RESULTS SHOW: For the second year in a row, American Idol had a stunning upset as Lee Dewyze beat Crystal Bowersox to claim the American Idol crown. One of the strengths of Idol is that you don't need to win in order to launch a career -- see Jennifer Hudson, Clay Aiken, Daughtry and many others. But with Simon leaving and both Adam Lambert and Crystal losing out to far less charismatic competitors, it's clear that American Idol has jumped the shark.
(And this isn't sour grapes. This year I voted for Crystal. But last year I voted for Kris; I just didn't expect him to win and realize the danger the show faces when the final votes are out of whack with overwhelming expectations.)
The results show was jammed with the usual superstars -- but no Bonnie Raitt. Was that the first sign that everything wouldn't go swimmingly for Crystal?
To an unusual degree, the superstar guests came off poorly. Alice Cooper was forced to endure the least rocking version of "School's Out" ever recorded. Siobhan Magnus and Aaron Kelly sang with two vocally shaky Gibbs brothers. Christina Aguilera had to postpone her tour but appeared (very briefly) on Idol. Hall & Oates sounded okay but had some weird tempo changes and I don't think they ever looked at each other once. Crystal traded some good vocal licks with Alanis Morissette on "You Oughta Know." Lots of former Idols popped in (though not David Cook) and -- hilariously -- we had a fond look back at all those Ford Fiesta ads.
Bret Michaels came straight from the hospital to duet with Casey James on "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." Lee sounded pretty good with Chicago on "25 or 6 to 4." Paula Abdul appeared for a drawn out goodbye to Simon clearly expecting a lot more applause and laugh lines at various moments. Janet Jackson proved herself the queen of lip syncing on "Nasty Boys," combining recorded vocals in a much lower tone with some live singing to make it sound like she was singing with someone else hiding off stage.
The highlight of the evening for me was hearing them play Sufjan Stevens of all people during a Chicago montage. Then Lee and Crystal sang with Joe Cocker on the Beatles classic "With A Little Help From My Friends." Joe sounded terrific and Crystal fit in so beautifully and seemed so comfortable with him vocally it just emphasized that she was clearly the standout. Lee looked a little stunned, as always. (On the plus side, Crystal and Lee's voices do sound good together; duets are in their future.)
Then it was all over, with Lee almost fainting even before the results were announced and then stumbling through U2's "Beautiful Day." Hey, he's got a nice studio voice (as the judges might have said in years past) and who knows, maybe he's a terrific songwriter. But Crystal is gonna pull a Clay Aiken on him and deliver the goods. They can both flourish in their careers but there can be only one American Idol and to everyone's surprise, it was Lee.
Do the results make you less likely to watch next season? Will you buy either of their albums? And who can replace Simon?
PERFORMANCE SHOW: In what even ardent fans must admit was the least musically exciting, least dramatic finale in Idol history, Crystal Bowersox received nothing but praise and Lee Dewyze heard -- at best - polite mixed reviews for his performances. Bowersox continues her march to the winner's circle by the biggest margin since Carrie Underwood was the odds-on favorite from the auditions to the finale. Of course, it's a new era where an artist is lucky to go platinum, so it'll be interesting to see what happens with Crystal's career. But barring any text-happy fans in Lee's hometown figuring out new ways to vote, Crystal will be the ninth American Idol.
It was an awkward night from the get-go, with Crystal goofily messing up her walk to the stage by dropping her mike, getting turned around, missing her mark and generally looking lovably unpolished. Lee sort of strolled to the stage, like a kid on a backstage tour. And that about summed it up.
Song #1 -- Lee chose to sing "The Boxer." My first thought was surely he could have picked a song where he triumphed more from earlier in the season. But looking through the list of songs he's done, actually there aren't a lot of stand-out performances. Maybe "Simple Man," but that was probably too recent. He was ok, but not as good as his first time singing it. Simon had the line of the night about his lack of passion: "That was a kiss on the cheek when I want a kiss on the lips." Crystal chose to sing "Me and Bobby McGee." which maybe seemed a little too obvious. So I looked over her songs and found four or five she nailed and could have done instead. But it's so clearly in her comfort zone, ultimately the choice seemed right. And she was good if not transcendent; certainly better than Lee. The judges of course loved her.
Song #2 -- This was the song chosen by the producers of the show and they made two dreadful picks, which certainly didn't help. Lee was given R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" which is a ballad (not a good combo after his first song), and has an extremely difficult, drawn-out melody that probably doesn't suit him. If you've ever heard people massacre the tune in karaoke bars, you know how hard it is to sing. Lee seemed lost in the meandering melody and never got into a groove. The judges were as polite as they could be, urging him to do better. If you have to urge someone to do better in the finals, something's wrong. Crystal was told to sing "Black Velvet," one of those tired Idol songs that has been done a thousand times. Simon joked, "I'm almost allergic to that song." Crystal looked terrified as she tottered in high heels at the top of the stairs, looking down once and then twice before finally braving it and starting to walk down. It's not a bluesy song so much as a faux bluesy song and Crystal did what she could do with it. The judges raved.
Song #3 -- In a welcome switch, the contestants were given a classic tune to sing, rather than a bland new ballad. Here's hoping this is an innovation they keep. Lee was given U2's "Beautiful Day," a terrific rock song, if you can belt it out to the rafters. Lee was dwarfed by the tune, a line I wrote down during his performance. Kara echoed me by saying Lee was "swallowed up" by it, while all the judges tried to be polite. Crystal was given Patty Griffin's lovely Martin Luther King Jr. tribute "Up To The Mountain" to perform. Exhale. Finally, after a night of ho-hum moments, she hit one out of the park in a DVR-able moment that was absolutely great. Just marvelous and a much needed reminder of why she was the clear winner for months.
I was actually hoping they'd have Crystal and Lee duet on "Falling Slowly" again at the end of the show, which would have been a nice kicker and a good reflection of how no one was out for blood this season. Instead, they had Will Young, the very first winner of Pop Idol, performing his song "Leave Right Now" to a montage of clips.
So, is there any doubt in your mind that Crystal Bowersox will be the next American Idol? And will you buy her CD?
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