Two Idolettes sing one last time
"American Idol" producers waste no time pumping up Tuesday's final performance show as though it's a WWE match being held at the Nokia Theater in front of 7,000 fans.
"Tonight the battle is on between Crystal and Lee," show host Ryan Seacrest screeches as we see the two Idolettes in profile, going nose to nose.
The judges have come in fancy dress as befits the occasion -- all except Ellen The Generous who, being the new judge, did not get the memo, and is seriously under-dressed. Randy Jackson is sporting a red riding jacket, like Sir Percy Foxwhacker. What the heck? Kara DioGuardi has five figures worth of gems dangling from her ears. Simon Cowell is, as usual on a final performance night, in full Il Divo: button-challenged shirt and black jacket. It is Simon's very last performance night on the show.
The two finalists are seen walking down the aisles towards the stage. Crystal Bowersox's microphone is knocked out of her hand twice, after which she makes a false stop, seemingly looking for her cue. Okay, there's nerves and then there's bad directing and she's a victim of the latter.
Each of the two Idolettes will sing three tunes Tuesday night. First, a song they've already sung in the competition.
For Lee DeWyze, that tune is Simon and Garfunkel's redemptive "The Boxer" -- but only after a taped bit in which his parents explain "we thought he was going to be a professional baseball player" but without any clips showing a convincing baseball past.
Lee's definitely performing very hard between his chin and his nose. The rest of him -- not so much. But he has brown hair and blue eyes. Chicks really dig that. He's going to win.
Sir Percy was "not sure that was a really energetic exciting kind of thing." Ellen The Generous "couldn't be prouder if I birthed you myself." The American Idol Decency Police scratch their chins and wonder. Kara says he's "got to punch harder" and Simon called it "a kiss on the cheek when I wanted a kiss on the lips -- not from you."
Because chicks don't go through a sports phase in their taped 'Idol' bios, Crystal's dad cuts straight to "she was born to do music" bits. She started out playing in a shopping mall. Yes, she's the Janis Joplin of the mall. She's picked "Me and Bobby McGee" to sing. It's virtually identical to the time she first performed it this season on the show. So far it's not a night for risk taking. We miss Adam Lambert.
Sir Percy calls it "dope, dude." Ellen The Generous says she likes saying "pass the salt" whenever possible and Crystal's performance was "compelling." Kara found fire in Crystal's belly. It reminded Simon of when she sang it the first time and "we absolutely fell in love with you" and adds "we got a comeptition tonight!" Is Lee competing? At any rate, Simon's getting very sentimental as the evening wears on.
In Round 2, each Idolette must sing a tune chosen for them by show executive producer Simon Fuller.
Lee gets the REM tune "Everybody Hurts." He starts off key and never looks back. The judges sense this show is not shaping up as a competition at all. But the judges are deeply committed to promoting Lee because they think he's the more commercial singer and has a much better back story -- paint store salesman. How will they sound like they're hearing the same performance we are, and yet keep him in the running?
Sir Percy, Ellen The Generous, Kara and Simon all find various ways -- "pitchy" "you went off" and "wasn't a perfect vocal" among them -- to note his off performance, but quickly add:
Sir Percy: You pulled it together.
Ellen The Generous: You went off a couple times but I don't care - it's all about the performance.
Kara: What makes you great as a performer is that you are emotionally accessible.
Simon: You're nervous and you've got another song to come and you've got to really understand the importance of what this night can do in terms of changing your life. And when you come out for your last performance I want a 10 out of 10, cause you're capable of it.
A this point, we're looking for a personal guarantee from Simon Fuller that Lee is going make this thing interesting in the stretch, or we're just going to go back to creating a Facebook page with our awesome experience today watching The Salahis chat with Matt Lauer and David Letterman, and wait it out till "Glee" starts.
Just in case you didn't think the producers were trying to do in Crystal, they saddle her with the dreadful "Black Velvet" to sing, strip her of her guitar, put her in the most gawdawful black satin flouncy cheap hooker dress, make her wear high heels, plant her toward the top of the Stairway to Paradise, and instruct her to walk quickly down to the stage. Sometimes she has trouble competing with the too-big orchestration, but she's definitely out-singing Lee by laps.
"This is what I'm talking about -- Mama Sox is in it to win it!" rants Sir Percy.
"It's like a Cher concert in here," Ellen The Generous says of all the costume changes.
"You want it; you can tell and that's what tonight is all about," adds Kara.
Simon is allergic to the tune because, he says, he's heard it murdered so many times during auditions. But, he adds, "I've got to tell you, you took that song and you absolutely nailed it. I'm very impressed."
Round 3 calls for each Idolette to sing the tune they will release as their first single, should they win. They have driven the stake through the annual American Idol Treacle Tune, for which we are grateful.
Lee gets U2's "Beautiful Day." It's a loud arrangement with lots of voice covering. There's a whole lot of action on stage with backup musicians. Lee is an interested bystander. Sir Percy calls it "interesting" and gives him credit for "starting to get your groove back" toward the end.
Ellen notes Lee was "fully present for that song."
Only Kara's brave enough to note Lee "got swallowed up a bit in that song" but could not resist adding that Lee's "grown the most on this show and you have one of the most commercial voices of the season and deserve to be here tonight."
And Simon, who by now is just downright maudlin, says "this is what this competition was designed for, which is somebody who needs a break, having a normal job working in a paint shop. He added, "you've worked very hard and you're a nice guy, and I genuinely wish the best for you."
The single Crystal will record, should she win the competition, is "Up to the Mountain," which has also been performed by Kelly Clarkson and Susan Boyle.
Crystal's very connected to this song. It's kind of spiritual. Anyway, she's walking up a mountain because somebody asked her, and she looks like she's been there. Maybe the mountain is that boyfriend. Man up and marry her, you lug.
It's Crystal's best performance of the season. Don't take my word for it. Sir Percy called it "one of the greatest performances" ever on 'Idol.' Ellen The Generous says she's just happy to have witnessed it. Kara commends her for being "completely emotionally invested in that tune." Before Simon can weigh in, Crystal preempts him with a Good Luck On Your Future Endeavors, Simon statement that's either really showbiz sincere or really showbiz fake, but either way, we admire her for not mutely sticking with the script like Growth Boy.
After Crystal's speech, Simon -- looking like someone on whom no flattery is wasted -- says:
"Crystal, since it's becoming a bit of a love fest tonight -- I felt that was by far the best performance and the song of the night. And since this will be the final critique I'm ever going to give, I would just say that was outstanding."
Crystal is showing growth, too. She tries a little Rat Pack banter with Ryan, who doesn't take the gambit:
"...I'm beside myself. I'm actually beside Ryan Secrest, but you know what I mean. Ah. Comedy tour starts next summer. No, I'm just entirely grateful for my family, and my life, and my son, and I'm ready for anything," she says.
To sing us out over the nostalgia tape is:
Will Young, Pop Idol UK's original winner, singing from his new album "Leave Right Now" -- because Simon Fuller must have a cut of the action. Hey, Brits, we're already cleaning up your oil spill, now we get the overflow from your reality shows? What happened to that famous self-restraint?
And, in conclusion, it's now up to the tweener girls who vote.
Never miss another "American Idol" after-show analysis. Text "IDOL" to 98999 to have a link to Lisa de Moraes's blog post sent directly to your phone.
Lisa de Moraes
May 26, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: "American Idol"
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