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American Idol: The Top 3 Take the Stage Review

Will this season’s ultimate American Idol be from Ohio, Illinois or Texas?

That’s the question the voters get to decide now that we’re down to the Final Three on “Idol.” Will it be the bluegrass guitarist Casey James? Will it be this year’s resident rocker, Lee Dewyze? Or will odds-on favorite Crystal Bowersox blow them all away? I guess only time, a few more performances and some snarky comments, will tell. But until then, let’s see how our remaining contestants fared tonight.

First up, and ready to show everyone that he’s not just a one-trick jam artist, was Casey. Choosing “OK, It’s Alright with Me” by Eric Hutchinson, Casey leaned in close to the microphone, with his fingers flying over his guitar, and quickly proved that….he’s just a one-trick jam artist. Does Casey actually know he’s competing for a record deal and that he’s not some aging artist who’s been doing this for 25 years? All his performances are starting to blend together for me, sounding like a cross between CMT’s “Crossroads” and the movie “Groundhog Day.” I guess it’s better than the alternative, which we got during Sinatra week, where Casey performed sans microphone stand or guitar, and just made everyone, including himself, feel uncomfortable. The judges were mostly underwhelmed (Randy: “it was just alright for me too”) and Simon compared it to eating salad.

Crystal, with her trusty guitar and harmonica in hand, showed up next to perform the Melissa Etheridge classic, “Come to My Window.” It started out a little rough and it didn’t quite achieve the heights of greatness we’ve come to expect from Ms. Mamasox, but it was still miles above Casey. Once she hit her stride, it really worked, and despite Kara saying she doesn’t have as good a voice as Etheridge to make this song complete, I thought at times she sounded like the original artist. Both Ellen and Simon complimented our favorite modern-hippie for being true to herself and never compromising. I’m just glad Crystal didn’t mouth off to the judges again, which she’s taken to do lately, and just let things proceed smoothly. But if Crystal wants to compete against the ever-increasing-in-popularity Lee, she needs to finally have that “wow” moment.

Choosing a Lynyrd Skynyrd song could’ve gone either way for Lee, but I think he did an awesome job tonight. Lee sang “Simple Man,” and as Simon declared, he crushed his competition in Round 1. From his masterful handling of all the notes, to his newfound confidence, Lee definitely ruled the “Contestant’s Choice” portion of the evening. I’ve been saying it for awhile, but I think Lee is going to give Crystal a run for her money in the finals. And Crystal better bring her A-game because Lee has proven he can grow each week. Randy liked that Lee believed he could win, Kara handed round one to him and Ellen compared him to a “springy impala.” (Not sure about that last comment, but I think she liked him.)

Kicking off round 2, Casey performed the first judges’ pick of the night. Kara and Randy chose John Mayer’s “Daughters” hoping to not only highlight a new musical genre for him, but also show his sensitive singer-songwriter side. But after Casey strummed his first few notes of the song, I wondered, did somebody slip him an Ambien? Sounding almost nothing like Mayer, and for some reason forgoing the original arrangement, Casey sounded like he was sleep-singing. Both Randy and Kara said he did a great job, probably because they were too embarrassed that he sucked the life out of their song choice. Ellen also thought it was beautiful. But Simon brought everyone back to reality and said that while Casey sang it well, he delivered a “lazy” performance. Simon and I agreed on one thing, Casey didn’t have any “wow” moments tonight at all, and that could cost him his spot in the finals.

For Crystal’s second song of the night, Ellen texted her choice to the singer while Crystal was visiting her hometown in Ohio. I was as surprised as Simon apparently was that Ellen chose “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney. It seemed a little out of her comfort zone and it wasn’t as current as I was hoping someone would choose for Crystal, but in the end it didn’t matter. Proving that she doesn’t need a guitar, harmonica, back-up singer or piano, Crystal demonstrated her impressive range and belted the hell out of that song. All the judges were “amazed,” but Simon said she was “terrific” and proved she had soul.

Capping the night was Lee’s final performance with a selection from Simon, “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. I’ve heard this song on “Idol” before, notably by Jason Castro a few seasons ago, so I wasn’t too sure how Lee would handle it. All those worries disappeared as I felt Mr. Dewyze pour all his emotion into the song. He hit the high notes, the low notes and even showed his sensitive side. If this was the final episode, I’m betting Lee would win. This guy just keeps getting better! Randy said he finally felt like someone threw down the gauntlet and Simon paid him two huge compliments saying he was a “fantastic singer and a great person.”

After listening to what the judges had to say and based on both the audience, and my, reaction, it’s looking very likely that both Lee and Crystal are making it into next week’s finale. That is, unless all those Casey supporters text like crazy to keep him in it!

How do you think the Final Three did tonight? Do you think we’re headed for a Lee/Crystal showdown, or will there be a surprise on Wednesday night? Were you disappointed by the lack of coverage at the singers’ hometown visits? And do you think Simon got what he wanted when he said he hoped Lee would show his “potential to be a great artist” tonight? Post your comments below and get ready as “Idol” reveals the Top 2 singers on Wednesday, along with a visit from guest performer Justin Bieber! –Chris Sardelli

Posted by Chris on May 19, 2010 8:39 AM
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