One of the most predictable aspects of “American Idol” is that by the time the field each season is down to the final three or four, it’s pretty apparent who is going to be in the finals. This season, by the time the field was cut to the final six or seven, the two strongest contestants had become painfully obvious to everyone.
Crystal Bowersox was an almost shoe-in finalist from week one. She had a maturity and confidence in her sound that raised her high above every one else on the stage. In tonight’s show, she cried when one of her original tunes was used in the footage of her trip back home to Ohio. She told Ryan Seacrest that she had been asking to see an original song on the show for weeks. That impulse alone sets her apart from most of the show’s contestants. It’s only been in recent seasons that the finalists were even allowed to play an instrument, which is a pretty good indication of the priorities of the show and the producers.
While it took a few weeks for him to become the other favorite to be in the final two, Lee DeWyze has been Crystal’s biggest challenger for at least the past month. He’s a solid singer and performer, although in this season’s weak field, that’s kind of faint praise. But with his boyish charm and John Mayer voice, he’s a more obvious commercial choice for the show’s producers. Which probably explains why the “Idol” judges have done everything but scream “Vote for Lee” at the end of every performance.
Last night’s performance of “Hallelujah” was staged more like a coronation than a competition. Simon Cowell not only picked a tune that even a chimp could perform with emotion. But he included gospel singers and a full-blown band into the mix. Compared to the less histrionic performances by Bowersox and Casey James, it seemed as if the fix was in.
Even in tonight’s show, it was funny to see how DeWyze was handled differently than his competitors. During the showing of his home visit footage, there were shots of all the “Idol” judges clapping and nodding with joy. As if to remind viewers “Hey, this is who you should make this season’s winner.” The producers also made sure to reinforce the “hey, he used to work at a paint store meme by showing DeWyze traveling back to visit his former place of employment.”
The odd man out was Casey James, who eventually was eliminated from the show. Even before last night’s comfortable performances, it was pretty clear that he wasn’t going to make the finale. He seemed more than satisfied with that result and I suspect he knew that his time was up way before the final results were announced.
But when he sang one last song, he pulled out what has to be one of the best parting performances ever on “Idol.” He sang John Mayer’s “Daughters,” and as he strolled through the audience, he grabbed a young girl, sat her on his knee and sang to her. For all of his guitar skills, it was a moment that showed he has the soul of a real artist and I look forward to hearing whatever music he decided to release.
Next week it’s the finale, and while I hope that Bowersox walks away with the win, I won’t be surprised if DeWyze turns out on top. He’s certainly more likely to have his music played on the radio. But I’m much more likely to buy a Crystal Bowersox CD or go to one of her live shows.