"American Idol" Recap: The Final 2 Sing Their Final Songs

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Crystal Bowersox American Idol finale

It all seems "Crystal clear" to me, but I'm guessing I'll be "deepLee disappointed"!

This is it, sports fans, the American Idol finale. The paintshop dude vs. the hippie mom. Dueling Guitars. And dueling deadpans.

Last night we finally got to hear the idols sing three songs each. One they chose from a song they had performed earlier in the season, one the producers chose, and the final one the producers also basically chose, since it will be their "first single" should the Idol win. We were (thank HEAVEN) spared any original songs whatsoever, and I'm guessing you all join me in breathing a sigh of relief on that one, eh?

So, here's how it went down.

1. Lee

His choice: "The Boxer" by Simon and Garfunkel. Did I mention my mom went to high school with S&G? OK, yes, I did, I know. It's particularly sad that I always repeat that, given she doesn't even remember them! So, I have one question for Lee on this one: Wasn't the original arrangement of The Boxer "easy listening" enough for you??? Seriously, how do you take a contemplative folk song and make it even less hard-hitting? By practically turning it into a polka, that's how. Thank you, Lee, I was wondering about that. So, on the plus side: He was basically on-key the whole song. And we know that, for him, that's a big accomplishment. On the downside: Saliva. Yes, I'm petty, but eww, he had a whole lot going on in that mouth. Spare us the intense close-ups, oh PTB!! Also on the downside: A distinct lack of energy. Like he could barely be bothered to show up.

The producer's choice: "Everybody Hurts" by REM. Love the band, love the song. Now about Lee DeWyzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. huh, wha'? Oh, sorry, the second straight polka waltz tempo from Lee nearly put me down for the night. I cannot believe Kara calls him "emotionally accessible". I do not think that word means what she thinks it means. I think she means "emotionally stunted".

The single: "Beautiful Day" by U2. Again, love the band, love the song. Lee was certainly given all the tools to win this thing. But wow. Squandered opportunity. On this particular number he returned to early-weeks' habit of singing completely off-key for much of the song, and particularly the big bombastic moments. Mostly he just got buried by the song, exactly as Kara said. It was way bigger than him, and without his guitar to stand behind he sort of paced back and forth, not knowing who to look at, who to connect to. I found it painful.

Bottom line: Honestly, I get that Lee's tone is appealing. It's not so different than the kind of raspy soulful tone I enjoyed so much more in people like Taylor Hicks or Danny Gokey. But they sang on-key. Consistently and without fail. And they had *personality*. OK, Danny had the same kind of goofy, not-quite-comfortable stiffness, and Taylor had, well, just a total goofy physicality, but they both let you in to experience that awkwardness with them. You don't have to be boy-band smooth on stage, but you do have to let us in. Lee never let anybody in. And he sang off-key. Both are unforgivable to me...one because this is a singing competition, and the other because I'll take a great performer with an OK voice over a great voice on an OK performer any day. He gave us neither.

1. Crystal

Her choice: "Me and Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin (via Kris Kristofferson and a little bit of Pink). Perfect song choice for Crystal, reminding us of what was probably her best week during the Top 12. The version seemed shorter than I remember, but what there was of it really worked. Yes, they all talked about how the second half really took off and let her shine. But that second half wouldn't have had as much impact without the laid-back, low-key first half. It's called building and dynamic range, and if even the low key has a certain intensity to it, it works. She could have had a smidge more intensity, but it generally worked for me.

The producer's choice: "Black Velvet" by Alannah Myles. Yeah, don't tell me they aren't setting her up to lose by picking this chestnut. Seriously they need to ban it form the Idol stage. Couple that with sticking her in mega-high heels and making her walk down a huge staircase while singing, and we're all lucky she made it through at all without breaking her neck. I don't know if she was as distracted by going down those stairs as I was watching her do it, but it just didn't serve her at all. The whole thing sounded a bit of a mess to me. Sure, she was passionate and her vocals were pretty good, but I definitely did not love it.

The single: "Up to the Mountain" by Eva Cassidy. Great song choice. One of my viewing companions felt it was too ballad-y, not uptempo enough for her final number, but I disagree. She took us on an emotional journey and really (I think for the first time) moved me with one of her performances. And vocally: Pretty impeccable. I wrote down "Wow." after this performance, and I meant it.

Bottom line: To me, it was no contest. Crystal opened up and showed more heart and more intensity than she has shown since her original audition. And she sang like a mo' fo'.

So, will she win? I'm guessing no. She's a little too alternative, with her dreads and her piercings and tattoos, and she's a *women* being alternative, no less.

I'm sure Lee is a nice guy. I'm sure with a little coaching he could even get a little better at what he does. But if he wins he will, to my mind, be the most average American Idol winner yet. He epitomizes that guy singing in a bar that Simon usually slams people for being.

I know he's got a big ole fan base, so bring it: What did you think of last night's showdown?


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