Fine, I'll say it: this year's American Idol
finale was underwhelming. I don't know what to blame. Is it the way the season progressed this year? Is it the final two and their singer-songwriter backgrounds? (No, I do not begrudge them that.) Is it because, unlike the past two seasons, there isn't a real sense of competition? That most of us will be happy whoever wins, unlike before where you were either on, say, Team Cook or Team Archuleta?
Whatever it is, it made choosing this week's best and worst performances a challenge. I should've seen it coming: we are still looking for a real moment this season, and none of the final six performances had that impact. But they were good (and bad) for completely different reasons. That, or we just stopped caring. Which brings us to the final batch of bests and worsts for the season:
Best of the finale: Crystal Bowersox's "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)"
While the judges were hell-bent on seeing Crystal's range over the past two weeks, I'm yearning for the Crystal we saw at the very beginning: subtle, soulful and in control. Her first performance sounded a bit strained, oddly. The second performance could've been good, but it was lost in all that range. The third -- this, her take on Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain" -- reintroduced us to that Crystal in the first weeks of the season, only better and more confident. Here's someone who's ready for the big leagues -- and is willing to fight to get there. Applause.
Worst of the finale: Lee Dewyze's "Beautiful Day"
It was a toss-up between this and his take on "Everybody Hurts," but the difference was in the song choice. While Lee was drowned out on "Everybody Hurts," it actually suited his common man sensibilities, and the relate-able qualities in his voice lent well to this. On "Beautiful Day," however, it was as if Lee was convincing himself that things would go well when clearly they weren't. He tried to soar but consistently fell, because that song was just too big for him.
(Image courtesy of FOX)