I truly feel for Crystal Bowersox, Lee DeWyze, and Casey James. The pressure they are under, knowing that their lives, their futures, and those of all the ones they love are in the balance has to feel unbearable. This week, American Idol’s final three had to choose a song for themselves, and have another chosen for them by the judges, and create performances that would become music careers. As with the earth and diamonds, sometimes pressure creates greatness, and it was created on stage Tuesday night!
Casey James started the night with Eric Hutchinson’s Ok, It’s Alright with Me, and clearly, the smooth, easy tune fit well with Casey’s groove, but that’s the problem, it fit too well. There was no stretch in it that challenged him to reach for something within or outside of himself. It felt like a Wednesday night show in a downtown bar. Wednesday nights are church nights in my part of Texas. He was smiling and buoyant, clearly enjoying himself, but he gave nothing special to the audience that would make this night memorable. Simon Cowell equated it to “busking on the corner for a couple of dollars”. I don’t know if it was even up to that– I felt like he was sleep walking through the song. His fans deserve better, and so does any music buying audience. Casey’s judges’ selection was John Mayer’s Daughters chosen by Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson. It was a definite improvement, and showed he knows that it’s a female audience who will best butter his bread, buy his CDs, and pay to see him play. I missed the sizzle of his blues guitar, though. The mood of this song, too, while touching, is far too quiet to allow any spark. It simply ended, and likely ended Casey’s Idol run.
Crystal Bowersox stuck beautifully to her guns and her spirit in her selection of Melissa Etheridge’s Come to My Window, brandishing her faithful harmonica again and behind that cherished personalized microphone stand again, she belted out every note with all her heart, but the arrangement overpowered her in moments, showing she may not have the power of Etheridge vocals, but she still retains a beauty of her own. Ellen DeGeneres said she wanted her to do something wonderful with Paul McCartney’s Maybe I’m Amazed, for her second song. Leaving all her instruments behind, she sauntered around the stage in black leather hip boots to perhaps McCartney’s most honest and cherished love song, and let her voice reach places neither she nor her audience had been before! There is something within her that pours out with every performance, something so true, and painful, so palpable and honest, yet still indefinable. Crystal will not be forgotten, regardless of the outcome next week. Crystal had too much respect for the song to change any lyric for herself. That sensibility comes from a true artist. Simon Cowell remarked that from day one, Crystal has never compromised herself. That kind of strength will always build a following and a lasting career. When Ryan Seacrest asked her how she felt Tuesday, she said, ” My friends are here, and my son is healthy, and that’s really what it’s about”. She already has stardom in perspective.
The saying goes, “save the best for last”, and Lee DeWyze had Providence watching over him to guarantee those words. His choice of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man was nothing short of perfection. I think both the original and the Shinedown versions of this song are beyond reproach, so my bar already touched the fringe of the stratosphere, and Lee at least grabbed that bar! Finally, there was no sign of nerves or hesitation, he sang from his heart and forgot where he was-that’s what artists do every night on stages across the world, and they take their audiences to places they have never gone. Lee did that onstage Tuesday. He had his moment and gave us, his audience, our moment at the same instant. It’s more than magical when that happens. Simon Cowell chose Leonard Cohen’s sublime Hallelujah for DeWyze’s second and the evening’s closing song. I can only say that the gospel choir behind him paled by comparison to his own passion and emotion with every word he sang. Music was designed by God to be a spiritual experience. Heaven came down for Lee DeWyze Tuesday, and his song and his star reached the heavens.
Source: American Idol telecast, May 18, 2010 FOX TV.