The annoying thing about last night's American Idol is that of the three remaining contestants, two are in a close race with the third lagging so far behind that no one's pretending he's got a chance. I'm talking, of course, about Casey. His two performances last night were both average, and even when giving him faint praise, the judges couldn't move much past wishing him well and telling him to continue in the direction he's going. This is all going to come down to a showdown between Lee and Crystal. We just have to wait a week out of formality.
Everybody did two songs: one they picked and one assigned by the judges. The contestants' picks were performed in the top half of the show, followed in the bottom half by brief videos of their trips home -- always with the AT&T store sign prominently in the background -- where they received texts on their AT&T phones and announced to fans what the judges' song choices were. It was a not very interesting way to reveal the tunes, but I'm sure the results episode will be padded with more trip footage.
Casey chose "OK, It's Alright With Me," by Eric Hutchinson, and the song came out sounding like Huey Mraz. Kara and Randy assigned him to sing John Mayer's "Daughters," which was hilarious if only because Kara had spent the season asking Casey for more vocal range and then vigorously defended her decision to give him a song with limited number of notes. You could tell in Casey's eyes as he wrapped his second song that he knew he wouldn't win.
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Crystal chose "Come to My Window," which the judges rightly said was a bit too obvious a choice, though she sang it fine. Ellen assigned her to perform "Maybe I'm Amazed," which is where Crystal actually stepped it up and gave her best non-instrument-playing performance of the season. She knows she's gotta keep Lee at bay, so at least she's not giving up.
However, Lee ran away with the night. After building momentum for weeks, he struck hard with "Simple Man" and "Hallelujah." The classic rock was a nice choice and showed he's willing, unlike Casey, to choose older songs when it's crunch time. The arrangement of "Hallelujah" was a bit overheated -- why the hell they needed timpani is beyond me -- but just the kind of stereotypically swelling number he needed at this point in the competition to possibly win it all. Of course, the fact that Simon assigned him the song is no coincidence. His company owns the rights to the song, meaning Simon will pocket even more from the money earned from fans downloading Lee's cover or the originals. Not a bad night's work, guy.
Based on this week, I say Casey goes home and Lee wins it all, but with this show, you never know.