"American Idol": Episode 42 of Season Nine: The Top 2 Sing!

5/25/2010 Posted by Admin


"American Idol": Episode 42 of Season Nine: The Top 2 Sing!

Crystal and Lee Sing Their Final Songs

By our guest blogger, Catherine Fuentes

Tonight is what the past four months have been leading up to. The American Idol finalists Lee and Crystal performed three last songs before one will be crowned champion.

Tonight’s performances were broken into three groups: the contestants’ favorite performances of the season, a pick from executive producer Simon Fuller, and the song that will be the first single if crowned winner. I’ll be looking at the songs by grouping, assessing the performances, and then figuring who should win based on tonight and if that is in line with the season as a whole.

First up, the contestants’ favorites. It’s hard to take issue with someone’s favorite performance. As we realized, these contestants routinely make awful song choices, but stand behind them because of sentimental reasoning. However, it’s the finals, and that means it’s time to be critical.

Lee chose “The Boxer” – hands down one of my least favorite performances of the season from any contestant. I felt when Lee initially sang this, he destroyed a truly beautiful Simon & Garfunkel classic. Today, it was a lot better than original – his voice seems to have softened out a bit more – but still it wasn’t up to par with his best and what an American Idol finalist should be singing. He should’ve sung “That’s Life” from Frank Sinatra week.

Crystal chose “Me and Bobby McGee,” a performance that admittedly I don’t remember much. Which, off the bat, was good, because she was starting with a blank slate, unlike Lee. It started slow, but got good – really, really good. By the time she finished, she lit up the stage and reminded everyone of the Crystal that has been missing these past few weeks.

Point 1 easily goes to Crystal.

Next up, executive producer Simon Fuller’s choice. Being the mastermind behind the show, and the one cashing in on the successes of the contestants, I knew this would be the best pick of the night.

Lee sang R.E.M.’s classic “Everybody Hurts.” Off the bat, I recognized that an early 90s rock song would be perfect for Lee. This is exactly the sound that Lee will be successful with in his career, and given his propensity to wear flannel with his goatee, I think it’s worth capitalizing on. It wasn’t as good as it could’ve been, thanks to some customary Lee DeWyze pitch problems, but it was still really great and very commercial.

Crystal sang ubiquitous classic “Black Velvet” and again, I was applauding the song choice. This is exactly the type of song I have been waiting for Crystal to sing all season. It allows her big voice to have some room, yet it is a step outside her folksy comfort zone. Simon was hypocritical in his critique that this is an overplayed song after he chose “Hallelujah” last week.

Point 2 is very close, but goes to Crystal by a smidge.

Finally, Lee and Crystal sang the songs that would be their debut single should they win. For the first time in Idol history, the contestants will be performing covers, straying from the awful, cheesy songs of hope and optimism. Kara will not be cashing in on the Idol winner just yet.

In a rare change of pace, Lee sang U2’s “Beautiful Day.” It was fun, it was energetic, and it was everything Lee needed to do all night, and quite honestly, all season. But was it too little too late? I feel that Bono is untouchable on this song, and that post-surgery, hospital bed Bono can still out sing Lee.

Crystal sang Patty Griffin’s “Up to the Mountain” – again getting some points for singing a lesser known song. This was easily the best performance of the night and my favorite Crystal performance of the season. I always recognized Crystal’s talent, but had a tough time with her because I never felt a true emotional connection to her songs. I just saw this talented machine consistently cranking out quality performances. With this she was raw, she was emotional and in a season where no one did this, it was very appreciated. And in his final critique of his American Idol tenure, after some glowing words of praise from Crystal, Simon simply said, “That was outstanding.” And it was.

Point 3 goes to Crystal.

Simple math: Based on tonight, Crystal wiped the floor with Lee. After some missteps these past few weeks, Crystal is back just in time.

That said, it isn’t always that simple. Lee has tremendous hype going into this, and he has the teen girl contingency pulling for him. And, unfortunately, as last season showed us, the best contestant doesn’t always win.

At any chance Simon gets, he likes to remind the viewing public that Lee is the quintessential American Idol contestant. He came from nothing and started the show with talent, but nerves, and he developed and grew like no one else this entire season. To Simon, this is what American Idol is all about. Does that foreshadow a Lee victory? And moreover, it’s not like Crystal hasn’t persevered and worked her way up.

I’ve felt all season Crystal has been consistently strong, yet to me, Lee has faltered. I never saw Lee as a serious contender or a truly talented guy. I have records of all my notes of all the Idol performances, and in the Top 12 Guys night, I simply wrote in regards to Lee “Off key, bad, just go home.” However, Lee has improved dramatically, whereas Crystal who had little room for improvement, performed consistently, if not dipping a little toward the end.

I think it should go to Crystal, but I also felt that Casey should be up there with her, so really, anything can happen.

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