Lord, this show. I wonder if anyone else out there misses Skiiboski. So, it’s Top 3! We’re all separated into teams with colors and mascots, and fight songs now, right? No? Nah. But we do know these kids well enough to let them say “This … is American Idol,” and that’s something.
As Seacrest so helpfully reminds us, tonight the finale is on the line. These three are each fighting for a spot at the Nokia theater, and the fast track to that all-important confetti shower. Top 3 night is the night to bring it, to let your artistry flag fly, to let the jam all hang out. This is the week that has given us such touchstones of awesomeness as Bo Bice’s mesmerizing “In a Dream,” and Kris Allen’s magnetic “Heartless.” This week rules! Oh, but I forgot; this is Season 9, so really you should disregard all that stuff I just said and instead prepare for more of that particular Season 9 flavor. It tastes something like water.
Casey’s Not In Right Now; Please Leave a Message After the Tone
Casey James and his trademark spiral curls are inaugurating the evening in an insurance salesman blue blazer, so you can forget all about him by the time the Crystal and Lee show begins. Ryan asks about his song choice – some song by some guy called “Okay, It’s All Right with Me – and Casey stumbles around a statement of this being a song like the ones he writes.
So now you know Casey writes kind of grooving blues-rock things that never go anywhere. There’s little differentiation between verse and refrain, no dynamic shift, and a three note melody. It’s so much of a non-event that when he finishes, the audience doesn’t even realize the song’s done. There’s a palpable pause before they start screaming and applauding. I found that hilarious. Poor guy. I don’t know if this is him giving up, or just having FUN! or whatever, but it was a sinking stone at the top of this night.
And the judges agree. Randy takes the low-hanging fruit of riffing on the song’s title (“Okay, it was kind of just all right for me…”); Ellen chastises him for not making a moment and tosses a bunch of pat phrases at him, while trying to remember if it’s righty-tighty and lefty-loosey. Kara is irrelevant. Simon wants to regain his analogy crown and so says Casey’s performance was like the salad course, and hopefully there’s meat to come later. Yeah, I’ve been spoiled, so I wouldn’t bet on it.
Crystal’s harmonica rig is back, and it’ll be accompanying her as she sings … wait for it … “Come to My Window.” Smack dab in the middle of her comfort one, and so necessarily smack dab in the middle of things that will be dull on a night like this. I love you Crystal, but if we don’t start doing things to keep our relationship fresh, we’re going to lose the spice. I think I just got my metaphors mixed, but anyway, I’m saying let’s cook up something better next time.
Because this goes down like warmed over tuna casserole. I don’t feel I need to describe this. If you’ve listened to Crystal this season, you know what she sounds like singing “Come to My Window” tonight. Also there was a bar of harmonica at the beginning, and at the end. This time Randy and I disagree – he thought her singing rose above the dull arrangement. Ellen thinks Melissa would be super proud of Crystal. Kara has been calling Ellen a guy all season, and that’s weird and stupid of her. Simon believes that Crystal singing a pretty straightforward version of a Melissa Etheridge song is Crystal staying true to herself as an artist. Yeah. Crystal is just happy that she’s here and her hookah stand is here, son’s healthy. Yeah, I guess that’s all respectable stuff to be happy about.
Oh Lee. So recently, bewilderingly anointed. Ryan chats about what a “different” man Lee is now that he knows he has legions of screaming fans at home and in the studio, and then Lee rambles forever about being a simple man, thus his choice of Lynyrd Skynrd’s “Simple Man,” until even his foaming fans can no longer take the monotony. They interrupt him mid-ramble with screams of “WE LOVE YOU LEE!!” I still can’t process it.
Simple Lee the simple Paint Salesman plays his guitar and sings, and bless my soul he remains on key for I think all of it, and it’s not a half bad performance. Randy raves like he has just seen the face of God. “Brilliant song choice; I can see you having a long and illustrious career recording songs that sound just like that; you are officially going to win this competition.” Ellen compares the journey of Lee on Idol to that of a baby lamb growing up and fulfilling its destiny as a growling impala. That didn’t quite work out, but I see where she was going with it. Simon says he crushed the other two people, whatever their names are.
Now on to stuff we actually care about: judges’ picks. We get a brief preview of Casey’s hometown footage as he learns that Randy and Kara have chosen John Mayer’s “Daughters” as the song that will eliminate him from the competition. The crowd tries to be enthusiastic, and Casey tries to help by reminding them that Mayer means he’ll play the guitar, but it’s rough going.
So too the actual performance. I mean, what do you do with this song? Who can make this master class in sleazy self-interest sound like a sincere plea on behalf of women and girls everywhere? Casey James cannot. Also, it’s dull. His voice is good though. Very little vibrato. Everyone is nice to him this time, because otherwise it would be too suspicious. Randy says this was streets ahead of his first outing; Ellen agrees and says mothers and daughters everywhere are all really happy right now. Kara thinks he’s an artist now, and Simon has the good grace to laugh at her idiocy before going on about how dull the song is, and there being no climactic moment in it to make people remember. Kara gets defensive, and then Simon concedes that Casey sounded very good, and they argue forever, and who cares. Vote for Casey, because this will be your last chance.
And we’re off to what’s probably Northern Ohio’s only AT&T store to watch Crystal get Ellen’s choice: Macca’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Her crowd is more believably enthused, and Crystal herself voices approval over Ellen’s pick. Ellen remarks on the song’s amazingness matching Crystal’s personal brand of amazingness, and she wanted everybody to see that.
Crystal sans guitar and mouth organ, starts on the stairs, starts the song softly, and then goes into the more familiar churchy wails. She sounds pretty good until she hits her old nemesis, improvisation, and it gets a little awkward, but she brings it back together for a smooth and pretty closing. Oh, and I like that she didn’t do the lyrical gender-switch. Labels are so twentieth century, you guys. Let’s just be free to be you and me.
“Yo, yo, great song, great vocals, you also are in it to win it!” Guess who said that. Ellen expresses awe and gratitude at Crystal’s singing the song just how she imagined. Simon was a little skeptical when he heard the song choice, but is now a convert and says Crystal has proven she has soul, and she should be thanking Ellen for putting her in the finale. Because if she’d sung anything else, they would’ve just crowned Lee the winner tonight and run three extra hours of Glee next week.
Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain
Bricka-bracka firecracka, sis-boom-bah! Lee DeWyze, superstar, rah rah rah! I’m just trying to get into the mood. Lee got his judge text in solitude on the plane, so no AT&T employees had to pretend to be thrilled about him singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Lee himself doesn’t look too thrilled about it either, but maybe I’m projecting. Simon sets us up by saying we’ve heard this song 3,000 times too many, but never like Lee is about to rock it, and he really likes Lee as a person, and that guy is about to make a friggin memory on this stage, so you just better make sure your minds are set to record.
It begins with just him and his guitar, doing kind of the Buckley version, and again he’s singing okay, kind of shouty, but with most of the right notes, and then what the hey – it’s a choir! So it turns into something more like the old school Leonard version, but with more raspy bombast and less atmosphere, and more more. The choir all in black, Lee in a white jacket, smoke, white lights, long camera shots; it was astounding, like the showstopper in a new Broadway musical. Death of a Paint Salesman.
Randy gives Simon kudos for setting up a perfect softball, and Lee also expresses similar thanks, even though he was ambivalent at first. Ellen says his performance was “stunning;” Simon is “very, very, very proud of him,” and thinks that he is the perfect example of an American Idol, and also a great person. You know now what you must do.
Whatever on the performance recap, because it doesn’t even matter. The final two are soon to be revealed! Any one of three things could happen, and I’d be lying if I said I knew which one, but I know which one I’m putting my money on. Please, please come back to hear your results straight from the font of MsFroggy’s snarky wisdom.
Next week is finally the finale! Time to place your bets on the writer of this year’s coronation tune. Odds on Kara, 500,000:1.