Tuesday night’s “American Idol” show highlighted what most discerning viewers have known for some time: the 2 best contestants are Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox. This does not come as a News Flash for anyone who has been reading these articles since January. (At one point, many moons ago, I suggested a cage match with the 5 best singers locked together in mortal combat).
I have said for some time that Casey James was (probably) going to make it to the top three, which he has, but not because he’s such a great singer. He’s not. He’s cute. He plays a mean guitar. He’s tall, blonde and handsome. He’s charming.
The best singer? You have your favorite; I have mine. But there’s little dispute that it’s either Lee DeWyze or Crystal Bowersox and most of us have known it for months.
So, how did tonight’s hometown visits go? There was precious little film shot to really show us at home (unlike previous years), but it’s safe to say that the best singing this night was still by the 2 leaders. The judges comments seemed to indicate that Lee had bested Crystal as the contestants sang one song they had chosen and one that had been chosen for them by one of the judges.
Casey started off the night and the reaction to his choice, “It’s All Right By Me,” was lukewarm. Randy said it best, “That song was just kind of all right. It didn’t quite work for me.” Ellen agreed with Randy, pointing out that tonight was “Do or die” and saying, “I wish you would have brought it.” Kara felt that picking a song no one knew was a mistake. By the time they got to Simon, at the end of the judges’ table, he said, “This isn’t going great, is it, Casey?” Simon went on to say, “That song will leave no lasting impression. I think that was a dud song choice.” He also compared Casey’s performance to busking on a subway platform.
Contestant number two was Crystal Bowersox, who chose “Come to My Window” by Melissa Etheridge. Randy said, “I did not love the arrangement. What I did like was your vocal. It all worked in the end.” Ellen said, “Good song choice. Melissa would be very proud of you.” Kara, while hoping for “a moment” that she hadn’t heard said, “It was still a good vocal.” Simon said, “From the very first, you haven’t compromised yourself as an artist, and I think you probably made the right choice (with that song.).”
Lee’s first song selection, singing third, was “A Simple Man.” Randy found it to be a brilliant song choice, saying that he had been waiting for one of the contestants to “throw it down.” Ellen said, “You took this thing seriously,” and commented that he had gone from being a lamb to becoming a gazelle throughout the competition. Kara said, “You showed us everything you’ve got. Round one goes to Lee.” Simon, after asking why Lee had selected that particular song, said, “You were absolutely on the money with that song choice. You just crushed the other two.”
The second song the contestants sang was picked for them and Casey was assigned to sing John Mayer’s “Daughters.” Randy said, “This fits you like a glove.” Ellen said, “I thought that was beautiful for you.” Kara said, “This showed the more artistic side of you.” Simon, while acknowledging that it was “a much, much better song choice” than the first one that Casey had selected for himself thought that it was ” a bit of a limp arrangement. You sounded very very good on it. That song didn’t have the ‘wow’ factor.” There was a bit of a discussion, at this point, amongst Simon, Kara and Randy about the sort of song that Casey had been assigned, with Randy and Kara pointing out that the song is a quiet one to begin with.
Crystal sang next, singing “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney, which was selected for her by Ellen. Her rendition was Janis Joplin-ish, as she looked the best she has all season in black boots and a cleverly designed black outfit with a silver slimming design (crescent silver insets) at the waist. Crystal did a great job. I agreed with the sign that said, “Crystal: You Shine.” Randy said, “Great song. Great vocals.” Ellen said, “I couldn’t have asked for more. You did it.” Kara said, “You really pushed. You did a lot of risky things and I think it paid off.” Simon thought that Crystal had shown “soul” and said, “You may be thanking Ellen next week for putting you in the finals.”
Last up was Lee DeWyze singing “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, a song that was sung earlier in the season by Tim Urban. The song was picked for Lee by Simon. Randy said, “I’ve been waiting all season to see who’s in it to win it.” He called the song, “Your biggest moment,” saying “That was unbelievable, Dude.” Ellen said, “That was stunning.” Kara said, “You are what this show is all about. You just owned the entire night.” Simon said he was, “Very, very, very proud of you. Most important, tonight, with that performance, you proved that you are a fantastic singer and a great person.”
The daughter in Nashville, a Music Business major (now working for Taylor Swift’s organization), wrote an e-mail discussing Lee’s performance that went like this: “Damn… hadn’t really watched too much American Idol this season because I was never home when it’s on. He did amazing with that Hallelujah song! Wow!”
Stay tuned for the final two to be announced on tomorrow night’s show.