“American Idol” on Wednesday, May 19, 2010, got it right. Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze advanced to the finals of the competition,a week which garnered a season-record 47 million votes. Sitting in the audience were most of the “also rans,” with Andrew Garcia, Big Mike Lynche, Tim Urban and Katie Stevens clearly visible. (Katie looked sad; Tim had that same inane smile he sported throughout the competition).
At the beginning of the night, host Ryan Seacrest sat down with the contestants to try to see how they were holding up. Casey pronounced the experience “surreal,” Lee said the experience had “made me a better person,” and Crystal thanked the program for medical monitoring that had made her the healthiest (she has diabetes) that she’s ever been. Crystal said, “Thank you, Lord, for this show. I would never have the kind of care that I have now.” Plus, Crystal added of her experience on American Idol, “It’s being pushed to work harder than you ever have in your life.” All three bemoaned the loss of a private life in the non-stop madcap rush that is “American Idol.”
Crystal said, “I’m cool with whatever happens, but I would love to win.” Casey mentioned the 150 text messages from friends and relatives that he cannot respond to because of the contestants’ busy schedule. Words like “awesome” and “helpful” were used.
Then came the film from the visits to the contestants’ hometowns. Casey revisited Millsap High School in Cool, Texas and said, “It’s a dream come true for me; for my hometown, to be able to share it with me is unbelievable.” Casey also visited Texas Health Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, including Dr. Correye Culligan, the orthopedic surgeon who, he said, saved his life after he was in an accident. Richardson, Texas, with mother Debra James in tow was next.
Next came a bit that could have been omitted, which involved blogger celebrity wannabe Perez Hilton talking to Ryan Seacrest and introducing a performer named Travis Garland, who was underwhelming.
Following Casey’s visit home to Texas, we saw Crystal’s visit to northwest Ohio, an area that has had unemployment as high as 19%. We didn’t get to see the new sign that her hometown of 80 has put up, which proclaims “Home of Crystal Bowersox,” but we saw her father, clad in a leather vest with multiple buttons. She was shown driving down the highway to Toledo, where she performed.
Lee’s visit to Mt. Prospect, Illinois showcased a doting middle-class Mom and Dad and a Lee who revisited the paint store where he used to work and teared up a lot. Lee seemed truly humble and overcome with emotion. At one point, he said, “This is the best day of my life. This is the absolute best day of my life.” He also said, in an almost Rocky-esque tone, “I’m gonna’ try to win this thing, all right.” He proclaimed the experience of going home, “Amazing. Insane. Crazy. Awesome.”
Justin Bieber, the YouTube promoted sensation from Canada, performed next (“You smile/I smile”) and took over the drums at one point. Bieber is not much of a drummer. His almost-feminine look (especially his hair) is probably no different than the androgynous days of the young (pre nose jobs) Michael Jackson and Leif Garrett. Young girls seem to like singers who present no overt sexual threat. A young Elvis was sexy. A young Justin Bieber is not. He is just “cute” and non-threatening. He seems to have a very high opinion of himself, buoyed, no doubt, by hordes of adoring female fans. It will be interesting to see what happens when he outgrows his current haircut.
Following the performance by new teen sensation Justin Bieber, the announcement was made that Lee was safe, and then that Crystal was safe, as well. (She kept asking Ryan Seacrest, “Am I safe?” to the point of reminding me of that old movie “Marathon Man.”)
After the two best singers were promoted to the Finale I hoped would emerge, Crystal jumped on Lee in happiness, while Casey reprised his performance of the John Mayer song with the refrain “Fathers be good to your daughters.” Film followed of Casey’s journey through “American Idol,” complete with his early removal of his shirt at Kara’s suggestion during try-outs, Simon’s calling him “Goldilocks” and the use of the terms “eye candy and ear candy” during judging.
America did the right thing this time. The two best singers, Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox, compete for the “American Idol” crown next week. Momentum seems to be swinging Lee’s way. But Crystal Bowersox (like Melinda Dolittle before her) has been reliable, dependable and downright outstanding every time she steps onstage, so the outcome next week is far from predictable.