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'Idol' final three battle for spot in finale

Note: Lisa de Moraes is in New York covering the broadcast network upfronts, and will return next week. In the meantime, WaPo Team TV's Emily Yahr recaps the Top 3 Performance Night.

"This is the fight for the finale," Ryan Seacrest intones dramatically at the top of the show. "And THIS is 'American Idol,' " the final three contestants have all been told to say at the same time. Except they appear to have all started talking at different times. Excellent start!


'Idol' contestant Casey James sings "OK, It's Alright With Me." (Michael Becker -- Fox)

The good news is that this is one of the last times we'll ever have to hear Randy Jackson yell "Boo! Boooo!" while Simon Cowell is introduced, given Simon's impending departure next week. The bad news is that Tuesday night is multiple song night, in which the contestants choose one tune, followed by one chosen for them by the judges. This can go either way, depending on how much the judges like the contestants.

Casey James, decked out in a flower print shirt and gray suit jacket, his spectacular golden mane tousled ever so casually, chooses Eric Hutchinson's "OK, It's Alright With Me." He does way less of the bleating-goat voice he's favored over the last few weeks.

Randy Jackson gives an evil chuckle before remarking "Simon Cowell is a funny guy," leaving the rest of us wondering what insulting inside joke they've shared while a sweet kid from Texas is singing for his life. Randy tells Casey the song was just... wait for it... "alright with me." Ellen babbles for a minute before saying he needed to blow the judges away, but didn't. Kara DioGuardi gently notes that because it's a relatively obscure song that most viewers were hearing for the first time, Casey couldn't make it his own. Simon helpfully reminds Casey that, "It's arguably the most important night of your life," and goes on to a long-winded metaphor that compares Casey to a salad. Ryan pipes up to remind everyone that the show a two-course meal, and we hope Metaphor Time is coming to an end.

The judge's favorite (until a few weeks ago when they started loving Lee DeWyze) Crystal Bowersox decides on "Come to My Window" by Melissa Etheridge, and is armed with a harmonica.

Randy hates the arrangement of what he calls an "amazing song," but likes the vocal. Ellen thinks Melissa would be quite proud of Crystal, and Kara agrees that she got lost in the arrangement. Simon feels it wasn't the most "stunning" version of the song, but grudgingly admits she's stayed true to herself as an artist since day one. Crystal, who's had some issues during Judges Feedback lately (read: she won't shut up), wisely stays quiet.

A promo of the upcoming episode of "Glee" with Neil Patrick Harris makes us remember fondly the auditions when NPH was the Best. Judge. Ever. We would take him back in an instant, and he can even bring the mullet he's apparently sporting on "Glee."

Ryan sits down Lee DeWyze for a heart-to-heart about his recent visit home to Chicago, and how Lee is a changed man after coming back to "Idol" after the trip. Lee goes on about how he now has all kinds of energy, but some squealing girls cut him off, and he sings Lynyrd Synyrd's "Simple Man."

Whatever Lee did in Chicago, it worked. Randy freaks out and starts yelling about how Lee is amazing, and Ellen compares him to a former little baby lamb who's now a gazelle or impala. Kara's thrilled that he picked a song that obviously had meaning, and Lee manages to take a jab at Simon by saying that although it wasn't a "current" song, he felt connected to it. Simon either ignores the comment or is programmed to tune out anyone but himself talking, and gushes that Lee's song was "absolutely on the money," and that he "crushed" the competition in round one.

In round two, the contestants are shown briefly at their hometown visits, and Casey is in his hometown of Cool, Tex., and swarmed by women of all ages. He's informed via text (at his local AT&T store!) that he will be singing "Daughters" by John Mayer on Tuesday's show, chosen by Kara and Randy. Back at the show, Kara tells Casey that she thinks the song is perfect because it appeals to his female fan base -- and let's face it, that's the only reason he's still in the competition.

Casey seems to sleepwalk his way through the tune, but naturally, Randy is pleased with the performance and song choice. Ellen likes it, and Kara basks in her own idea and thinks the song was the right choice. Simon, however, slams his fellow judges for not allowing Casey to have a moment, because the song didn't have a climax. Kara jumps in to argue about the song's climax but Ryan breaks it up before the argument goes to a bad place.

During her trip home to Elliston, Ohio, Crystal learns that Ellen has chosen Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed," and Crystal even ditches her guitar and adds some thigh-high black boots to the performance. Randy, Ellen and Kara think she did a great job and took a risk that paid off. Simon declares it "terrific," and Crystal proved she's got soul.

Lee is next to receive his text message with his Judge's Choice song, courtesy of Simon, and we get a glimpse of the actual message, which hilariously reads, "Hi Lee, it's Simon!" like a giddy tween, before informing him he'll be singing "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley. Lee manages to do a much better job than He of the Pettable Hair (Tim Urban, of course) did earlier in the season.

With the odd camera angles, smoke, and back-up singers dressed in black mysteriously appearing out of nowhere, the whole performance resembles the beginning of a sci-fi movie, but the judges absolutely love it. Randy declares it Lee's "biggest moment on the show," Ellen calls it "stunning," Kara exclaims that, "you are the heart of the show this season, and you just owned this entire night," while Simon calls him a "fantastic singer," and reminds the audience for the thousandth time that before this show, Lee was working in a store, looking for a break.

With that, Ryan has a few seconds to kill before the start of "Glee," so he tells all three contestants that they are all winners -- but more importantly, Justin Bieber will appear tomorrow on results night.

Never miss another "American Idol" after-show analysis. Text "IDOL"
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By Lisa de Moraes  |  May 19, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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Comments

Interesting on dialidol: Casey is the loser in Texas and Crystal is the loser in Ohio. So much for the home town parades.

Posted by: kirstenpaulson | May 19, 2010 7:40 AM | Report abuse

SECOND!!

Posted by: igetdeadbeats | May 19, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

I hated Lee's "Hallelujah". He was out of tune, and the whole thing was so over-produced and overblown that it was almost comical. Simon loved it because he produced the song & got some much-needed extra income for having it sung, again, on the show. I wonder if this is the last we'll hear of it now that Simon is leaving?

Overall it wasn't anyone's best night, but clearly Crystal and Lee were better than Casey. I'm pretty sure Lee, propped up by the judges and producers as he is, will win this thing in a landslide, although Crystal is the better live performer.

Casey #1: Middle of the road performance. He sang OK but it was a weird song choice.
Crystal #1: Pretty good, not her best. She probably should have ditched the harmonica -- it blocked her face and she barely used it.
Lee #1: Pretty good, the best of the first three performances, though not by much.

Casey #2: I thought this was a bad song choice. Simon was absolutely right -- there was no opportunity for a big moment, and Casey's first song was subdued as well. Casey performed it well enough, but he needed to blow the audience away and he didn't.
Crystal #2: Not quite as good as her first performance. I thought this was a bad song choice too, coupled with an awful arrangement. First, she didn't change the gender of the lyrics, meaning she wasn't connected to them at all. Second, the arrangement had her singing the same line, with the same flourishes, twice in a row. She had a little trouble with some of the higher notes, too. She looked great though.
Lee #2: As I said I thought this was awful. Overproduced, off-key, and so clearly positioned and engineered by the judges and producers to be The Moment Of The Season that I was completely turned off by it. The song is supposed to be heartfelt and intimate, and it was instead turned into a circus. Hated. It.

But I guess that's just me.

Posted by: Duodenum | May 19, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Duodenum,

I completely agree with you about Lee's version of "Hallelujah." The song is not supposed to be jubilant. It is a haunting song, meant to be sung simply. But Lee/the producers turned it into a showy, cheesy piece of fluff. It was abhorrent!

Posted by: lisadevine | May 19, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Duodenum - no one wants to read long posts so keep it short next time. Twitter was made to cutoff people like you.

Didn't Idol use to show more footage when the Idols went home? Lee wasn't even shown at home, only in an airplane.

Anyone else notice Seacrest got mad when Crystal said her goal for her performance was to "have fun"? Seacrest is dying for one of the contestants to say they want to get votes and actually win.

Please either get rid of Ellen or make her a co-host with Ryan. She is absolutely pointless as a judge!

Posted by: MasonNation | May 19, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Casey was convincing as John Mayer, Crystal was surprisingly bad and Lee was okay. It's probably not gonne be a very good finale next week...

Posted by: ozpunk | May 19, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Sorry MasonNation you are an idiot! We like long thoughtfull posts. Stick to twitter if thats all you can handle, Duodenum's post was very good.

I thought Lee was very good last night liked both of his songs. Casey was pretty bad on both imho. Crystal is good but not as good as some have tried to make her seem.

Posted by: sivwiz | May 19, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I don't like long posts either, in fact, I don't read them. I thought Casey was bad last night, Crystal wasn't great, and, for once, I thought Lee did the best. Right now, I see Lee and Crystal making the final two with Lee winning.

Posted by: MrsKirby | May 19, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Duodenum- ignore MasonNation - your post was well written and worth reading.
I didn't dislike Lee's version of "Hallelujah" as much as you did, and I think Simon did what the judges should do, which is use their "expertise" to pick a song well-suited to the contestant's voice. Crystal, on the other hand, suffered at the hands of Ellen's song choice. It was not a good song for Crystal's voice, and I don't think she could have changed the lyric, so instead she had to look awkward singing "Maybe I'm a man.." I also think Lee did a better job with his own song choice. I think Crystal is the most talented of all the ocntestants, but she needed a moment like she had with "You Can't Always Get What You Want" or "Midnight Train to Georgia", and last night she didn't have that. But I'm ok with if she comes in second to Lee, which is what the judges/producers seem to be pushing for -she will still get a record deal and, I think, will be one of the more successful contestants post-show.

Posted by: faywray | May 19, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I too wondered what happened to the many minutes of footage we used to get about the home visits. Now the at-homes seemed merely an excuse to plug the local AT&T store. Is it because huge crowds no longer show up to greet their hometown Idols? This show is getting so tired.

Posted by: chantooz | May 19, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

"Hallelujah" - it's not by "Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley", Cohen wrote it, John Cale arranged it for himself based on selecting some of the 30 or so original verses Cohen wrote, that's the version used in "Shrek", and Jeff Buckley sang Cale's selected verses on his album "Grace". If you listen to newer Cohen recordings - aka Live in London - you'll hear some of the different lines written for the song.

Posted by: kiosk | May 19, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

we were commenting last night about the short hometown visit clips, particularly Lee, and my 11 year old said with just the right amount of snark, well, maybe they didn't have an AT&T store...she made me laugh as much as Lisa deM does!

Anyway, they will show much more of the visits tonight on results night.

Posted by: HopesMa | May 19, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I think my favorite moment of the night came when Lee was "singing" Hallelujah and the white lights came on - talk about the anointed one! My 13 yr old son said, "Wow, the heavens parted..... And out came backup singers!" Maybe you had to be there but that was the highlight of the show for me. I didn't even vote. Poor Casey - I'm not a huge fan, but if ever a show was designed to eliminate a contestant that was it.

Also, I think we'll get more of the hometown stuff as filler tonight. And why did Lee not get to read his text in front of an AT&T store? So unfair!

Posted by: buffybot | May 19, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

TLDR for MasonNation: Lee's Hallelujah was overproduced & pitchy, but it wasn't a great night for anyone.

Happy now?

On the other hand, next time just skip it, and remember that you don't represent everyone who reads this blog or its comments.

Posted by: Duodenum | May 19, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Why, why, why????? Still not getting why the judges are so over the top for Lee -- he has an average voice with nothing special to add to his performances (except for the "aw shucks" moments as they fling praise at him). Did anyone else notice (or get as annoyed as me) while Simon went on and on and on about his humble beginnings, being a great person, blah, blah, blah? Oh, and absolutely HATED the gospel background singers and big production for Hallelujah -- Jason Castro did a MUCH better job a few years back.

For the first time, I did not love Crystal's song choice or arrangement. She could have chosen any one of Melissa's songs and been great, but she needed a much bigger voice for Come To My Window. Yeah, and I didn't quite get not changing up the words, "I'm a man" in Maybe I'm Amazed. I dunno, I think for the first time she seemed nervous or otherwise preoccupied on stage.

What I like about Casey's voice is that it's a little different -- there's something that is uniquely Casey (and no one else)-- bluesy rock. (Whereas, Lee sounds like every other guy singer on the radio.)

Will be sorry to see Casey go, but the show has already made up it's mind (and Lee's not going anywhere). Oh well.

Go Crystal!

Posted by: LikeOMGWTF | May 19, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

MasonNation: ths msg shrt enf 4 u?

Some of us over 16 rather enjoy reading eloquent posts and getting other people's opinions. Twitter seems kind of ridiculously shallow to us. Just sayin'. And dnt b a h8tr.

Duodendum, agree with you on most everything. If someone had worked out the Vegas-style Hallelujah arrangement without Simon's involvement, he would have skewered them without mercy. However, I did think Lee sounded good when you could hear him. But he did not have a moment.

Nobody's had a moment this season. Lukewarm song choices, shy performances, no Jennifer Hudson in the bunch.

The judges seem frustrated, but they've been frustrating all season in their very inconsistent, sometimes even contradictory, advice. No wonder the kids look like deer in headlights.

Idol has probably outstayed its run, just like this last disappointing season of the normally terrific "24".

Thank gosh "Lost" appears to be culminating toward a most satisfying finale this Sunday.

Posted by: ILoveToSinga | May 19, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Pretty much agree with everyone's comments, especially that horrendous Hallelujah arrangement. I actually had to change the channel, I felt so violated. Jason Castro's version should have been the very last version of that song performed on Idol. Everyone else's attempt at it falls so short of that. It was a lazy choice for Simon, in my opinion. He blasts contestants for picking songs that have been over-performed, and then he picks Hallelujah????? C'mon Simon, you are phoning it in big time. (But really, who can blame you?)

I like Ellen, but honestly, I agree with someone earlier who said she should be the host, not a judge. I'm getting so sick of her round-eyed "aw shucks, wow, I'm so honored to be a judge!" attitude. Kara sucks, Randy is now an android, and Simon is sleepwalking. Kill this show now or replace the judges with NPH and Harry Connick Jr.... and how about Lady Gaga to round out the threesome... or Madonna? THAT show I would watch.

Oh, back to the contestants: they were all boring and awkward. It's like we were watching the very first season of this show when there was very little talent besides Kelly Clarkson. Except this time there's no Kelly Clarkson. Crystal should win, she's actually got talent, she just isn't a performer.

Posted by: tmeintermedia | May 19, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Maybe my age showing, but I prefer the longer, better written posts. If you can't be bothered to write more than 140 chars, why bother responding? I'd rather than a discussion than a collection of sound bites.

Hmmmm...I've thought that this bunch was a pretty boring one and about as boring as the Season 6 group...maybe less so. Anyone else think that Lee DeWyze is a poor man's Danny Gokey? Similar voices, but Lee is significantly more boring on stage and while a better musician, nowhere near as interesting a performer.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | May 19, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

If Casey was going to sing a song about daughters, it should have been the one by Pearl Jam. Then he could have done his full Eddie Vedder impression.

Posted by: TheBankruptcyCode | May 19, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

It's no surprise who the judges want in the finale- Crystal and Lee. They were shamelessly rooting for them. Crystal's second song had some great notes even though she was singing that she was a man loving a woman. And Crystal's first song was better than they gave her credit for. And Lee's second song just had great dramatics I think. Especially since they had the audience chime in with an extra long cheer at the end. I don't think Casey deserved to be shunned by the judges so. I thought his first song was good. The judges were against him from the beginning.

Posted by: forgetthis | May 19, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Here's a concept for MasonNation: if you don't want to read long posts, you don't have to read them. You are free to choose! Isn't it a great country? As for me, I often enjoy them. Go figure!

Taking the tongue out of my cheek for a moment, I agree with what a lot of what the rest of you -- and your witty children -- said. Maybe a bright 13 year old would make a more interesting judge than the group that's there now. Last night's show was just so...so limp. I wanted to enjoy it, I really did, but it was such a letdown. Not horrible, but mostly mediocre. Even Crystal, who has the most musicality about her and the most developed personality, was not at her best. (She has it in her -- go look at her Inspiration Week performance on YouTube, which was genuinely moving.) The contestants were handicapped in their quest for a "moment" by the truncated time slots they were given in which to sing their first songs. Seems like almost an impossible thing to do.

Randy, who at least we could depend on once to point out pitch issues, has fallen down on the job when it comes to Lee. Everyone involved from Seabiscuit to the judges seems so intent on the narrative they've constructed for Lee (he has overcome his self-esteem issues! he believes in himself!) that they apparently don't even hear him anymore.

I use to love this show. It was my fun, fluffy pastime for a few months every year, as hokey as it can be. I think this blog and reading the comments (long and short alike) are the only thing redeeming it at this point. Evidently I'm not the only one -- saw in the Baltimore Sun Monday that the results shows next year are being cut back to a half hour. WBAL used to have an "Idol Superfan" comment on the previous night's episode each morning after -- this year they didn't bother.

Posted by: owingsmills | May 19, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Why did they not show Lee appearing in front of his hometown crowd? I know they mentioned that he enjoyed spending time with his family, does that mean he didn't want, or they didn't set up a hometown crowd event? I was perplexed. Was anyone else? (btw, crowds seemed a bit thin for Crystal and Casey)

Posted by: watchingfromhome | May 19, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Maybe it's me...but I think even the judges are over it....doesn't seem to be be the same energy level from the panel.

As far as the remaining 3...I wouldn't be surprised to see Casey do very well in Nashville. He's good-looking, he can play the guitar, and I think he has a bankable voice.

The other two...while talented...and seemingly nice folks...will go the way of most AI finalists. I don't think Chrystal gives a hoot about winning...and Lee is good, but needs to bring more to the table.

The show has drug on for too long...get rid of the 24 finalists and start with those 10 or 12 in the running.

Posted by: ilcn | May 19, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Wish Lisa D. wouldn't abandon us at crunch time -- this is a disappointingly dull, error-riddled effort. What happened to the funnier subs they used to use? For the record, Emily, the late Jeff Buckley did not co-write Hallelujah, and it's not Lynyrd Synyrd.

Posted by: newster200 | May 19, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

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