While last year’s “Idol” buzzword was “artistry,” this year has been all about “having a moment.” But what exactly constitutes one of these elusive moments? Well, it’s kinda like sussing out illegal immigrants in Arizona; it’s difficult to pinpoint, but, apparently, you’ll “just know it when you see it.”
When it comes to doling out these star-making moments, this season’s contenders have been pretty stingy. Backup bagpipers and sliding across the stage can’t quite compare with Kris Allen’s rendition of “Heartless” or Carrie Underwood singing the hell out of “Alone,” both of which were pivotal Idol Moments.
In fact, apart from Big Mike delivering an impassioned version of “This Woman’s Work” when singing for the save, this season has been void of goosebump-inducing performances, never mind “moments.” The judges would have us believe that we witnessed a star being born last night during Lee DeWyze’s “Hallelujah” performance, but their gushing seemed a little too forced to me.
In what feels like an attempt to produce an exciting showdown for the finale, Cowell & Co. have been pushing him on us for weeks. True, neither Crystal Bowersox nor Lee have ever been in the Bottom 3; however, Crystal has been much more consistent week after week. So why are the judges so in love with DeWyze now?
To make us watch the finale.
And watch I will, as this season is turning out to be completely different than I expected. With the exception of Bowersox, these are not the people I would’ve bet on for the Final Three. But nothing would surprise me at this point, not even Casey making it to the finale. In fact, Casey progressing tonight would seem strangely appropriate for a season where Idol Shockers have been the norm.
Of course Casey sang first because he doesn’t fall into the producers’ master scheme of a Crystal/Lee showdown. I’m not sure if he even thinks he can win (and notice the judges aren’t encouraging him to think he can the way they did with Lee). His presence almost seemed like an afterthought to the panel; he was the warm-up to the real show. Granted, he didn’t do himself any favors with his song choice, either.
“OK, It’s Alright With Me” by Eric Hutchinson
Casey opted for this song because it sounds like something he would’ve written himself. Picking a song you’re connected to? Good. Picking a song that nobody knows? Bad. As much as the judges throw around words like “artistry,” “American Idol” is a competition first and foremost. There is plenty of time to develop as an “artist” once you’ve already won. But to win, you have to lure people in with songs they already know. Look at Crystal; last week she sang a Kenny Loggins song for cry pete!
“Daughters” by John Mayer
Kara and Randy chose this song for Casey because he has lots of women fans and I guess they’re daughters or something. It’s a nice enough song but it didn’t seem like the showstopper that this episode required. How could they pick on Casey for his personal song choice and then select this sleepy waltz for him to sing? Even Simon was left scratching his head. Casey’s voice sounded pleasant but when you’re competing in the Final Three of “AI,” “pleasant” is the kiss of death.
Up until recently, Bowersox was the overwhelming favorite to win. All the Lee hype hasn’t seemed to phase her that much, though, as she hasn’t changed a thing (including her hair). She’s obviously the best vocalist left in the competition but, with a voting pool made up of tween females, will that be enough to win against two cute guys?
“Come to My Window” by Melissa Etheridge
With this song, Crystal managed to do what Casey couldn’t. She remained true to herself as an artist but chose a tune that the audience already recognizes. Yes, it was predictable, as most of her song choices tend to be, but she belted it out with such confidence that it probably won’t matter to the voting public.
“Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney
This was a much better pick than her personal song choice. Ellen chose this one and it was refreshing to hear Crystal sing something that didn’t reek of patchouli or general hippiness. The vocals were good, regardless of the fact that she kept singing about being a man. Simon thought that she showed “soul.” Hasn’t she already shown that, though, on numbers like “Midnight Train to Georgia?”
Lee really stole the show with two strong performances. He also seems to be developing a personality; I actually saw him smile at least twice during the show! I think that DeWyze just might be the next American Idol. He’s getting stronger each week and, more importantly, he seems to be the judges’ new favorite.
“Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Lee thought this song was a little riskier than a more popular song, but he made it work because of his connection to it. To his credit, he even smiled when he talked about how much he loves playing it. (I know! Somebody pinch me!) Out of all three personal choice songs, this was by far the best. “Round One goes to Lee!” exclaimed Kara.
“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
Simon chose this song because he thought Lee could do a good job with it, even though he admitted that we’ve heard it before. No kidding we’ve heard it before. When Jason Castro sang it Season 7, it qualified as one of those much sought-after “moments” we spoke of earlier. And need I remind you that just weeks ago, we heard Tim Urban do a perfectly good version as well? Regardless, this was the closest Lee has gotten to a “moment.” Of course, the violins and gospel choir didn’t hurt.