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May. 26 2010 - 10:36 am | 576 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

‘American Idol’ recap: Crystal Bowersox reanimates for one last haymaker

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 13: (BOOK  Contestant ...

Image by Getty Images North America via @daylife

What’s more surprising about last night’s “American Idol” performance finale …

1. That the normally steady, almost stoic, Crystal Bowersox dropped her emotional guard at just the right moment and gave some of her most vulnerable and connected performances of the season?

2. That the normally idiotic, pedantic and condescending judge Kara DioGuardi was actually correct when she pointed out the above? or…

3. That the normally insipid, saccharine and unlistenable AOR single the “AI” champion is forced to sing and release has been dropped this season in favor of a cover of an actual, successful song?

I’m voting for all three…

Let’s take them one at a time:

1. Last week it looked like the fix was in… That while fans and critics (including yours truly) have been saying for weeks that Crystal is clearly the most talented performer “Idol” has seen in years (perhaps ever), the show was putting all its showcraft, staging and power behind the upstart Lee Dewyze, the humble paint store clerk whose rags to riches story would fit the “Idol” fantasy factory more perfectly. Add in the fact that Crystal seemed to be in cruise control the last few weeks — delivering solid, but not inspiring, performances — and you had the makings for an upset.

My brother, in an e-mail, likened the inevitable final showdown to the 2008 Democratic nomination battle (yes, this is what my family discusses):

MamaSox is the Hillary Clinton of “Idol;” the presumed favorite and a strong contender with a strong base… but she never expanded her base. Lee’s the upstart Obama with a trajectory that has slowly overtaken her. It’s not so much his humble roots, as the fact that he’s clearly grown and people love that and there’s this sense of building momentum, which people like and it becomes self-fulfilling.

But those theories got blown out of the water last night, as MamaSox reasserted her control of the show. “Idol” did its best to slow her down — really, executive producer Simon Fuller? did you really make Crystal sing Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet”? It’s a terrible song; overdone, over-used and evocative of a musical period we’d all like to forget. Judge Simon Cowell put it best when he said he was “almost allergic to that song” having heard it done so many times — and poorly — in eight previous seasons of “Idol” auditions. Still, Crystal made it work, using her vocal alchemy to turn that piece of coal into, if not quite gold, at least costume jewelry.

Crystal early on admitted she’d never watched “Idol” in the past and that she never really wanted to try out for it — but with a son to care for, she finally thought she’d take a shot at winning the record contract that “Idol” dangles in front of contestants. She has the voice, the musical chops, the humble personality — but her strictly practical motivations for entering the competition, coupled with a fish-out-of-water look in her eyes during some of the show’s more teeny-bopper/up-with-people moments made her seem alien to the proceedings… almost aloof sometimes. But for a woman who once excused her emotional distance on the “Idol” stage by saying “I have a lot on my mind,” Crystal finally put all the parts together and got over her own self-restraint for her last song, Patty Griffin’s “Up to the Mountain,” which had enough country, soul and churchy-grit to win over a wide swath of fans, while also displaying just enough vocal pyrotechnics to show off a bit, but not too much.

Lee, who had just stumbled his way through U2’s “Beautiful Day” should have started packing up his locker at that moment. Lee’s story now matches that of a Cinderella story NFL team. Like last season’s New York Jets, he got hot at the right time and rode a wave of momentum deep into the playoffs… and than ran into Peyton Manning in the championship game and got hosed.

2. Kara DioGuardi is moronic and patronizing to all the contestants. The fact that she was right last night about Crystal only makes me hate her more.

3. No more tepid, uplifting pseudo-joyful “Idol” song for the eventual winner! If Crystal wins, her first single will be “Up to the Mountain” and Lee’s will be “Beautiful Day” if he wins. What a wonderful, delightful, very special slap in the face to Kara, who co-wrote last year’s God-awful “No Boundaries” (yes… “co-wrote”… it took three people to write that piece of crap).

Of all the changes “Idol” has made this year, that has got to be the best — it means the winner will release a decent song this summer, and it means a professional blow to Kara DioGuardi, of which I’m always in favor.


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