I’m actually really excited about the “American Idol” finale this year. Both Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox, the final two, are headed for big music fame as far as I’m concerned. All along I’ve been rooting for Mamasox, but on Tuesday night Lee changed my mind. After the jump, why I think he’s going to take the title.Lee is one of those contestants who started off in the minor leagues, vocally and performance-wise, and ended up in the majors. I noticed him and liked him throughout the season. I mean, how couldn’t you like a humble paint store clerk from Chicago? But I always found him to be a bit too Dave Matthews-esque for my taste and maybe even a little bit boring and predictable. We don’t really need another jam rocker on the scene. However, when he busted out “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel a few weeks back, he got my attention. He had evolved. He was suddenly less run of the mill and more one of a kind. A singer-songwriter with some depth, grit and confidence.
Meanwhile, Crystal has been killing it week after week. My favorite performance of hers was “People Get Ready.” On Tuesday, she made a couple of errors that I believe will cost her the “AI” title. She sang the Melissa Etheridge song “Come to my Window” and didn’t sing it as well as Melissa. A big mistake on the “Idol” stage. She kind of busted up my fantasy of her being better than Melissa. She’s not. And then when she sang Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” she distracted me from her amazing vocal performance by not changing the lyrics. “Maybe I’m a man, maybe I’m a lonely man in the middle of something”: I’m sorry, but it took me out of the moment. On the other hand, Lee did everything right on Tuesday. He did a no-frills version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man,” which made me think of him as sexy for the first time and then he had his “American Idol moment” this season with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
That was when I knew he would win. He took a song that has been done a bajillion times on “Idol,” even once already this season, and a bajillion more times by professional artists, and he did it better than all of them. We already know who Crystal is; she’s Janis Joplin incarnate. We get it. We can see her playing sold-out shows on the Lilith tour, rocking jazz festivals and perhaps even winning a Grammy for a tricked-out rock/soul/ gospel album. But when Lee sang “Hallelujah,” we couldn’t quite put our finger on who he was capable of becoming. We don’t know what he’ll do or where he’ll go as an artist, but he gave us a taste … and we want more.