It’s been a while since I wrote one of these, partially because I have a 6-week-old daughter now, who wreaks havoc on our normal TV schedule, but mainly because—and believe me, I say this as a longtime fan of the show, not as some bitchy rockist guy—the degree to which this season has fallen apart and become largely unwatchable is undeniable. From the severely flawed theme weeks (Shania Twain? Harry Connick Jr.?) and the half-assed performances they’ve wrought, to the early ousting of interesting contestants like Lily, Siobhan, and even that weird kid with the mullet from way early on, the whole thing has been a mess.
If there’s been a bright spot, though, it’s been Lee Dewyze who, not to sound like Simon or anything, does actually seem to be what the show is supposed to be about: We’ve watched him grow more comfortable over the course of the season, more aware of the type of artist he’d like to be, and most importantly, more and more likable each week, as he aw-shucks smiles and almost-cries is way into the hearts of people all over the country. His record will be some version of dopey alt-dorm room something or other, but that’s ok.
And then there’s Crystal. For what it’s worth, Crystal is the exact opposite of what the show’s supposed to be about. As close to a bona fide hippie as Idol has ever seen (granted, still not very close), she came to the as exactly the performer she is today, which is obviously very impressive. It’s why she was the hands-down favorite to win right from the get-go, to the point where some people even stopped watching, complaining that the winner had all but been decided. But it also worked against her, I think. As good as she sounded when she stepped on stage and did her Melissa Etheridge/Janis Joplin thing every night, you knew exactly what was coming. You knew exactly how good it would be, and you knew that when she was done singing, the judges would say a bunch of really ridiculous bullshit about how she’s a real artist, and that she would then nod in agreement. She was no fun to watch, basically, because she never seemed to care about or need the show. Yes, it’s silly to complain about an artist for not feeling like they need a televised singing contest to validate what they do. But not when you’re talking about a contestant on a televised singing competition.
Anyway, so last night: Holy shit, soooo boring.
Each contestant sang three songs—first their favorite from earlier in the season, then one chosen by Idol producer Simon Fuller, and then the song that would be their first single if they were to win.
The contestants’ choices were unsurprising: Lee did “The Boxer,” and it wasn’t nearly as good as it was when he did it the first time around. Nor was it as good as the weepy-ass version he did in front of his hometown fans last week. The judges were unmoved. Crystal did “Me & Bobby McGee,” and fared much better. She’s got a great voice, obviously, and this song sits perfectly within its sweet spot. First round, very obviously, went to Crystal.
Then for Fuller’s choices: Lee pretty much got fucked here, being handed R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts,” doing a fine job with it, and then being told he wasn’t energetic enough, even though he was singing one of the least energetic songs ever, in a key that didn’t seem to suit his voice very well. And then Crystal got “Black Velvet,” ultimate proof that, even if the judges and an awful lot of us watching home may have shifted our allegiance to Lee, Simon Fuller’s still very much on Team Crystal. In fairness, though, even if you’re thrown a hanging curveball, you still have to knock it out of the park, and she did. Sorry, that was a baseball thing. Round two? Also goes to Crystal.
And then, oh god, round three. The good news is that there is no “A Moment Like This” or “This is My Now” this year. The bad news is that the first single Lee will release if he wins is “A Beautiful Day” by U2. His performance was fine—it’s a huge song, and he got a bit lost in it at times, but it also perfectly suits his wide-eyed, “I’m just happy to be here” thing. It was nice, if a bit strange. If I hear it on the radio, I will definitely shut it off, for whatever that’s worth. Crystal’s choice was far more interesting, and also quite strange: It seems unlikely that Patty Griffin’s “Up to the Mountain” will win her too many votes from younger viewers, but she absolutely killed it. Round three? Crystal.
The night clearly belonged to Ms. Bowersox. In a way, though, it seems foolish to think last night meant anything, really. It seems likely that people are voting based on what they saw over the course of the entire season at this point, which probably makes this a toss-up.
So who’s gonna win? Well, my vote, if I voted in televised singing competitions, would have gone to Lee. There, that’s my prediction: Lee.