Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lee DeWyze makes Illinois proud

It's DeWyze over Bowersox in the Midwest Match-Up; American Idol fans must be disappointed in the lack of airtime given to the contestants during the finale Wednesday night

If you've watched the news or read a newspaper you know that Mount Prospect native Lee DeWyze became the first singer from Illinois to win the title of American Idol last night. During the performance show on Tuesday Lee sang an encore of "The Boxer," "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M. (selected for him by producer Simon Fuller), and "Beautiful Day" by U2, which will be released as a single. Crystal Bowersox, from Ohio, chose to sing "Me and Bobby McGee" as her repeat performance, while Fuller selected "Black Velvet" by Alannah Myles. Her potential single was "Up to the Mountain" by Patty Griffin. I was disappointed that Lee and Crystal were not allowed to sing any original songs, but what can you expect from a show that forces the contestants to sing (well, lip-sync) tired song medleys during results shows? I thought Crystal had a good chance of winning after she attacked all three of her songs. Even though Lee was not at his best, I still voted for him, thinking of the awesome concert he gave May 14 at Arlington Park. I have voted for Lee all season but after the show on Tuesday I knew I'd be happy if either singer won.

During last night's finale, host Ryan Seacrest reiterated how it was "Crystal and Lee's night" but it sure didn't feel that way for anyone watching. Celebrity guests had more time up on stage than Crystal, Lee, or any of the other contestants from this season. Usually we at least get to see the contestants repeat memorable performances from the course of the season, but that didn't happen. I would have loved to see an encore of Lee and Crystal singing "Falling Slowly."

The show did have its highlights. Crystal's duet with Alanis Morissette on "You Oughta Know" was cool, and I thought Casey's duet with Bret Michaels on "Every Rose Has its Thorn" worked well too. Those two performances demonstrate that duets between American Idol contestants and celebrities don't have to be awkward or forced (Kris Allen's duet with Keith Urban on last year's finale is another example). I enjoyed Crystal, Siobhan, Lacey, Paige, Katie, and Didi singing "Beautiful" and "Fighter" by Christina Aguilera (and being a Christina fan, I think her performance afterwards was awesome). I also loved seeing former winners (all except David Cook) and contestants (Blake Lewis! Jason Castro! Melinda Dolittle!) back on stage together as a tribute to judge Simon Cowell, who is done with the show.

At the end of the night, though, I was bothered by how the singers didn't get their chance to shine. I really felt that Lee was being punished or something for having to sing a medley of hits with the band Chicago. And, riddle me this: Hall and Oates. Michael McDonald. The Bee Gees. Huh? Don't the producers think American Idol fans would have preferred to hear a final solo performance from Siobhan, Michael, Andrew, Aaron, Didi, or Katie? And why did it suddenly turn into a Janet Jackson concert? I'm confused by how the judges tell the contestants all season long to be relevant and current and be true to themselves, and yet the finale is packed with artists you only hear on easy listening radio stations and the contestants suddenly become back-up singers.

I don't want to end on a negative note, so I'll focus on the strong friendship that Lee and Crystal formed during the show after both auditioning in Chicago last summer. You could tell that no matter who won they would be happy for each other, and after Lee's name was read he told Crystal he loved her and gave her a hug. Their duet during Songs of the Cinema week on "Falling Slowly," which they sang facing each other and each playing guitar, will probably be remembered for seasons of American Idol to come.

For actual singing from the season 9 American Idol contestants, you can catch the American Idol tour. Lee and the other singers in the Top 10 will stop in Chicago on Monday, August 30 at the United Center. Get tickets to the American Idol tour stop in Chicago: Starting last night after the finale they started a promotion on the site where you can buy $20 tickets for 24 hours. (The $20 tickets are on the 300 level.) I checked the availability and was still able to find seats on the 100 level, if you are interested in paying full price.