It took all season, but last night was the first night that I enjoyed all of the performances from the American Idol contestants. (Yes, even Casey's.) Now, I'm not saying that the performances were all top notch, but none of them made me want to mute the TV.
If you have been following this column throughout the season, then you already know that this is not the Top Three I had pictured. (Siobhan Magnus, you are sorely missed by this writer!) However, even without my picture perfect Top Three, this was a great night on Idol.
Casey James kicked off the night singing Eric Hutchinson's "OK, It's Alright With Me" for his personal song pick. He sounded alright, but here's where Casey went wrong; he picked a song by an artist that isn't a household name. When I sat down to start writing this morning, I had to look up what Casey's first song was, because I couldn't even remember what he had sung. Casey had said that this song captured the vibe of the type of artist that he wants to be, and I was a little shocked. I figured the kind of artist Casey sees himself as would be more bluesy. Eric Hutchinson's vibe is pretty laid back and mellow.
For me, this was not a song I expected Casey to sing; I figured he would go full-blown electric guitar with his song choice. Honestly, I didn't get the feeling that he's in it to win it. It looked like he was settling for third place, because that's where everyone else had already written him off. I don't think he used the opportunity to show who he really is as an artist or to even make an attempt to get to the Final Two next week. Although, I do reserve some blame for Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson, but we'll come back to that.
Crystal Bowersox was second that night with her song pick, "Come To My Window," by Melissa Etheridge. It only took all season, but Crystal finally sang something contemporary and rocked out a little. Where has this version of Crystal been all season?
The judges got on her a little about the arrangement; it was only slightly tweaked, I didn't mind it at all. I felt like at times, Crystal was rushing the lyrics, maybe that's just me. But overall, I was happy to finally hear this side of Crystal. I think Crystal came to play ball last night, and it definitely worked to her benefit.
Lee DeWyze followed with his song pick, "A Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was definitely the perfect song choice for him. He showed strength and control in his voice; it was simply fantastic. To me, this is a singer that knows who he is, and what kind of music he is going to make post-Idol.
I could tell that Lee knew how important this night was. His reaction to the crowd after he performed was touching. He seems absolutely grateful for where he is in the competition, which only makes him even more likable.
The judges also got to pick a song for each of the contestants, and I would say that only two out of the four did their jobs. Once again Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson chose a sleeper song for their contestant, which more or less was equal to just throwing him to the wolves, like they attempted to do last year with the song they picked for Kris Allen.
Kara and Randy picked John Mayer's "Daughters" for Casey to sing. It's not a bad song, and I knew Casey would sing it well. But, is it going to advance him to the next round? No. I understand that Casey does well with the more stripped down sound. I like it, because it allows him to control his vibrato more. I was only slightly annoyed by Casey's slight guitar solo during the performance, I found it unnecessary.
I agree with the judges: he sounded really good, but he just didn't do enough last night to advance to the Final Two. Kara and Randy can argue that it was a great song choice for Casey, but in the end, it did no favors for him. He wasn't able to have the moment he needed to stay in the competition.
Also, did anyone else catch the wording Randy used about Casey last night talking about the music he will be doing, "even as he leaves the show." I thought that was an interesting way to put it.
Ellen DeGeneres picked Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed" for Crystal to sing. I almost jumped for joy to see Crystal performing without her guitar. This was something I had mentioned in my previous column that I thought she needed to do to show that she's able to step away from the guitar and still be amazing.
I really felt that Crystal was able to show who she really is as an artist with this performance. And Simon Cowell was right last night when he said that Crystal hasn't compromised who she was as a person or an artist when it has come to performing on Idol. (Albeit, it did make for a couple of boring performances here and there. ) I do believe that we will be seeing Crystal in the Final Two next week, and she completely deserves to be there.
Simon picked Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" for Lee to sing. I definitely raised an eyebrow at this song pick last week, because this song has been done before on the show. Before the performance Simon said, "We've heard this song before, but I don't think we're ever gonna hear it like Lee's gonna do." He was absolutely correct, Lee's performance last night was very moving. He had this subtle confidence working wonders for him.
Don't get me wrong, I love Jason Castro's version of the song that he performed during season seven, but it didn't tap into my emotions the way Lee's performance did. Listening to Lee sing this song, you can tell how bad he wants into the Final Two. We got to witness a contestant perform his heart and soul out and just leave everything he's got on the stage. It was wonderful to watch.
Technically, there were a couple pitch problems. I thought he sang "A Simple Man" much better, but with "Hallelujah" he was able to evoke emotion from the audience. You can't fault that. (Well, I can't anyways.)
All of the judges thought Lee did fantastic, Kara told him, "you are what this show is all about," and that he is, "the heart of the show this season."
Looking back on the season and recounting Lee's performances, he has had ups and downs. He is the one contestant that has taken the feedback from the judges and improved over the course of the season. Lee's progress this season is what Idol is all about. I cannot wait to see his reaction when he is told that he's going to advance to the Final Two next week.
All in all, I think the Idol contestants put on a great show last night. I am excited to see their hometown footage during the results show. (I will have my box of Kleenex on hand.)
Which performances did you enjoy last night? Which contestants do you think are headed to the Idol finale next week?