With one week left, the "American Idol" producers made their choice, loud and clear: This is Lee DeWyze's competition to win. What else could explain his Jerry Bruckheimer-sized closing performance from last night? It was Judges' Pick night (along with picks from the contestants), and Simon Cowell put a softball on a T for the former paint salesman. But giving Lee "Hallelujah" (which, by the way, could use an extended "Idol" respite) wasn't enough: Let's add strings! No, no, we need horns, too! Ah, f--k it, he needs a gospel choir, too! The audience, along with the judges, were bludgeoned to submission by Lee's Play-Like-a-Champion-Today rendition. Afterward, with tears in his eyes, Lee realized he was put in pole position to win this thing. His stuttering, post-performance interview with Ryan Seacrest affirmed the shock.
So do Crystal Bowersox or Casey James have any shot to sweep in and steal Lee's anointment? Probably not, but Crystal is the only one with a chance. (Casey admitted, after two limp performance which included snoozefest "Daughters" by John Mayer, he was "just happy to be here.") Crystal sang well last night, but offered nothing new, and even worse, became an afterthought after Lee's performances. Crystal's problem is a combination of stale delivery (each performance, from week one until now, seems interchangeable) and predictability. I couldn't help but roll my eyes when she chose Melissa Etheridge's "Come To My Window." Big surprise!
Last night was a painful reminder that "American Idol" and its viewers weed out the interesting, idiosyncratic singers (Siobhan Magnus, Michael Lynche, and even Lilly Scott and Alex Lambert), and stick to the painfully plain. Are you excited for Crystal's debut album? It will most likely sound like a B-version of Melissa Etheridge (who just released a new album, Fearless Love). How about a Lee DeWyze record? It'll be as if Hinder went soft.
Will we torture ourselves next year, or switch with Simon to the new "X-Factor"? If either are like this season of "Idol," the decision will be moot.
Look for our look back at "American Idol" Season 9 in b next week.