Once upon a very, very long time ago, the interminable and terminally painful 9th season of American Idol kicked off without much fanfare. It then limped on through endless audition dates, forgettable Hollywood rounds and finally picked up a sluggish pace for the performance rounds that were about as fun as weekly root canals. The talent was mediocre, the singing was often out of tune and better suited to karaoke nights on a senior citizen cruise, the judging was irrelevant, viewership was way down and, perhaps worst of all, the media was not only wholly uninterested in the lackluster proceedings but downright contemptuous of them. Now, with two mostly identical specimens left to battle it out for the closing confetti shower we get one more show featuring the same old same old. After this one, everyone who still cares can vote for the one contestant they hate less or – and this is often the case – not so much for one as against the other. I will not be one of those voting few. This finale duo not only doesn't deserve my vote but how do you pick between two piles of bricks? And why would you even want to? Keep reading.
Seacrest, as always, tries to drum up some drama but his perpetual display of forced pep is nothing but tired old theater at this point. It's also Simon's last judging night on Idol and he looks as excited to be there as he did on the first episode back in January, which is to say not at all. Crystal and Lee will both be singing 3 songs apiece tonight: Their favorite song from the season, a song picked for them by executive producer Simon Fuller and the song they'll sing if they win the show. Six entire songs to slug through tonight. Lovely.
Reheating your best TV dinner
Crystal won the coin toss and she picked to go second, natch, so Lee kicks off his set with “The Boxer” which he sang on Inspirational Week. I don't remember him doing this song, or maybe I blocked it out and for good reason. La, la, la, la, la is all I hear while Lee rasps away earnestly sounding like the Nickelback tribute band front man that he was born to be with a hint of jingle crooner thrown in for good measure. This bloodless performance is hardly inspiring but at least it's short. Small favors, I guess.
Randy opines that Lee started the night off well but wants him to pick up the pace. Ellen is proud and she thinks Lee did better tonight than the first time he did the song. Kara mumbles on about how Lee must start coming alive. Simon also wants Lee to come out of deep freeze and prove he has a pulse.
Surprisingly enough, Crystal's first ever gig was at a coffee shop. Wow. Who would have guessed that one?! She is not singing in a coffee shop tonight and her choice is “Me and Bobby McGee” from Billboard #1 Night. Close enough. Oh, I do remember fast forwarding through this yawner the last time so I guess I should listen to it this time around. The vocals are cold at the start and a bit insipid but she picks up and does a decent job of it by the end. Not that this song will ever send anyone into paroxysms of delight but she outsang Lee on this one at least.
Randy says what I said about the slow start and decent finish but then he says she should make a record full of songs like this one. Yes, because everyone is just dying to listen to two dozen songs in a row that all sound the same. Ellen thinks Crystal is filling up the room with her guitar and Kara says she “told us so much about who you are as an artist”. No word about what exactly Crystal said while not saying anything. Simon thinks she reheated the competition with the performance they all liked. You know, before she started taking her win for granted about a month or so ago.
Simon Fuller's pick for Lee is “Everybody hurts” which is an insult to REM but a good thing for Lee. Or it would be if he were a better singer who could sing in tune at least half the time and not such a run-of-the-mill karaoke crooner. There's nothing new about this arrangement and nothing much remarkable about Lee's growly vocals or his halfhearted delivery. In other words he's perfectly ordinary. Does this dude even want to be here tonight?
Randy thought Lee set off pitchy but picked it up later. Being “pitchy” at this stage is quite a laugh although painfully bad vocals are not an impediment to winning this show as we've seen last season. Ellen didn't care that Lee went off the reservation a couple of times and Kara loves that Lee is “emotionally accessible”. Translation: Suzie Sixpack in Iowa doesn't have to do a lot thinking with you Lee, you come frozen solid and pre-packaged for convenience! Simon thought the song choice was great but, again, Lee skipped out on the melody a bit here and there but, oh, who cares, dammit, his shift from hell is almost over.
I'm not sure what possessed Simon Fuller to pick “Black Velvet” for Crystal but I deeply resent this choice. She is a competent but virtually incapable of projecting any sex appeal which is what this song needs. She grins through her performance and walks around the stage in high heels but despite her best effort, there is no excitement in her performance. The vocals are on the shouty side but at least they're in tune. That's always a plus when it comes to this season. Still, round two clearly goes to Crystal.
Randy is enthused and thinks she's “in it to win it”. Ellen thinks walking down the stairs in heels was difficult for her but the performance was fantastic. Kara says Crystal did what she was supposed to do and Simon thinks she nailed it even though he is allergic to this oft-butchered song.
Warm it up and spit it out
In the last hurrah of the season, both Crystal and Lee will be singing the song they'll release as a single if they become the Idol winner. Lest you think that Idol sprung for two brand spanking new Kara-penned cheesy masterpieces, both of these songs will be covers. Yes, you read that right. It's almost comical how what is usually the big coronation song in other seasons is just another karaoke cover this time around.
Lee seems to have drawn the plum pick or the short straw, depending how you look at it since he is singing “Beautiful Day” by U2. He gets a full-blown production with a dozen violins on stage and the opportunity to scream and howl though a virtually unchanged arrangement. The audience is enthused, the swaybots sway on cue and Lee, who is wearing a black leather jacket, probably thinks he's a rocker now.
Randy mumbles something about his shaky start but how he brought it around later. Ellen thinks he was “fully present” during the song which is, I guess, a good thing. Kara feels the song was bigger than Lee – a big fat understatement – but he has a commercial voice and he deserves to be in the final. Simon says Lee is a nice guy who used to work in a paint shop and, well, he's a nice guy.
The last song of the night belongs to Crystal who is doing “Up to the mountain” which is a folk song therefore right up Crystal's alley. She sings it well but makes the song sound like a dozen other songs she has previously sung on the show. I couldn't name any of them if my life depended on it. Oh, okay I do remember her... Never mind. If you've heard her perform before you know exactly how it went: She started off low and even a bit shaky but then built into the song, belted out the middle and that was it. She could've been singing “Take me out to the ballgame” and it would have sounded exactly the same. Hey, there's one more thing Lee and Crystal have in common: they're both equally safe and predictable. Neither one is going to give you a jolt but neither is aiming to do so.
Randy is proud and thinks this was her best performance. Ellen says Crystal is unique but of course that's not true. The only thing unique about Crystal are her dreads and they did nothing for Jason Castro on radio. Kara says Crystal blossomed and was emotionally invested. Before Simon can speak, Crystal can't resist opening her big mouth one last time and speaking out of turn. She sucks up to Simon and says he's amazing and good luck to him. Huh? Good luck, Simon? Oh, I'm sure he needs it. Simon, in return, says hers was the best song of the night and it was outstanding. Quid pro quo at its finest. In a final bit of insanity, Ryan asks Crystal what she thought of her run on Idol giving her a chance to babble on about how it was all amazing and it started before Idol and her family and... oh, stuff it already!
We're almost there! The faceless dude you've never heard of – Will Young - whose song Idol called “Leave right now” Idol used to say sayonara to all the kicked off Idols, is here to sing his sleepy and deeply ironic song live on TV. All the Idols crowd onto the stage one last time before Seacrest calls curtains and we're officially free of this lackluster whale of a season. Well, almost. Somebody is winning the whole enchilada tomorrow and will officially become the third white, safe, fat-free vanilla, Disney ready, pre-packaged ,guitar-wielding coffee shop crooner in a row to scale the Idol heights. I feel we need to brand them like cattle at this point and herd them around in a pack or something.
My faithful co-capper MotherSister will serve it up one last time and give you all the deets on the innumerable filler numbers that will take up 99% of the finale show. Oh, and Simon is finally jumping off this burning, sinking death trap of a ship.
Thanks for reading. Peace.