystal Bowersox
Song: "Me and Bobby McGee"
My Take: Crystal's going back a few weeks, back to when the judges considered her the unimpeachable favorite, just in case you thought she might do the "Caddyshack" song again. Crystal's also getting a tiny bit swallowed up by the arrangement, but she's so much more connected to both the audience and the music than Lee was. She plays to the crowd and builds from a quiet beginning to a strong conclusion. In short, it's exactly like her first rendition of the song earlier in the season. Last season, didn't Adam Lambert do a different arrangement of the song he chose to repeat? Neither singer this year is Adam Lambert, but I guess we knew that already, didn't we? Either way, Round One is clearly scored for Crystal.
Ellen, Randy, Kara and Simon Say: Randy thought it was dope and wants Crystal to make a record just like that. Ellen has absolutely no interest in critiquing individual performances. Kara sees fire in Crystal's belly. Simon's glad to be reminded of when he used to love Crystal and he accurately predicts that we have a competition tonight.
Singer: Lee DeWyze
Song: "Everybody Hurts"
My Take: Maybe Lee DeWyze should be wearing a cardigan tonight and smoking a pipe? He's strangely determined not to do anything that would insult a gentleman's club of gentile patrons. He actually seems to be trying to slow the song down, falling out of rhythm on his guitar with what the backing music and chorus are doing. There are some really rough notes throughout. He's not singing in tune here at all. Actually, it keeps getting worse. In terms of pure singing, this was Lee's worst performance of the entire season.
Ellen, Randy, Kara and Simon Say: Randy thought that Lee pulled it together after starting pitchy. I heard the pitchy, I didn't hear the pulling together. Ellen also points out the "few" missed notes and wanted Lee to let go a bit more. Kara says it wasn't a perfect vocal, but loved Lee's honesty. Simon also says Lee went off-melody, but calls it a brilliant song choice. Oh my goodness. All four judges acknowledged that Lee just kicked the melody of "Everybody Hurts" in the gonads and then all four judges found ways to not criticize Lee for failing to be able to sing in a singing competition. Good gracious, y'all. That wasn't Lee being emotional. That was Lee failing to find notes in the song he was trying to sing. [Yes, I know that "American Idol" isn't really a singing competition.]
Singer: Crystal Bowersox
Song: "Black Velvet"
My Take: Why oh why would you put Crystal Bowersox in high heels? And then why oh why would you start her off at the top of a high platform and ask her to navigate down a staircase? Is it just because Crystal is kicking Lee's butt at the actual performance part of this show and we're trying to raise her degree of difficulty? Doing battle with an electric guitar (not hers) spewing feedback everywhere, Crystal tears into the song. There are definitely moments where she's shouting more than singing, but the arrangement is so over-the-top that she almost has to shout to be heard. Compared to Lee's out-of-tune mewling to REM, this is like a knockout punch. That's 2-0 Crystal and neither round was competitive.
Ellen, Randy, Kara and Simon Say: This is what Randy's talking about. He thinks Crystal's in it to win it. Ellen stands, claps and calls it fantastic. Kara thinks that performance is that tonight is all about. Simon is almost allergic to the song, but he tells Crystal that she nailed the song.
Singer: Lee DeWyze
Song: "Beautiful Day"
My Take: Excellent. This isn't a coronation song. It's just a cover song that will be Lee's first single. Wow. Is Lee just throwing the competition? He's mumbling and atonal right up until the chorus. I literally can't understand a single word that Lee's singing. He looks and sounds lost. It gets a little better as he goes along, but it's still bad, returning to uncertainty and sharpness on the last note. This another performance that I'd rank among Lee's three or four worst of the season.
Ellen, Randy, Kara and Simon Say: Yo yo. Dude. You know what's cool? Randy says it started off "interesting," but he got his groove back by the middle. Ellen has enjoyed watching Lee grow. She raves that he was "fully present for this song." She makes no mention of what he actually did on the song. THANK YOU, KARA. Kara says that Lee got swallowed, but raves that he has grown and that he has a commercial voice. Simon says that Lee is what the competition was designed for. And he doesn't mention the flipping performance. This isn't the way I want to remember you, Simon! I wish to remember you as you were -- Surly, honest and mostly correct. Even Ryan wants to tell Lee that he's a class act.
Singer: Crystal Bowersox
Song: "Up to the Mountain"
My Take: How were these "first singles" selected? Lee gets a U2 track that everybody knows and Crystal gets Patty Griffin song that many fewer people will know (though it's been recorded by familiar folks like Susan Boyle and Kelly Clarkson). The difference? Crystal can sing her song. Round Three, and the night, to Crystal. More words are not required. This is a beautiful performance. Period. [You can find Kelly's version online and it's pretty great.]
Ellen, Randy, Kara and Simon Say: Randy explains that this is what the show is about, calling it one of Crystal's best moments at the perfect time. Ellen says she can't compare Crystal to a single contemporary artist and she's happy to be a part of witnessing her rise. Kara says that Crystal let down her wall and that she was completely emotionally invested. Crystal pauses and thanks Simon for his work on the show over the years. "Like it matters coming from me," America's Idol and Brown-Noser adds. Simon dubs it the song of the night and his last "American Idol" critique is to call Crystal "outstanding."
TONIGHT'S BEST/WORST: We haven't had a finale gap this big between performers since The Battle of the Davids. Of course, in that finale year, I had Presumptive "American Idol" Winner David Archuleta dominating David Cook on my score card. The voters didn't care (and they made the right choice). I have no objection to people voting for Lee because they liked him all season. He had a good season. He also saved the worst for last. Crystal, in contrast, delivered one of her best performances at the end of her biggest night and didn't seem to be at all in awe of the environs. I'm assuming that she wins.
So, who wins tomorrow? Who deserves to win?
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