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American Idol: Don’t Stop BeLEEving!

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I have seen every single American Idol Top Two night, including season one. I can say that I have never been more frustrated than I am right now with the contestants, the judges and the producers.

The Top Two performance show is usually one of the best head-to-head shows of the Idol season. You can tell that the contestants are giving it their all, because they want to be crowned the next American Idol. For the most part (the first two rounds in particular), Idol was awful tonight. Between the contestants' nerves showing, the judges not actually critiquing the performances, and the producers apparently not having the ability to pick decent songs, this season's Top Two week has started on quite the bum note. (And trust me, there were a handful of those to go around tonight.)

Due to Crystal Bowersox winning the coin toss after last week's results show, Lee DeWyze kicked off the night with his reprise of "The Boxer." It was no surprise to me that that is what he chose to sing. It was a huge moment for him on the show, and it somewhat describes his own Idol journey. However, from the start of the performance, you could tell Lee's nerves were getting the best of him, because he wasn't entirely on pitch. And I am with Simon Cowell on this one, I expected better. This is the Idol finale. Time to pull out all the stops and improve on your former performance, not take two steps back. I don't care what Ellen DeGeneres says, Lee's performance of "The Boxer" tonight was not as good as his Top seven performance of the song.

Crystal's chosen song to reprise was "Me and Bobby McGee." This was one of my favorite performances from her, although I wish she had chosen a song that she hadn't done as well the first time to reprise. "Me and Bobby McGee" was a song that Crystal performed pretty flawlessly the first time around. However, this time when she got to that big note, it was pitchy and sounded screechy. These are two words that I don't think I have ever used to describe her performances at all this season, and I didn't think that on the performance night of the finale that Crystal would falter. Of course, the judges praised her, giving her no advice going into the next round.

The song that was chosen for Lee by the producers was R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts." Again, it's finale week, I thought the producers would at least choose a song for Lee that would let him rock out a little. With this song choice, I kind of thought that they were throwing him under the bus. Lee's vocal started out rough, but he finally came into his own about midway through the song. Honestly, the song does fit his voice, and that's probably what the producers were aiming for, but I just think that there was probably a better song for Lee to do that was more uptempo, especially since he started slow with "The Boxer." It would have been nice to see him build momentum through each of his performances. Simon gave Lee somewhat of a pep talk, telling him, "You're nervous. You've got another song to come and I think you gotta really understand what the importance of this night can do in changing your life. And when you come out for your next performance, I want a 10 out of 10, because you're capable of it."

The producers chose "Black Velvet" by Alannah Myles for Crystal to sing. You would think that with the tone of Crystal's voice that this would be an amazing song choice for her and she would, in the words of Randy Jackson, "blow it out the box." That is not what happened. Again her vocal was mediocre at best through most of the song. Crystal hit a big note that was not on pitch whatsoever. For me, it ruined the entire performance. The judges were practically tripping over themselves giving Crystal compliments about how the song was perfect for her and Simon said that she "absolutely nailed it." I really hope that the judges watched the show back after the live taping, because then they will hear that awful note and realize how very wrong they were about her performance. Personally, I thought it was a great song choice, but probably the worst vocal from Crystal all season. I will say that I thought it was nice to see her sans guitar for one of her songs, although she may have benefited from it this time.

For Lee's final song, he sang U2's "Beautiful Day." If Lee wins Idol, the song will be released as his first single. I honestly don't like this song. I'm not a huge U2 fan, never have really enjoyed their music, so I was ready to be disappointed. I really didn't think I would like this performance at all. However, there is something about Idol contestants performing songs I can't stand and making them listenable for me (like Brooke White singing Coldplay's "Yellow"). You could tell that Lee was throwing everything he had into this song to pull out a win. He pulled himself together for this performance and sounded a lot better than he had during his two previous songs that evening. I was really happy to see him fight his way to the end and not lay down like Casey James did last week. He performed sans guitar, which made for some awkward walking around the stage, but he had some awesome red Converse kicks on, which to me showed some of Lee's personality in the performance. Ellen told Lee, "I am so proud of you, you did a great job." Kara DioGuardi told him, "You deserve to be here tonight." Simon told him, "This is what this competition was designed for," and then wished him the best of luck.

Crystal's last song for the evening was Patty Griffin's "Up To The Mountain," which will be released as her single if she wins the competition. It was pretty much flawless. She sounded amazing. The Crystal that we met back in Hollywood week singing, "Natural Woman" was back. She needed a big moment to finish out her time on the show and she had it. The judges loved it, I loved it, it was a fantastic last competitive performance on the show.

The final performance of the night came from the original Pop Idol, Will Young, who sang this season's send-off song, "Leave Right Now." It dawned on me last night why they would have a send-off song done by the Pop Idol, and not a former American Idol winner. I believe that since it is Simon's last season, that it would only be fitting to have the original Pop Idol that he helped discover be a part of his last season on American Idol. It makes sense to me. I love Will Young's voice, and I liked seeing him on the Idol stage again.

I am really genuinely surprised at the lack of a coronation song this season. Granted, they are always cheesy, but Idol without a coronation song kind of feels like having pizza without a beer. Something's missing. I wish that Idol had just let Lee and Crystal perform one of their own original songs to be released as a single, because I do not think that releasing a cover song as their first single is doing them any favors.

I got the feeling that the judges were writing Lee off. I agree with Kara, Lee does deserve to be in the Top Two, and he also deserves to win. Both Lee and Crystal really only nailed their last song, both of which played to their individual strengths. I think that they both have a shot at being the next American Idol. So, to write Lee off is ridiculous, especially when he's had tremendous momentum for the last month. I think Crystal was able to play catch-up with her last song and leveled the playing field heading into the last night of voting.

I honestly would be happy seeing either Crystal or Lee take the title tonight. I do think they both worked really hard throughout the season, which allowed them to stay ahead of the pack all the way to the end. Who do I think is going to win? Put it this way, I beLEEve there is going to be quite the Idol hat trick tonight.

What did you think of last night's performances? Who did you vote for? Who do you think is going to win?

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About Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is an Entertainment Writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She has interviewed a variety of people from across the entertainment spectrum, including singer-songwriter/Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas, Andrew Dost from the Grammy Award-winning band fun., singer-songwriter Christina Perri, and acclaimed writer-director Derek Cianfrance.
  • Bill Church

    Crystal so much better than Lee last night that it’s not even close. How the people will vote? Unknowable! This is the same public that voted against Chris Daughtry, now a millionaire for sure.

  • Beautelicious

    Lee Won!Hurray!

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com/ Mary K. Williams

    Either way, they both win (even though Lee won officially.) The last few standing usually stand in a good light. Nice write up Kirsten.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I voted for Crystal, and was a bit taken aback by the result. But they’re both excellent, by far the two best contestants this season. It had been obvious for at least 6 weeks that they were the likely top two.

    My guess is that I’m more likely to buy a Bowersox album, but then the only Idol alum album I own is Melinda Doolittle’s, so I am possibly not their prime target, haha.

    There’s a quite hilarious video circulating of someone’s mom overreacting a bit as Ryan announces the winner.

  • http://iheardemsay.blogspot.com Kirsten

    Mary – Thank you so much!

    handyguy – I definitely need to check out that video!

    And keep your eyes peeled for my finale recap!