I have an Idol confession to make, friends: Even though Crystal Bowersox deserves to win American Idol tomorrow, I'm hoping she doesn't. It's a dilemma I've been struggling with as a Crystal fan all season. In fact, during Crystal's multi-week slump, I found myself actively hoping she'd go the way of Chris Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson: Eliminated too early for how talented she is, but soon enough in the competition that she could easily outgrow the label of "former American Idol contestant." On the one hand, the most consistent contestant of a disappointing season deserves to be rewarded for making season 9 bearable. And on the other, a win would take Crystal away from the kind of artist she clearly wants to be: an original and her own woman.
Before both Crystal and Lee fans start calling for my head on a platter, let me explain my logic. First, why does Crystal deserve to win American Idol
? Well, because she can sing on key live. It sounds cruel and simple, but Crystal has proved week after week she can deliver the goods live, while Lee has only just begun to do so during the final weeks of the competition. Call me a cold-hearted cynic or a technical perfectionist, but I'll take consistency over a pleasing story arc of growth any day. Because once American Idol
is over, people aren't buying tickets to your shows because you improved so much since your first nervous performance; they're buying tickets because they're guaranteed to see a good concert.
But it's more than Lee's pitch problems that make Crystal the worthiest winner this season. Crystal also offers something unique as an artist, while I can turn on modern rock radio and hear at least two artists who sound nearly identical to Lee. In stark comparison, Crystal sounds like few current artists with a voice and style that hearkens back to some of the greatest female artists of the 20th century: Janis Joplin, Tracy Chapman and Bonnie Raitt. While Lee's rocker growl is in vogue now, the artists that Crystal's talent evokes are timeless.
And while all that is said and true and Crystal has certainly earned a win come tomorrow night, part of me still hopes she won't, mostly because if she is declared the next American Idol
, Crystal won't be allowed to be the artist she is meant to be. If she wins American Idol
, Crystal will be doomed to perform someone else's songs. And based on her emotional reaction to hearing her own song on American Idol
last week, that clearly isn't what Crystal is most interested in.
Last but not least, I don't want Crystal to win, because she doesn't need the win nearly as much as Lee does to get her career started. Whether Crystal is crowned the winner tomorrow night or not, she has a career ahead of her, one that would probably benefit more from being an Idol
loser than a winner. Crystal has thrived during this season as an "outsider" and being victorious would take that away from her. Lee, on the other hand, needs
to win American Idol
. If he doesn't, it's safe to think that Lee will be forgotten come the end of summer by everyone but his most devout fans. Without the victors' glow or the press that comes with it, he'll have just been another likable guy with a guitar that came up short when it mattered most. If Lee does win, with the grooming and help of record producers and a bullpen of songwriters, he just might be able to have a successful career off the Idol
And that, my fellow Idol
watchers, is a serious conundrum and why you'll find me hoping that tomorrow night the most deserving contestant doesn't walk away with the crown.(Image courtesy of FOX)