This season's Idol finale may be too close to call. You have someone in Crystal Bowersox who was a season-long favorite for a long time until Lee DeWyze swooped in late to become the top dog going into the finale. Will the former dark horse turned favorite use the momentum to propel himself into victory, or will that momentum turn into backlash that will again shift favor to the now-underdog Crystal?
To try to gauge who could take this competition, let's look at how they stacked up against each other each week. I did this the previous two seasons, and the season 7 finalist with the most "winning" weeks, did indeed win (I had Season 8 at a dead heat).
Crystal - Hand In Pocket, Lee - Chasing Cars
Lee picked a modern song, one that happens to be one of my favorites of all-time. Crystal picked what ended up being one of her few modern(ish) songs. Song choice definitely went to Lee, but song performance definitely went to Crystal, who sang it well and showed strong musicianship by playing both guitar and harmonica. Lee veered too far from the melody at the chorus, and the song didn't quite fit his raspy vocals.
Round 1 - Crystal
Crystal - As Long As I Can See The Light, Lee - Lips Of An Angel
Lee's goodwill from picking Chasing Cars went away in a hurry when he picked freakin' HINDER. This just made me think he's another Nickelback clone, and that's the last thing in the world I want inflicted on my ears. And to make matters worse, his performance quality was horrible. He looked he was going to throw up right then and there. The fear totally took over. Crystal had every right to be afraid during her performance, since she was coming off her hospital scare, but she nailed it vocally.
Round 2 - Crystal
Crystal - Give Me One Reason, Lee - Fireflies
This is a song that played to Crystal's strengths, and she did a good job with it. Lee chose wisely, picking a song that wasn't hard to improve upon (I. Hate. Fireflies). And his arrangement was better the original, but not the best. His vocals were too nasal for me.
Round 3 - Crystal
Crystal - You Can't Always Get What You Want, Lee - Beast of Burden
Crystal was the best of the night during Rolling Stones week. Lee had one of the better vocals on a mediocre night, but he was singing out of his throat, and his held notes were painful.
Round 4 - Crystal
Crystal - Me & Bobby McGee, Lee - The Letter
This was one of the worst episodes of the entire Idol series, but Crystal more or less saved the show with her song. I thought she was great, but it was right around this time I started thinking she needed to change things up a bit because she was doing the same kind of thing every week. I thought Lee looked quite a bit uncomfortable without his guitar and sounded a bit like Gokey with some raspy warbling in the choruses.
Round 5 - Crystal
Crystal - Midnight Train To Georgia, Lee - Treat Her Like A Lady
This was Lee's first real big "star" performance, and Simon told him "this is the night that your life may have changed forever." So this is really where the wheels were set in motion for the massive pimpage that was to come. Much was made about Crystal really changing things up, but that just ended up being her wearing a tight dress, stilettos and playing a little piano instead of guitar.
Round 6 - Lee
Crystal - Come Together, Lee - Hey Jude
Or the didgeridoo vs. the bagpipes. Both performances were overshadowed by the outrageousness of the instruments they brought on board, especially Lee's. Crystal's was more fitting with her performance, while Lee's was ridiculously out of place. Both had problems with the singing as well. Crystal flubbed words, while Lee pussed out on all the high notes.
Round 7 - Crystal
Top 9, part 2
Crystal - Saved, Lee - A Little Less Conversation
Crystal showed more life than usual while tearing up this bluesy, rock number, while Lee slowed down his song a bit, giving his performance more of a sleepy feel. Wasn't feeling Lee's arrangement or lack of showmanship.
Round 8 - Crystal
Crystal - People Get Ready, Lee - The Boxer
This was Crystal's big "moment". It was really the first time she let down her guard and showed vulnerability, breaking down and crying at the end. This was lauded as one of the best Idol performances of all-time (a little hyperbolic, imo). Lee also had a very good performance, but this was definitely Crystal's week.
Round 9 - Crystal
Crystal - No One Needs To Know, Lee - You're Still The One
Not the finest week for either of them. They were both outdone by Casey James and Big Mike. Heck, they were even outdone by Aaron Kelly this week. Crystal sounded good but picked such a dull song and then got mouthy with the judges. Lee tinkered with the melody too much, had weird phrasing and veered in and out of tune.
Round 10 - Crystal
Crystal - Summer Wind, Lee - That's Life
This was the real start of the momentum shift towards Lee. Crystal's song once again was a bit dull, and I didn't feel much of a connection from her. She sounded lovely, but it felt to me like she just sang it. That's it. And then she got defensive again with the judges, which is always a big turnoff for me unless the judges were being unreasonable, which they weren't. Lee owned this night in a big way, finally actually performing and adding excellent vocals to boot.
Round 11 - Lee
Crystal - I'm Alright, Lee - Kiss From A Rose; Duet - Falling Slowly
Since they sang Falling Slowly together, neither gets an advantage there. The solo round definitely went to Crystal, who put an interesting spin on that crappy Kenny Loggins song. Lee's Kiss from a Rose was horrible and painfully out of tune.
Round 12 - Crystal
Crystal - Come To My Window, Maybe I'm Amazed; Lee - Simple Man, Hallelujah
The judges practically anointed Lee the winner in this episode, and while he was the best that night, the over-the-top gushing (epic performance, Kara? WAT?) over that manufactured Hallelujah moment was disgusting (Simple Man was way better than Hallelujah, IMO). Crystal sounded rough on her two songs, particularly on some of those shrieky high notes in Maybe I'm Amazed. Her arrangement for Come To My Window was a bit all over the place too.
Round 13 - Lee
So in 13 rounds, the total for me goes:
Crystal - 10
Lee - 3
Ummm ... yeah. Crystal was the most consistent amongst the entire cast the whole season. If you're voting based on body of work, she wins hands down. Sure, Lee has come on strong, winning two of the last three weeks, but in one of those three weeks, he was probably the worst of the week. Crystal's consistency, though, could be one of her downfalls, as Idol viewers tend to reward those who show improvement throughout the year. Crystal started out great so there wasn't much room to grow, whereas Lee started out uncomfortable and pitchy and became less so as the show went on.
Because I don't trust these judges, I'm on the fence about where I think their motives are with this OTT Lee pimping lately. Are they just throwing their eggs into his basket because he's leading the votes by such a wide margin that they don't want to look foolish? Or were they being OTT because Lee needed the votes to get past Casey? Or are they just trying to salvage ratings by making this appear to be a close finale? OR are they trying to make Crystal the underdog all of a sudden because that's who has won the last two seasons? I'm thinking the latter. It is supposed to be the girls' year, after all.