What would a season finale on American Idol be without Dramatic Voiceover Man? Well, it would be what we see tonight, as DVM is once again absent. Oh well, maybe he'll make his last appearance of the season on this week's Results Show. Anyway, instead of DVM, we have Ryan standing at center stage with our last two contestants. Everyone has smiles bigger than Texas plastered on their faces, and Ryan says, "This is it, America. The stage is set. It's your last chance to choose." With that, the show is underway.
We come back to the show, and Ryan walks out onto the stage to welcome us to the show, held tonight at the Kodak Theater, home of the Academy Awards. There are 3,000 fans in the theater this evening, and Ryan says they are pretty evenly divided between Fantasia fanatics and Diana devotees. Ryan may say that, but, judging by the audience reaction to the finalists' names, it sounds as if the Fantasia fans outnumber the Diana fans by far. Moving on, Ryan tells us that each finalist will be singing three songs this evening. They will each song two songs of their own choosing, and then they will both sing the new winner's single, "I Believe", co-written by Season 1 finalist Tamyra Gray. In addition, each finalist will have three dedicated phone lines, and the viewing audience will get four hours to vote after the show. At this point, we say hello to the judges, and then Ryan has our two final contestants walk out to say their first hellos of the night. They look as happy and kissy-kissy with each other as two sorority sisters, but I can't help wondering if each is secretly hoping that the other comes down with acute laryngitis right before singing her opening number. I mean, I think the results could be closer than many people are expecting, and each young lady is going to need all the help she can get in order to win. Ryan asks each how they're feeling, and Diana says she's "a tad overwhelmed", while Fantasia says, "I am just blessed to be here tonight." Diana says she's "gonna give it 500% " this evening, and Fantasia tells Ryan, "I am gonna just have fun." Ryan then thanks the ladies for coming out to say hello, and it is finally time to really get the show underway.
As you know, our two finalists flipped a coin last week to determine the singing order for tonight's show. Fantasia won the toss and elected to go second. That means that Diana will be leading off the performances this evening. Before Diana sings for the first time tonight, we see a video retrospective of Diana's journey from Snellville, Georgia to tonight's finale. We've already seen most of what they show in the video piece, but I do notice that at different points in the preliminary rounds, Diana sings two of the songs—"Chain Of Fools" and "Fool In Love"—that Fantasia herself sang just last week. Coincidence? I wonder. Anyway, we come back from the video piece, and it's time to hear Diana's first song of the evening. She's chosen to start off with "I Believe", and I'm interested to hear if this Tamyra Gray-written (or co-written, actually) song will be a good showcase for our finalists' voices. After hearing only a few bars of the song, I decide that it is. Of course, it doesn't break any new ground musically, and it's chock full of clichés, but it is IMO leaps and bounds ahead of "Raindrops Will Fall," the other song written by Tamyra that we've already heard twice this season. Anyway, Diana starts the song out surrounded by a gospel choir, and I'm suddenly having flashbacks to last season's Ruben/Clay finale. The song starts off slow, and there are a couple of instances where Diana sound either weak or off altogether (or both), especially with some of the deeper notes. It isn't long, though, before the song hits its stride. The gospel choir chimes in, and they start doing this weird dance to the beat of the music. It's actually not a dance per se; it's more like the creatures from Night Of The Living Dead walking en masse towards their next victim. Anyway, Diana goes for the power notes with all that she's got, and she nails them with ease. She doesn't shot out her usual "Come on, y'all!", but she does get to hold a couple of notes for what seems like an eternity, another of her trademarks. The song slows down at the very end, and, once again, Diana sounds a bit off to me. Except for the very beginning and very end, though, it's a great performance by Diana, and it's an exceptional way to start the show. Do the judges like what they hear? Randy says, "You worked it out, dude. You worked it out." Paula adds, "I feel like a proud parent watching you up there, Diana. That was a stunning performance. Great job." Finally, Simon tells Diana, "There's no doubt you sang it really, really well. My only problem is that you're 16 years old. That sounds like a 50-year-old should be singing it." Sheesh…what is it with Simon and the age thing?
We come back the commercial break, and it's time to hear from Fantasia for the first time tonight. Rather than sing "I Believe" at this point (like Diana did), Ryan tells us that Fantasia will be singing the R&B hit "All My Life". Now, I like both this song and Fantasia a lot, but even I'm not sure if the combination of the two will be a match made in heaven or not. Because the song is a ballad, it's a "subdued Fantasia" performance, and Fantasia has turned in some outstanding subdued performances this season ("Summertime" and "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?" to name two), and she also made some bad song choices IMO ("Holding Out For A Hero", anyone?). What happens this time? Well, I have to say that Miss Barrino turns in a sub-par performance this time around. It's not that she sounds bad; I just think it was a bad song choice on her part. She even manages to work her trademark "yeah yeah yeahhhhhhh" into the song, and that doesn't help at all. What do the judges think? Randy says, "Yo, yo. I did not the musical arrangement at all, but you still made something of it." Paula tells Fantasia, "This is where you stand out. You take a mediocre musical arrangement and grab the audience in a choke hold and say, 'listen up'." Simon says, "Fantasia, you're very lucky you're singing more than one song tonight. Honestly, I think it was a complete mess." I wouldn't say the performance was a "complete mess", but I do think it was not one of Fantasia's best at all. Round 1 goes to Diana.
Rather than go into another commercial break after Fantasia's first performance, we already ready to hear Diana's second performance of the evening. She's chosen to sing "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)"—one of the songs she performed during Disco Week—one more time. OK, so if they can resurrect songs they've already sung this season, I'm thinking that Fantasia would be a fool not to give the audience a chance to hear her interpretation of "Summertime" one more time. Not only that, but I can also see her singing that as her final song of the night and letting that performance be the one that is fresh in the viewing public's minds when they start calling in those votes. But, back to Diana…"No More Tears" was one of her better performances (IMO), so if she can perform the song as well this time around as she did before, she should really be in good shape going into the final song of the night. She starts off the song seated on the steps at the edge of the stage, just like she did during Disco Week, but it isn't long before she's up on her feet and shouting out her trademark "Come on y'all" to the audience. A Solid Gold dancer she will never be, but Diana handles some new choreography with ease, and she is all over the stage during the performance. Is this performance as good as when she sang it a couple of weeks ago? Well, despite some subtle differences, I would say that it is just as good as, if not perhaps a bit better, than the first time she sang it. Do the judges agree? Randy tells Diana, "You are singing your face off. You are singing your face off. I'm proud of you." Paula adds a simple, "Ditto. Good job." Simon concludes with, "You sang it really well. You came here to win tonight."
We come back from another break, and Ryan tells us that, for her second performance, Fantasia has decided to also sing a song she's already done on the show. Which song is it? Well, the song is "Summertime", but she's chosen to sing it at this point rather than at the end. Interesting decision, since I think to end with "Summertime" could have been a real show-stopper. But, I'm not Fantasia (and y'all should be glad…I've tried to do the Bobo, and trust me…it's not pretty), so I can't explain her decision. Anyway, Fantasia starts out this performance on the floor, just like she did last time. She looks great in her red dress, and the performance is just as great. When Fantasia releases her first CD, I wouldn't be surprised to see this one on the song list. Anyway, the judges absolutely raved about her rendition of the song back during Movie Week. What do they think this time? Randy says, "Yo. The show just began. Fantasia is back. That was like a master class in singing, dude." Paula tells her, "You showed you'll never bore the audience when you reinvent yourself." Um, yeah…whatever, Paula. Simon concludes with, "We are seen in XXX number of countries by XXX number of people, and I can now say something to you that I've wanted to say for a very long time. You are the best contestant we've ever had in any competition." Wow…as for what the judges think of the performance, I think it's pretty safe to say that they liked it. Round 2 goes to Fantasia.
We come back from yet another commercial break, and we're down to the final chance for our remaining divas to impress us. Once again, it's Diana's turn to sing, and, for her final song, she's chosen to do the Melissa Manchester hit "Don't Cry Out Loud" one more time. When she sang this just two weeks ago, there were many who thought that performance was what secured her a spot in tonight's finale. Can she knock it out of the park one more time? As Diana begins the song, the sound quality seems a bit distorted to me—almost like Diana is singing through a toilet paper roll or something—and this does not bode well. I'm not sure what it is, but something happens about midway through the performance that causes Diana to go badly off-key, and she just never does recover. Once again, she is able to hold the final note for an unbelievably long time, but this is one occasion where I wish she wouldn't, as the ending is just awful. As Diana finishes to thunderous applause from the audience, I can't help but notice the irony in the last line she sings: "…and if you should fall, remember you almost had it all." Did the judges didn't hear all the mistakes? Randy tells Diana, "That was weak in the beginning. Somewhere in the middle, you fell apart. That was very pitchy for me." Paula says, "Something happened in the middle there. Oh well…you're still wonderful." Simon, never one to mince words, concludes with, "Diana, you had one last chance to nail this competition, and you just didn't do it." Um, yeah…I think the judges heard all the mistakes.
It's time for the final performance of the evening, and it's Fantasia's turn to sing "I Believe". She got the same gospel choir backing her, and that, combined with the song itself, is a natural fit for her. She looks great once again (this time in green), and she sounds even better. Because of the gospel flavor of the song, Fantasia is able to perform it as if it were written specifically for her. She hits all the power notes with ease, and she is understated and subdued when she needs to be. I still think that "Summertime" is her best performance, but this one runs a close (a very close) second in my book. The applause from the audience is so loud, that Randy has trouble being heard over their reaction. Nevertheless, he tries, and he tells Fantasia, "Brilliant…brilliant…brilliant ." Paula says, "That is what it's all about. This is your night, Fantasia. I am looking at the American Idol up there." Finally, Simon tells Fantasia, "Fantasia, that was your acceptance speech just now. That was superb." By this point, Fantasia is in tears, and members of the audience (including some of this season's former finalists) are in tears as well. As the saying goes, I think it's all over but the cryin', and I imagine that Diana is backstage in tears as well, but for a very different reason. Round 3 goes to Fantasia. Anyway, Ryan meets Fantasia at center stage, and we get to see clips of tonight's performances, along with reminders of each finalist's phone numbers, one more time. Then, before the show closes, Ryan announces that there is one more special guest. He brings out Paul Anka, who retools the lyrics to his "My Way" to reflect this season's American Idol competition. Frankly, I could have done without that major slice of cheese, but I'm not the producer of the show. Besides, hasn't he been on the show and done this on a season finale before?
Well, all that's it. Another season of American Idol is in the books. The results may be a forgone conclusion to many at this point, but I certainly wouldn't bet the farm on it. I mean, we've sure had some surprises this season, so anything could happen on the finale. There are some questions that still need to be answered, though. For one thing, what possessed Amy Adams to dye her hair jet black? Wrong, Amy…just wrong. Secondly, why did Jennifer Hudson feel the need to look like Pimp Daddy Mac in her black and pink pinstripe suit and pint fedora? (Hey…pink and black…maybe Diana should have worn that…)? We may never know the answers to those questions, but one thing we will know is that by the end of Wednesday evening's show, we'll have a new American Idol!
Until then…Lobeck out!
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