'American Idol' recap: The final two face off

In probably the most low-key American Idol finale ever, tonight it's down to Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox.

They look a little surprised at how many (7,000) people are in the audience tonight -- though Crystal seems to roll with it a little better, asking them, "How ya doing?" and grinning. Lee looks a tad overwhelmed.


Tonight, these two will each sing three songs: contestant's fave from the season, a song chosen by executive producer Simon Fuller and the song they'll release if they win.

Before Lee sings, we hear from his parents. Turns out, he was very into baseball as a kid, but once he played guitar, he wanted to become a rock star. His favorite song from earlier the season is "The Boxer," from inspirational song week. I wasn't blown away by his performance last time he sang this song, but I think it's a lot stronger this time around. Very emotional, but it's kind of subdued for the finale. But that's how this whole season has been. Randy Jackson says it was a great way to start off this night, even though it wasn't energetic or exciting. He asks him to pick it up and get more energy going. Ellen DeGeneres says she couldn't be prouder of him "if I'd birthed you myself." Kara DioGuardi agrees with Randy, but thinks he was believable and connected. Simon Cowell says this is the big one, so he was expecting a lot more passion and excitement. "That was a kiss on the cheek when I want a kiss on the lips," he says. "Not from you!"


Crystal's dad shares that she's been singing since she was 10 and that she was born to do this. Her reprisal is "Me and Bobby McGee," which she did a great job with originally. But I think she adds a little more energy to this performance and more connection with the audience than the first time around. Randy says it started slow, but by the end, she was in it, and he loved it. Ellen says Crystal is just so compelling on this stage, absolutely stunning. Kara says she loved it the first time, and she loved it tonight. Simon says this brought them back to when they absolutely fell in love with her. "We've got a competition tonight; that was terrific."

For the second round, Lee sings Simon Fuller's choice, REM's "Everybody Hurts." This is a tough one because Michael Stipe kind of rides the edges of notes in a way that works for him, but I don't think it works that well in Lee's favor since he can kind of go off-key at times. He sounds mostly OK at time, and he's connecting with the audience, but, not to get all judges' table on you, it's a weird song choice for me. The audience disagrees with me. Randy says he could feel that Lee that he loved by the end, though it started shaky. Ellen says he went off a couple of times, but she doesn't care. But she does feel like he pulled back right when the audience started to get excited. Kara says it wasn't a perfect vocal, but he was so emotional that it was great. Simon says he is nervous, understandably, but that he needs to give a 10 out of 10 for his last performance. He also thinks it was a brilliant song choice.

Crystal's second song is "Black Velvet." She sounds much more in tune than Lee and she gives it everything she has, adding some more excitement to the show. But I have to say that the first part of the song, it was really awkward with her kind of stalking around the stage in high heels. Once that stopped, I could focus more on the song, and she was great. Randy: "Mamasox is in it to win it!" Ellen says it's like a Cher concert with all the wardrobe changes. She adds that it was fantastic. Kara says tonight was the night to kill herself up there, and she did, going for new notes. Simon says he had a little bit of a problem because he's almost allergic to the song because he's heard it slaughtered in so many auditions. (Oh, I bet. I slaughter it regularly singing in my car.) But he thinks she nailed it.

Lee's last song, which will be released as his single if he wins, is "Beautiful Day." (Yes, the U2 song. I apparently missed the memo that they aren't making them sing some generic, boring schlock single. I'm OK with that.) This is probably the best he's sounded so far tonight, but he still seems a little overwhelmed by the whole thing. He does finish strong, though. Good timing. Randy says it started out "interesting," but by the middle of it, he got his groove back. "Good on you, baby!" Ellen asks how he feels. He says he feels amazing and happy. She says watching him grow and take in this moment was great. Kara says she thinks Lee got swallowed up in the song and that he had some good and not-so-good moments. But she thinks he has one of the best commercial voices and he deserves to be there. Simon says this is his final time to judge the show, and he just wants to say that this is what the competition was designed for, to find someone who needed a break, and he genuinely wishes the best for him.

Lastly, it's Crystal, with "Up to the Mountain" by Patty Griffin. Three bars into the song, I turn to my husband and say, "She has to win. This girl can SANG." She's so in her element, playing guitar and totally dominating the stage even though there are about 15 backup singers on stage with her. She sounds fantastic. Randy says this is what the show is about -- an amazing song by an amazing singer. He says this came at the perfect time and it was incredible. Ellen says they're always looking for someone unique and that Crystal is in a league of her own, with a clear, beautiful voice. Kara says this was a very important song for her because she's had walls up before, and tonight she was completely emotionally invested in the song and totally blossomed. She wants to say something to Simon before he talks: She thanks him for everything, "not that that matters coming from me." He says to her that was the best performance and the song of the night. "Since this is going to be the final critique I'm ever going to give, that was outstanding," he says.

I think these two are both going to be just fine, but I think Crystal should win it all. I'm glad we closed this show on such a good (literal) note. This was one of the best performances of the season, bar none. Good timing!

What did you think about the show tonight?

(Photo courtesy of Fox)