Photo Credit: FOX
Based solely on Tuesday night’s final sing-off, Crystal Bowersox has the American Idol title in the bag. Simon Cowell’s first-round comment to Lee DeWyze -- “That was a kiss on the cheek when I wanted a kiss on the lips” -- summed up the judges’ feeling about the shy rocker dude’s final night. Despite putting his own stamp on songs like Simon and Garfunkel’s "The Boxer" and U2’s "Beautiful Day," DeWyze didn’t seem to have the mojo that oozes from his opponent. Not in the judges’ minds, anyway. Even Ellen DeGeneres’ usual schtick (Hey, what do I know? But I think you’re great!) seemed labored.
Mama Sox, on the other hand, was swimming in the judges’ gushy praise. “That’s the Crystal we all fell in love with,” Randy Jackson announced after her retread of Janis Joplin’s "Me and Bobby McGee." Later, he declared her emotional rendition of Patty Griffin’s "Up to the Mountain" her “best performance ever.” Seriously, Bowersox does seem a shoe-in. “So Crystal won?" my 5-year-old asked me, as the episode wrapped up. Well, it sure seems that way.
But the judges aren’t really the judges, are they? That’s the beauty of Idol: When the winner is announced Wednesday night, at the end of the two-hour finale (8 p.m. ET), DeWyze could be the one with the recording contract and the carefully-planned career path. “It’s the people at home who will decide,” I told my 5-year-old.
But Wednesday’s finale, with its tributes to the departing Cowell and the appearance of surprise guests, probably won’t be a nail-biter like previous ones (season 2’s Ruben Studdard/Clay Aiken race to the finish, for example). Neither of this season’s two finalists seems especially hungry to win. Probably because, by now, everyone knows that it doesn’t really matter who wins. Several record companies are waiting in the wings to offer a lucrative contract to the runner-up, and probably to others in the top 10. Remember, some of the biggest Idol successes -- Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert -- were Idol losers.
Many fans have said that this was a lackluster season, and it certainly slipped in the ratings compared to last year. But as it comes to a close, let’s admit that it was distinctive in its own way. DeGeneres arguably succeeded in bringing a “regular fan” feel to the judging panel, and knowing that Cowell was on his way out gave this particular competition an “end of an era” feel. Sure, there was the usual silliness -- including this year’s William Hung-like quasi-celebrity, Larry "Pants on the Ground" Platt. But I think most people would agree that both Bowersox and DeWyze have been worth watching. Or at least one of them was.
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