Here we are at the Nokia Theater -- capacity 7,000 (at least it is for Idol). In a complete reversal of their personalities up to this point, Lee came down the aisle completely composed and casual while Crystal barely made it without falling down.
I don't know if it's just because I've been so down on this season all along, but it seemed like there was less fanfare and build up than usual. I seem to remember there being more emphasis on the "battle". Oh well. Here we go. I'm going to dispense with the number grades for each performance and just call a winner for each round (even though Simon wussed out this year and didn't do it).
Lee DeWyze (The Boxer) -- Was there any doubt at all about which song Lee would be reprising here? Still, I'm not sure it was the best idea. First, this was probably his most memorable performance. It can be hard to measure up the second time around. Just ask Diana Degarmo (Don't Cry Out Loud) and even Kris Allen and Adam Lambert. The both did very good jobs with their repeats (Ain't No Sunshine and Mad World), but because they reprised such big moments the redos didn't seem quite as special. Also, he broke down while singing this song in his hometown visit so it could prove difficult for him.
So, it seems like a cleaner vocal than the first time he performed it, but apparently he had to sacrifice all the emotion and feeling to get it. Isn't that what they call a Pyrrhic victory?
I don't quite understand how Randy can say in one breath that it was a great way to start the night and then in the next say that it lacked energy. Simon hit it dead on with his comment about the lack of passion.
Crystal Bowersox (Me and Bobby McGee) -- Everything I said about Lee's choice above could apply here. And it seemed like it might at the beginning of the song, but then she blew it out the box once she got into it. It helped her a little that she originally performed this early on in the season so it wasn't quite as fresh as The Boxer was for Lee. But more importantly, she didn't hold anything back and she sounded great.
No question, round one goes to Crystal.
Lee DeWyze (Everybody Hurts) -- Great song choice. I love this song and I think it's a good fit for Lee. Plus, I'm virtually certain it's never been done on Idol before. First off, I hate the arrangement. Just once I'd like to see him go sparse with all the extras and just give us one of those really personal performances that Idol moments are really made of. I'm not sure if he doesn't think he can pull that off vocally or if it is just not something he ever thinks to do, but there was way too much going on that was distracting from what should be more of a plaintive cry than a shout from the rooftops.
I don't know how Simon thought telling him to focus on how important the night is was going to make him less nervous. He basically said, I want you to go backstage and think about how you're screwing up the most important night of your life. Then come out and be amazing. Sure. No problem.
Crystal Bowersox (Black Velvet) -- Well, this shouldn't be too much of a problem for Crystal. I mean, even Nikki McKibbin did a decent job with this song. OMG. Those heels are ridiculous. How is she going to get down those stairs. Very awkwardly and carefully apparently. And who told her that dress was flattering? It was definitely a smart move to do a song without the guitar and probably the middle song was the best strategic choice. I mostly liked this performance, except I thought the last "Black Velvet" was awfully shrill. Other than that, good job.
Well, Lee is going to have to do something spectacular for his last song, because, just like round one, round two is all Crystal.
Lee DeWyze (Beautiful Day) -- As if he wasn't having a difficult enough night, let's make him sing a song where he has to be compared to Bono. I just feel sorry for him this round. This didn't start good AT ALL. He got more comfortable toward the latter part of the song, but this was not his best night. His last two songs were great songs built for dramatic performances and he somehow managed to make them both drama-free zones. The arrangement, again, didn't help.
They tried to be nice to him all night, but it was obvious that they didn't think he had a very good night. They just kept talking about how he improved over the course of the season. Only Kara was willing to call a spade a spade and say the song swallowed him up.
Crystal Bowersox (Up to the Mountain) -- Wow.
It took 77 performances, but we finally had a real (uncontrived or manipulated) Idol moment. Crystal sang it best, "It's been a long time comin."
And to underscore how exceptional it was, Randy -- yes, Randy -- summed it up best: "This was one of the greatest performances and one of your best moments, at the perfect time." Well said, RJ.
Before I finish, I want to say that if there has been one thing Crystal was lacking during a lot of this season, it was a demonstration that she appreciated how monumental this opportunity was. But when she was stumbling over her thanks to Simon and then bumbling through her final remarks, it was obvious that she was finally overcome by the moment. And that's something I've been waiting to see from her for a long time.
That round was not even close. A total knock out by Crystal. I really don't know who's going to end up winning tomorrow night, but there's not a doubt in my mind who SHOULD win.
What about you? Do you agree with me? Or do you think Lee did enough to take home the crown?