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From The Scrivener’s point of view…
Lee kicked off the night with The Boxer. He actually seemed pretty relaxed to me when he took the stage, but I watching him in person, I was struck by how stiff and uncomfortable he still looks onstage. I think you don’t see it as much on tv, but it was like he was trying to make himself very skinny and small on this whole stage. He was a bit pitchy in places–you know, I hate that word and they use it all the time. I mean can’t we just say “off-key”? I suppose there’s a difference between “pitchy” and “off-key” but either way, it’s that “not quite right” feel. Anyway, I was surprised watching it at home because he actually sounded a lot better in the theater than he did at home. Sitting in the audience, we couldn’t see the judge’s faces, so it was actually pretty hard to hear what the judges were saying, but it was very clear that they shook his confidence with their remarks.
Crystal then came out and sang Me and Bobby McGee, and I was thrilled about her choice. Her performance set her tone for the night and let me tell you, she was on fire. She hit every note perfectly. In fact, with the noise level of the equipment, she left our ears ringing after every song. Her confidence level was perfect–she went out and sang like she’d already won. One thing that surprised me was that she’s much shorter and smaller than I thought she was. Ryan Seacrest, however, is exactly as small and short as I thought he was. I was pleased he was on his best behavior, although the worst of him really only comes out at the results show.
Lee came back out for his second performance of Everybody Hurts. While I thought that this was a good choice for him, he looked shaken to me, like he hadn’t quite recovered from the first performance. It had to be extremely stressful for them because he finished performing, ran offstage, changed, and was in front of the microphone again in minutes. Once again, for this song the stage seemed too big for him. I thought he really stepped up his game vocally with this performance, but again it wasn’t perfect. Song 2 was better than Song 1, but his Song 2 wasn’t better than Crystal’s Song 1.
When Seacrest announced that Crystal would be singing Black Velvet I was a bit worried because that song is so overdone. You hear it at every karaoke bar and probably every third or fourth person auditioning for American Idol. Still, Crystal managed to hit it out of the ballpark again. Having her descend the staircase was a bad idea, really. She didn’t look comfortable doing it, and she looked like she thought she was going to fall any second now. I think the staircase descent can be a great dramatic move for, like, Scarlett O’Hara, but not for Crystal. Despite that, she did a fabulous job and left our ears ringing again.
When Lee dashed on for his third song, I felt kinda bad that he was on the same show as Crystal tonight. Had he been up against anyone else he would have really stood out, but Crystal was kicking his butt all the way around. We were very confused when he started singing Beautiful Day, since we were all expecting some awkward and forgettable written-for-American-Idol swan song like they’ve done in previous seasons. It occurred to me walking out of the theater that they probably picked final songs that people would really want to buy should the contestant win. I mean seriously, can you imagine either Lee or Crystal up there singing “A Moment Like This”??? Or that horrible No Boundaries song from last year? Anyway, glad to hear Lee doing something different, but the song was way too big for him. Well no, I won’t say that. I’ll say the performance was way too big for him. The whole stage and backup music and singers and the whole ensemble, it’s like Lee just got swallowed up. I think this was the one performance that was the most different in person than on tv. In person you really couldn’t understand what he was singing, but on tv they toned down the background music a ton. I guess that can cut both ways, as in Lee’s second song, which sounded a lot more pitchy on tv with the background music toned down. I didn’t think it was a strong finish for Lee at all. He looked exhausted before he even started singing, and utterly defeated afterwards. Yikes.
Crystal’s final song was Up to the Mountain, which I loved. I thought she was uh-may-zing performing this one. Absolutely. I’d buy that record. I’ll probably buy whatever record she makes. Once again, she sang like she’d already won and the effect was chilling. The volume level was so high, however, many people actually had their fingers in their ears, and honestly mine are still ringing. Thank goodness she was pitch-perfect on all of those notes. I was very glad they got her off the staircase too. She did a fabulous job.
My vote for American Idol goes to Crystal, but I don’t think she’s actually going to win. I think the Lee fans will overlook tonight’s weak parts and come out in droves. But it may even be better for Crystal if she doesn’t win, since she’ll have more control over who she signs with for her future albums. Either way, both are going to be extremely successful.
It’s probably not too early to put your name on the waiting list for American Idol tickets next season!
Adding: Congratulations to our winner, Lee!