momlogic's Vivian: The final three "American Idol" contestants (Crystal, Casey and Lee) kicked some serious ass last night. But who kicked the hardest? With two amazingly consistent performances, one contestant grabbed the brass ring and just wouldn't let go. Read on to find out who!
To help us discern the two best singers of the final three, each contestant sang two songs -- one chosen by them, and one chosen by the judges.
Casey James kicked off the festivities with an unknown Eric Hutchinson song, "OK, It's Alright With Me" -- a slighty groovy tune, like one of those peppy nouveau-soul skippy beats someone like Dave Matthews puts out every so often. When asked why he'd chosen it, Casey said that it was a lot like the stuff he writes, so he thought it would be a good representation. And indeed, the guy FINALLY looked like he was having some fun up on that stage.
Randy said the song was "just alright" with him, too, and added that he'd wanted to see something "unique," "different" and "interesting" from Casey. Ellen said, "This is the moment. I wish you would've brought it." Kara wisely said, "It's hard to pick a song that not everybody knows ... especially tonight, because you have to really be fighting for this competition. When you pick something that's a first listen for a lot of people, you can't take it to the next level and make it your own, because you're just establishing it." Simon said that Casey sounded good, but called his performance a "salad instead of a meal," adding that it was "a dud song choice." Yeouch!
Our fave, Crystal "MamaSox" Bowersox, made a very obvious, yet very wise choice by singing Melissa Etheridge's "Come to My Window." She said she'd chosen it because, "It's a song about passion and love and things like that." Accompanying herself with harmonica and acoustic guitar, Crystal sang a pared-down version of the song that was a bit staid at first, but then she broke out with some big ending notes.
Randy said, "It's that time in the competition, looking for a winner, who's going to blow it out the box. I did not love the arrangement for me personally, but what I did like, I loved your vocal on it. Good song choice." Ellen said it was just the kind of song that she'd want to sing, adding, "Melissa would be proud of you." Kara said, "You were fighting. Your tone doesn't have the rasp and the edge that Melissa has, so I think acoustically it would've been a little stronger. It was still a good vocal. I just think you are capable of a moment, and I hope you have a moment tonight." Simon said that he didn't think it was the most stunning version of the song he'd ever heard, but he gave Crystal credit for staying true to herself as an artist: "From the very first day we met you, till now in the semifinal, you haven't compromised yourself as an artist," he said. "I respect you for that. You came out here and just decided to do what is you. It's a very honest performance, and I think you probably made the right choice. Congratulations."
Crystal countered, "It's one of my favorite songs, and I'm glad I've got my mike stand, and I've got good friends, and health, and my son's healthy and that's all that it's about really, you know?" WORD! Talk about perspective in the glare of the spotlight.
Also armed with just an acoustic gee-tar, Lee tackled the Lynyrd Skynryd song, "Simple Man." Judging from the receptive squeals in the audience, all the little girls understood. With his earnest, gruff alt-rock vocals and tweaked arrangement, Lee succeeded in taking a little-known song and making it a hit for today.
Randy called it a "great, great song choice," adding, "Somebody here is feeling like they could win this. He's ready!" Ellen said that Lee had shown that he took "this thing" seriously, likening him to "a gazelle or an impala" instead of the "baby lamb" he'd been when he started. Kara said, "What you did tonight is what every contestant needs to do: You showed us everything you've got. In my opinion, round one goes to Lee." Simon asked Lee why he'd chosen that song, and Lee responded that he "wouldn't have connected with another song." Simon responded, "The contestant song choices so far have been OK; that song, however, was absolutely on the money. I don't think you won round one, I think you just crushed the other two." Whoa!
The judges all made incredible song choices for their assigned contestants. Randy and Kara teamed up to pick "Daughters," by John Mayer, for Casey. Kara explained that it would help him show his vulnerability; she said that, because Casey's audience is women and girls, the song would "talk to them." And indeed, it was primo: His guitar-playing was fantastic, and toward the end of the song, I finally heard him attack a note with confidence and aggression. Randy said the song choice fit Casey "like a glove," and that he hoped he'd continue in this direction (a foreboding comment, right?). Ellen thought the song was "beautiful" for him. Kara said it showed the more artistic side of Casey, but Simon called it "a lazy arrangement" that lacked "that 'wow' factor." Ruh roh.
In my opinion, Ellen ROCKED her judge duty when she so brilliantly chose "Maybe I'm Amazed," by Paul McCartney, (one of my all-time favorite tunes!) for Crystal. When asked why, Ellen said, "I think the song is amazing. I think [Crystal's] amazing. And I just wanted her to surprise people. Everyone knows what she does. I thought, 'Let's show some range, and let her just tear this thing apart.' And I think she will."
She did. With each cadence, Crystal's voice added a passion and intensity that it had been lacking the past few weeks. Randy said, "Great song, great vocals and America -- we've got somebody else in it to win it right there!" Ellen said, "I couldn't have asked for more. That's what I was hoping you'd do, and you did it! You did it." Kara said, "Crystal, you didn't change it up that much. But what you did with it is, you showed parts of your voice I don't think we've heard until tonight. And no instrument? Huge risk for you! So you did a lot of risky things tonight, and I think it paid off." Simon said, "What you just proved after that performance is that you've got soul. You worked outside of your comfort zone. And I think after that, you may be thanking Ellen next week for putting you in the final. That was terrific." So that's TWO -- count 'em -- TWO ringing endorsements to get our GURL in the finals. YEAH!
Last but DEFINITELY not least, Simon chose "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley for Lee. He said (in an unusually nurturing way), "This is the biggest night for [Lee], and I wanted him to do something that shows he has potential as a great artist."
Holding his acoustic for dear life, Lee transformed the tempo into something moderately upbeat, his vocal soaring over the team of gospel back-up singers behind him. It really was the best performance of the night. Randy said, "I've been waiting all season, man, to see who's going to throw down the real gauntlet to try and win the whole thing .... This was the biggest moment at the biggest time in your career on this show. That was unbelievable, dude! Unbelievable!" Lee then thanked Simon for the song choice, saying he'd been daunted at first, but was really happy he followed through with it. Ellen called his performance "stunning." Kara said, "Lee, you are what this show is all about: Somebody who starts in one place, and ends up here tonight in an incredible epic moment. You are the heart of this show this season, and you just owned the entire night." Simon sealed Lee's place in the final when he said, "Lee, I'm very, very, very proud of you, because when we sat down last week, I kind of put myself where you were. Which is that, before this show, you were working in a store; you were looking for a break. This show has given you a break. And most importantly, tonight, with that performance, you've proved that you are fantastic singer, a great person and I really hope for you that you make it there next week."
So there you have it!
I say the final two should be Lee and our GURL Crystal Bowersox, but will Casey's hawt-guy appeal gain him a spot in the final? Don't miss the exciting "American Idol" results show tonight -- and come visit me again tomorrow for the recap!