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American Idol Fodder

American Idol: The Final Battle

It’s been a long ride. With millions of potential singers, several guest mentors and a guy who liked to sing about his pants on the ground, we’ve finally whittled this year’s contestant pool down to two singers- Crystal Bowersox and Lee Dewyze.

Tonight was memorable for several reasons. First, it’s the last chance us voters had to hear Crystal and Lee belt their best for a record contract and the title of American Idol. But other than that, people will always remember this episode as the last time our eternal t-shirt wearing, cranky Brit Simon Cowell would critique contestants on the show. That’s right, we’re only two hours of show and one winner away from losing Simon forever! (Well, not forever. The Grumpasaurus will be back in fall 2011 for his new show, The X Factor. But until then, we’ll all be suffering from Cowell Withdrawal!)

So, this was it, only three songs each for our dueling 24-year-old singers to prove themselves worthy of the title. Tonight both singers would tackle one of their favorite songs from the season, plus a selection from executive producer Simon Fuller and the single they will release if they win. Here’s how the three rounds played out:

ROUND 1- Contestant’s Choice

Part 1: Lee- Based on Lee’s performance during Frank Sinatra week, I figured it was a safe bet that he would pick “That’s Life.” He seemed to have his best moment on the show so far after Harry Connick Jr. brought out Lee’s inner Rat Packer. So imagine my surprise when the humble rocker instead chose his selection from Inspiration Week, “The Boxer.” I thought his vocals sounded on point as usual, but for some reason his confidence wasn’t there tonight. His nerves did not help him, and those background musicians were really overpowering him. Simon said it should have felt like a kiss on the lips instead of just a kiss on the cheek.

Part 2: Crystal- This one was a no-brainer. The minute I heard Crystal sing “Me and Bobby McGee” during Billboard No. 1 Hits Week, I knew it suited her voice. And it makes sense she’d pick it again to spotlight her unique sound, which even Simon admitted has gotten lost over the last few weeks. Kara declared that Crystal had found “the fire in her belly,” while Simon said she had returned.

And the winner of this matchup is….Crystal! Though she only won this round by a hair.

ROUND 2- Exec Producer Simon Fuller’s Choice

Part 1: Lee- This was an interesting choice, coming off his slightly melancholy first song. Fuller decided what Lee needed tonight were TWO melancholy songs in a row (because that doesn’t kill the momentum or anything) and gave Lee “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M. After hearing it, though, Lee did a really good job. I think the sound guys forgot to show up tonight, because it was really hard to hear the singers over all those instruments, but if you listened carefully, you could hear Lee’s awesome vocals. He seemed more in tune with the audience this time around, as Kara correctly noticed (what? who keeps agreeing with that woman? oh my gosh, it’s me!). And even though Simon liked the song choice, he still felt Lee was lacking some confidence and gave him a little pep talk.

Part 2: Crystal- I was intrigued to hear that Fuller’s choice for Crystal was Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet.” After mulling that over for a few seconds, it made sense what Fuller was trying to do here. By giving her a more recognizable song that blurs genres, Fuller was trying to make Crystal more accessible. And though she sounded pretty good on the chorus, I think she lost her voice on some of those later notes, not to mention that awkward screeching at the end. The judges thought she was hot (as Randy said, no surprise there) and Ellen gave her a standing ovation (really? now that’s a surprise! maybe Ellen has just been dying to stand like Randy and decided to finally play her standing ovation card!) I’d say she was good, but not great.

And the winner of the second matchup is….Lee! He won this one by the skin of his teeth (which never really made sense to me, but, alas, I digress). I thought more of Lee’s consistency and personality shone through on this song. Crystal was too much out of her element, which lost her some points in my book.

ROUND 3- The Future Singles

Part 1: Lee- In an interesting twist, the producers have decided not to saddle our souls this year with yet another weepy nothing ballad (remember “No Boundaries?” Yah, me neither). Nope, instead our singers were going to get the chance to do some covers of already famous songs. Lee’s single will be U2’s “Beautiful Day,” which has all the right elements for his type of performances. It has the electric guitars, the sweeping rock vocals and plenty of inspirational imagery. But while Bono can sing the heck out of this song, maybe it’s not fair to give Lee a song through which he’d be compared to him. Though Lee did seem to finally find his groove and looked the most comfortable he had all night.

Part 2: Crystal- Crystal’s song was called “Up to the Mountain,” which some people may have heard before. I am not one of those people. That’s why the Internet invented Google, so people like me could look up slightly recognizable, but mostly obscure songs sung by reality show contestants. As it turns out, this song is from none other than Susan Boyle, discovered by none other than Simon Cowell! What a coincidence! How embarrassing for the producers to have made such a mistake (and if you’re missing all the sarcasm here, please read that sentence again). This song totally suited Crystal and it’s the most emotional and “real” I’ve ever seen her on the stage, not to mention that she sounded pretty amazing. For Simon’s last critique ever, he called her performance “outstanding.” And while she did an impressive job, I wonder what types of radio stations would play that version of the song. Is she rock? Is she folk or country? The confusion could cost some votes.

And the winner of the last matchup of the night is….Crystal once again!

So, if we’re going strictly by voices, then Crystal has Lee at a slight disadvantage. But if we’re going off of general likeability and a more commercial sound, then Lee is your man. It should be interesting to see who earns more votes tomorrow night!

How did you feel about the penultimate episode of “American Idol?” Were you wowed by Lee’s voice or blown away by Crystal’s golden pipes? Do you think our final two singers gave their all tonight or was it a lopsided final competition? Are your fingers cramped from voting? Could you ever pick Mr. Pop Idol Will Young out of a lineup ever again? And are you getting misty about Simon’s final episode? Post your comments below and be back Wednesday as we crown another American Idol! –Chris Sardelli

Posted by Chris on May 26, 2010 12:22 AM
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