Last night on American Idol, Chicago paint clerk Lee Dewyze went up against Ohio mom Crystal Bowersox in front of the largest audience of the season in the Nokia Theater, to see who will take home the Season 9 American Idol crown.
The past several weeks have been a tale of two contestants. The first half of the season, it was all Crystal, Crystal, Crystal. Then all of a sudden, Lee came on strong for several weeks while Crystal started losing some ground. Sure, every once in a while we’d have a week where Mike would have the best week, or Katie, or Casey, but for the most part, it’s been all Crystal and Lee vying for the top spot.
So, who’s it going to be? Crystal, who dominated the entire first half of the season, or Lee, who dominated most of the second half of the season?
They sang three songs each: One chosen by Idol exec producer Simon Fuller, one that they previously sang this season, and the song that they will sing if they win tomorrow night, AKA, their coronation song.
Since the show did the songs by round, I’m switching things up for the Finale and I’m going to critique by round. C’mon. It’ll be fun.
First Round, Singers Choice:
Lee Dewyze – Lee sang The Boxer for his choice. He sang this during Inspiration Week and it was one his best performances of the season for him, and he knew it. And once again, it was a very good performance. Maybe not quite as good as the first time we heard it, but really close. The first time he sang it he said that he was connected to the song, and we still felt the connection.
Crystal Bowersox – Crystal chose Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee, which was easily her very best performance of the season to date. She started off slow and a little pitchy, but when the song picked up, she really hit her stride. There is no question that this is the type of music that she needs to be making. It is clearly in her comfort zone.
FIRST ROUND: CRYSTAL, if only by a slight margin
Second Round, Producer’s Choice:
Lee Dewyze – Simon Fuller chose REM’s mega-hit from 1992, Everybody Hurts, and it was a great song for his vocal range and limits, which he still has some that he needs to overcome. It fit him well and by the middle of the song it was his, and then he let it get away from him. He could have done a little better. I think nerves started to get the better of him.
Crystal Bowersox – Simon Fuller chose Black Velvet by Alannah Miles, for Crystal, and with some screaming in the middle, she worked it out. It had a nice power note that we’re not accustomed to with Crystal, and even a little more power in her voice throughout the whole second half of the song than we’re used to. She was pushing and pushing hard. Maybe too hard.
SECOND ROUND: CRYSTAL, because she showed more passion and really seemed to want it more all of a sudden, but it was pretty close.
Third Round, Coronation Song
In an interesting note, the producers decided to abandon the idea of having someone write a new song for the “Coronation Song”, as they have done the past couple of years. Which is good, since last season’s No Boundaries (written by Kara DioGuardi) was so awful.
That being said, this season’s plan wasn’t really a better one. Apparently, they let the contestants choose songs for themselves (I’m really not sure what the criteria was). Neither choice was great, nor was either performance necessarily radio-worthy. So, hopefully whoever wins will have a better studio version that will be.
Lee Dewyze – Lee gave us his own, somewhat uninspired version of Beautiful Day by U2, and changed it up enough that it sounded completely different. Of course, no one can sound like Bono, so anyone else singing U2 is going to sound different. But the keys are keeping in tune, and keeping it fresh, and Lee did both. So, can we hear this on the radio today? The vocals were strong, and in key, and he made it a new song. But I’m not sure it was good enough for radio play.
Crystal Bowersox – Crystal sang her version of Up To the Mountain by Patti Griffin, and it was heartfelt and emotional. Randy Jackson was so choked up he could barely speak. And as beautiful as it was, I’m not sure it will garner a lot of radio play either. While it was full of raw emotion on a live stage, it would seem to lose some of that in a recording studio.
THIRD ROUND: CRYSTAL, pure, raw emotion
Last week, I said that Lee won the competition with Hallelujah, and that Crystal would have her work cut out for her. She may have overcome it this week with her song choices and the work she did with the songs given to her. She outsang him in every round, and seemed more emotionally invested throughout the entire night.
Who SHOULD win: Lee (based on the past several weeks and complete transformation and improvement)
Who WILL win: Crystal (based on last night)