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.