If you watched American Idol this week, you were treated to some stand-out performances from the likes of Caleb Johnson, Alex Preston and Jena Irene, one of whom is featured in today’s music battle.
There were a few songs in the running for this battle, including “Come Together” and “Bennie and the Jets.” I almost went with the latter, but it wouldn’t have been a fair fight to pit Ben Briley against Haley Reinhart. So I ultimately went with “Falling Slowly” from Once, covered this week by Alex Preston.
Over the years, this tune has been performed a handful of times on American Idol, and even on The X Factor, during the live shows. This is one of those songs that people absolutely love and want to see done right. So let’s get right into it.
The first memorable performance was by Idol‘s Kris Allen back in season 8 (for the exact same theme: back then it was called Idols at the Movies). Kris isn’t the best singer around; he doesn’t use any vocal gimmicks to get the point across. Rather, for him, simplicity is key and I think that’s why his fans like him.
At the time, I was on the fence regarding this performance. I wasn’t all that excited about it (aside from some of the final notes). But when it comes down to it, there was nothing wrong with his voice, so I have to give him props for that. (And I ended up buying the studio track and enjoy listening to it.)
Then the following season on Idol, the same theme (Songs of the Cinema) came around again. This was the Top 4 week, which meant it was time for duets — back then, duets actually meant something, unlike in recent years where they’re only used for filler and a lot of times end up being just so-so.
But eventual winner and runner-up Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox teamed up for “Falling Slowly.” And not only did they win the duet battle that night, but they delivered one of the best performances of season 9. What else can I say, they absolutely nailed it. And what’s also fantastic is the two of them coming together created this amazing musical duo that was beautiful to listen to. (I also have this studio track, by the way.)
So far, I prefer the duet.
When it comes to Idol, the next on the list is this week with Alex Preston. But it wasn’t that long ago that another singing competition show took on the Oscar-winning song. During season 3 of The X Factor, duo Alex and Sierra were partnered with Carlito Olivero at the Top 4.
The two duets that night weren’t the best. Fans of Alex and Sierra had wanted them to perform this song. Unfortunately, they had to tack on Carlito to the mix, which ruined what would have been another standout performance by the couple. It was hard to hear Carlito at times; Sierra definitely overpowered everybody, which is okay since her voice is beautiful, especially on this number. The judges said she stole the performance, and I wholeheartedly agree.
Then we return to American Idol and Alex Preston, with Songs from the Cinema once again the theme. To me, he had one of the top three best performance of the night (up there with Caleb Johnson’s “Skyfall” and Jena Irene’s “Decode”). After picking a song last week that wasn’t completely in his wheelhouse (“I Don’t Want to Be”), he came right back to one that perfectly suited his style and the type of artist he wants to be.
He was vocally flawless and was able to connect to the song in a way that not everybody has this season. He should be applauded for that. I felt it, I really did. ‘Beautiful’ is the best word to describe this performance.
You look at all of these covers of “Falling Slowly” and all of them ended up either winning or making the finals, so Alex is most certainly in good company. (Is it a sign of things to come?)
So who wins this battle? Even though the headline says Idol vs. X Factor, it really comes down to Idol vs. Idol vs. Idol since Carlito ruined what could have been a flawless Alex and Sierra performance.
I’m also going to eliminate Kris Allen’s rendition. Like I said, it wasn’t bad or anything, but Lee/Crystal and Alex brought more feeling to theirs that it comes down to those two performances.
And this is where it gets tricky because I love both versions. It doesn’t help that I’m a fan of both Crystal and Alex, so there’s nothing to help me on that front. I’m not sure if having a second person join Crystal added to the performance or what, but something about their duet still stands out to me. And for that, I have to side with Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox for the win.
Do you have a favorite cover of “Falling Slowly”? Do you love Lee/Crystal’s and Alex’s as much as I do? Did Carlito ruin the performance for you? Vote in the poll below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
American Idol airs Wednesdays at 8pm and Thursdays at 9pm on FOX.
(Image courtesy of FOX)