"American Idol" is not a show known for restraint so let us, as we do every year, give thanks that FOX is not attempt to wring two hours out of the finale's performance night. Yes, tomorrow night's finale will be two-plus hours of excruciating largess, but on Wednesday (May 15), we should be treated to an hour of performances from two reasonably good singers. That should be pleasant, right?

OK, then!

Bring on Candice Glover and Kree Harrison!

8:02 p.m. ET. Oh right. We're at the Nokia Theatre tonight. 

8:03 p.m. This is our first Girl-on-Girl Action in a finale since Season 3. Good times... I think it's mighty reductive to say, as Ryan Seacrest does, that this is Country vs. South. Candice has been at her best across a wide variety of genres, while Kree has only occasionally actually done country this season. But anyway...

8:05 p.m. Round 1 will be Simon Fuller's choice. Round 2 will be the respective coronation songs. Round 3 will be a repeat of a favorite performance. Kree won the coin toss and she's going first.

Singer: KREE HARRISON
Song: "Angel"
My Take: Kree has been marvelously styled tonight. She looks terrific. This is a solid, if low-key song choice by Simon Fuller. Kree does earnestness well when she actually feels songs and she seems to feel this one. She's got a nice little country-yodel working and that head-voice that was missing for a couple weeks mid-season, is back and very pleasant tonight. I can applaud that, but it doesn't make me stand up and cheer or anything. This probably works best if her next two performances build upon it in energy and power. This sets a good foundation and, I have no doubt, it'll play well with her fans.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: Wait. Are we not judging? Oh right! This is the night where the judges weigh in after each round, isn't in?

 

8:09 p.m. Discussion topic: Who the heck elects to sing first when they win the coin flip? You ALWAYS take the kickoff to start the second half and you ALWAYS want to be the last singer America hears before they vote. And I don't care if it hasn't worked out in the past that the Finalist who sang last won. It don't matter. There's no advantage to singing first. Kree is not so dominant that she could psych Candice out by being good. 

 

Singer: CANDICE GLOVER
Song: "Chasing Pavements"
My Take: This is just a problem. Simon Fuller gave Candice what is simultaneously a much better and much tougher song, but how do you blame him? Candice is a better singer than Kree is, so why wouldn't you want to let Candice have a showcase that lets her do everything that she can do? So Kree's degree of difficulty was maybe a 3 out of 10, while Candice has an 8 out of 10. So even of they both do well with what they're given, Candice's level of achievement is much higher for me. Very much higher. She's experimenting with the melody and with the limits of her voice without ever seeming to oversing. The big question is this: Simon Fuller knows what the votes look like. Is there a chance that Kree has been running away with the voting most weeks and Fuller wants to keep this close? I honestly believe that there but for her last performance last Wednesday, Candice would have gone home and we'd be looking at a Kree-Angie finale. So maybe Fuller decided it was necessary to handicap the finale a little bit to give Candice an early break.

 

8:19 p.m. Randy and Mariah are asked to weigh in on the first two performances. Mariah is proud to have been part of this season in particular. "It's really refreshing and it makes me proud of America do see the votes going in the direction they've gone," Mariah says. She doesn't say anything about either performance. Randy didn't love either song selection because they were too sleep. "Just because you're leaving you say stuff like that?" Ryan shoots back. Randy gives the first round to Candice, because she made choices and got to show off her upper register. Mariah praises Kree's "delicate" performance. Delicate schmelicate. This isn't "American Delicates." That's a lingerie competition. This is "American Idol." I wanna be blown away.

8:22 p.m. Carly Rae Jepsen, who wasn't able to make the finale on "Canadian Idol," is here to sing the song that we've been hearing about all season long. Apparently America wrote this song for her? And chose her costume? And choreographed her dancers? And stuff? Not to get objectification-y, but Carly's mighty cute tonight, in a diminutive, trying-to-hard, impressively pale, Canadian kinda way. Did America also vote for her to stay inside and avoid the sun for the past three months? As for the song? Well, it's no "Call Me Maybe."

8:30 p.m. Round 2...

 

Singer: KREE HARRISON
Song: "All Cried Out"
My Take: "They say when the last tear falls/ You can tell by the way it falls"... Oh. We're rhyming "falls" with "falls" are we? Oy. That's the level of writing we're dealing with here, as it instantly becomes clear that this is no "Home." This is, however, a mighty savvy song selection for Kree, given her person history and all of that stuff. It's the sort of song that she should be able to infuse with meaning, even if the lyrics are essentially meaningless or, if not meaningless, entirely banal. It's not such a great song for Kree's voice, though, is it? It spends too much time on big notes that are too high for her. She sounds like she's pushing through the entire chorus and I really lose the melody a little. There are the coronation songs where you can find the hook in 90 seconds and there are the coronation songs that don't have a hook at all. Songs with hooks work better. Always. Audiences like hooks. I like a hook. This song is hook-less. Inexplicably, all of the judges other than Nicki stand for Kree.

Singer: CANDICE GLOVER
Song: "I Am Beautiful"
My Take: I guess these songs have actually been topically tailored to the two singers, since Candice has had self-image as a part of her ongoing platform. And... Guess what? Candice's song has a hook. It's not like it's any better written than Kree's song. And it actually has the same problem, over-relying on crescendos in the highest part of Candice's voice. But it's uplifting, clearly articulates its message and has an easily identifiable chorus. All four judges stand for Candice. I don't think it was that great, but I think it was better than Kree's song and therefore a better performance.

 

8:40 p.m.  Keith and Nicki get to judge here. Nicki loves Kree's composure and she thought that the song made her reach deep down into her gut. Nicki also loved Candice's song. Keith says that Candice's song "fits her like a Glover." Neither judge declares a winner or... much of anything.

8:42 p.m. So far, this has not been exciting. I have Candice up two rounds to zero, but they were both 10-9 rounds and I think they both could have gone either way. No knockdowns. No dominance. And, thus far, nothing rousing or memorable. 

 

Singer: KREE HARRISON
Song: "Up To The Mountain"
My Take: I agree that this was one of Kree's best performances this season. I think it'd be fun to go back and watch the unpolished Kree from Vegas, who said she'd never let "Idol" change her, and compare it to this version. I'm not going to lie: I preferred unpolished Kree. There was an authenticity and a rawness that she had in Vegas and that gets lost with the choir and the fog bank and the ballroom gown and all of that. I would have loved nothing more for Kree to push aside the "Idol" artifice for one last number. But this is a very good performance, definitely her best of the night, and all four judges stand. Actually, maybe I want to take back what I said two sentences ago. If Kree had come out in jeans and done a stripped down version, I'd have typed, "Kree did the exact same performance she did in Vegas, so yawn..." Sigh. You just can't win with me!
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: "Oh come on. That was beautiful Kree," says Keith, who praises her spirituality and soulfulness. "That energy is so uplifting and I loved it even more than the single performance," Nicki says, adding that all three performances tonight showcased her soul. Randy calls it "a winning performance." Mariah agrees.

Singer: CANDICE GLOVER
Song: "I Who Have Nothing"
My Take: OK. Candice is bringing this home. She starts off a cappella and absolutely destroys it. In a good way. Seriously. When the orchestra vamps in, it's majestic. There's no comparison here at all. I'm going to stop typing and just enjoy this. This is the knockdown that I was missing in the first two rounds. Of course the judges stand. I wish they hadn't stood up so many times tonight. Because that earned it.
Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey Say: "You're such a powerhouse singer, Candice and that song... it's like a planet exploding to life," Keith says. Nicki's happy to see Candice's legs. "I loved that performance," Nicki says. "What comes across from you is 'superstar,' commands the stage," Nicki says. "That girl can plum, flat-out sing. This is how you do. That's like a winning performance. You just shot this night to a whole other level," Randy raves. "What you have is the innate ability to take any song and make it into a vehicle for that amazing voice," Mariah says.

8:58 p.m. I don't know who's gonna win tomorrow. I still think that demographics are strongly in Kree's favor. But after that last performance, I have no doubt who I want to see win. Go Candice!

Who'd you like tonight? And who's gonna win?