MJ's Take: The Final 2: It's Crystal Bowersox in a Knockout

by MJ Santilli, posted May 26th 2010 9:08AM
Let's have a moment of silence for ... the big cheesy coronation single. The biggest surprise this very last week of Idol? Instead of being handed a brand new (always awful) song to sing, Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox were given the opportunity to sing a cover in competition, with the eventual winner releasing that song as the winner's single.

I complain about the dreck-filled cliche-ridden coronation singles every year. Now that they're gone? Hm. I might be missing them a little! Well, maybe not. Heh.

Crystal chose Patti Griffin's 'Up to the Mountain' -- a gorgeous song that Kelly Clarkson famously performed with Jeff Beck on the very first 'Idol Gives Back' show in season 6. Crystal nailed it, took it to church, hit it out of the ballpark. You name the cliche--she killed it. Easily the moment of the season. And, in a perfect world, that performance would seal the win for Crystal.Let's have a moment of silence for ... the big cheesy coronation single. The biggest surprise this very last week of Idol? Instead of being handed a brand new (always awful) song to sing, Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox were given the opportunity to sing a cover in competition, with the eventual winner releasing that song as the winner's single.

I complain about the dreck-filled cliche-ridden coronation singles every year. Now that they're gone? Hm. I might be missing them a little! Well, maybe not. Heh.

Crystal chose Patti Griffin's 'Up to the Mountain' -- a gorgeous song that Kelly Clarkson famously performed with Jeff Beck on the very first 'Idol Gives Back' show in season 6. Crystal nailed it, took it to church, hit it out of the ballpark. You name the cliche--she killed it. Easily the moment of the season. And, in a perfect world, that performance would seal the win for Crystal.

But not so fast. Dial Idol, a website that's predicted the Idol winner correctly every year it's been in existence is predicting a Lee DeWyze win.

it's possible, that for the first time ever, the site's prediction is wrong. However, I don't think Crystal's Final 2 triumph was enough to topple the intense momentum Lee had going into the final, and that's really disappointing. I mean, no offense meant against Lee -- I've heard his pre-'Idol' music and really like it. I'll probably buy his post-'Idol' CD. However, he hasn't been successful where it counts -- navigating the 'Idol' stage. Crystal has pretty much creamed Lee on a weekly basis.

I'll give Lee Top 3 week. Crystal was off her game and Lee, newly confident like superman finding his kryptonite, gave two super-assured performances. But somehow, Lee lost his mojo in the week between the Top 3 and the final. Maybe he was intimidated by the big Nokia stage and the huge audience. Or perhaps, with the Idol crown just in his grasp, he freaked out.

Whatever the reason, Lee choked.

Lee DeWyzeOne of his finest Idol performances, 'The Boxer' -- a song he sang beautifully during his homecoming visit -- was merely tepid in Lee's hands when it counted most. He chose 'Beautiful Day' as his winner's song, but then failed to sing it with conviction, wandering around the stage, adrift without his guitar -- his vocals getting lost amongst the strings and the gospel choir (last week, the orchestra and the chorus emboldened him to sing a powerful 'Hallelujah'). He started off strong on his producer's pick, 'Everybody Hurts,' but then retreated in the bridge, never to emerge again.

Crystal, on the other hand, came out ready to fight. In the last couple of weeks I felt ambivalence from Crystal. She seemed to be holding back, out of sorts, not connecting to her songs or her audience. I wondered if she really wanted to win this thing -- if maybe she was rejecting the pressure and the expectations that are inevitably attached to the winner.

All those doubts I had about Crystal were thoroughly dispelled as she hit the stage for her very first song. She performed 'Me and Bobby McGee' nearly as well as the first time, (I hate these do-over performances. They inevitably lose their magic) with a verve and an energy that's been missing from her performances for weeks.

Crystal BowersoxBut when she took the stage to sing 'Black Velvet'? I mean, I was a little ticked that Fuller would chose such a mediocre overdone song for Crystal at such a crucial time, so my expectations were really low. "This is gonna suck," I thought. But wouldn't you know -- Crystal took that piece of crap and totally transformed it. She sang it with a passionate blues wail, taking her vocals to new places, elevating the banal to lofty heights.

Holy cow, Crystal can sing ANYTHING. Even if she'd been forced to sing a winner's song 1000x worse than 'No Boundaries,' it would have still ruled.

The irony here, is that Simon, Randy and Kara have been on the interview circuit predicting a Lee DeWyze win. The last few weeks, he's become the judges' favorite, garnering praise for even weak performances (well, not for that clunker, 'Kiss from a Rose.' Some stuff you can't paper over). Tonight, the judges soft-pedaled the criticism -- avoided critiquing his vocals -- by praising his conviction and sweet personality.

Even as Crystal had Lee for lunch, metaphorically speaking, the judges couldn't quite hand her the crown. Yeah, they acknowledged she won each round. But, in years past, Simon would declare a winner at the end of the night. And if there was ever a night to declare a winner outright, this was it. Season 9 final 2? Most lopsided contest, ever.



It was Simon's last 'American Idol' performance show ever, and he chose to go out with kind words for both Crystal and Lee. He told Lee, the paint salesman, "You've worked hard. You've remained a really, really nice person throughout, and I genuinely wish the best for you." A virtual love-fest broke out when Crystal thanked Simon for his critiques and called him "amazing." Simon returned the compliment with, "I thought that was by far the best performance, and the song of the night. I would like to say, that was outstanding."

Kind last words from the "mean" judge.

Will Young, the winner of the very first 'Pop Idol' in the UK, closed the show with a performance of the boot song, 'Leave Right Now.' For Simon, who was a judge on that first year of 'Idol' in the UK back in 2001, it must have felt like his experience had come full circle.

Follow me on twitter @mjsbigblog

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