It's the final three, which means singer's and judges' choice and hometown visits, which always make me a little teary. (Shut up! It's been a long season!) For all the knocks the show has taken this year, I can say in all honesty that I really don't know who is going to win -- or even who is going to be the top two. It seems that the powers that be have been pushing for a Crystal Bowersox-Lee DeWyze showdown, but Casey Jamesis just so darn likeable and is making the most of the underdog spot. I do think that if any one of them has a catastrophic performance tonight it will knock them out of the competition, which certainly ups the drama a bit. On to the show!
1) Casey James, "OK, It's Alright With Me" by Eric Hutchinson
Casey kept the goat in check and I thought turned in a very effective performance. It was the most comfortable he's ever looked on stage and it was very canny of him to say in the beginning that it was the kind of song he would write since the judges are always blathering about 'What kind of artist is each singer going to be?' I thought the judges were a little harsh on him - but that feeds into my entire theory of a judge-ordained Crystal-Lee showdown. Is Casey trying to play the underdog card? Or is he just rolling along as a really lucky guy in this competition? I'm assuming that the contestants and judges are employing some strategy at this point and not just floating along.
2) Crystal Bowersox, "Come To My Window" by Melissa Etheridge
Nice of Crystal to pick the song that I would have picked for her - too bad I thought the backing music was intrusive and didn't go with her vocals. She was obviously going for an earthy, stripped-down vocal and the grocery store Muzak backing her didn't help. I was having flashbacks of the frozen food aisle. Audience, stop booing Randy's critique of the arrangement because he was dead-on: it fought her vocal. I don't know if Simon's blessing of her talents will help her, though - between him and Adam Lambert giving her props this week I think people might get complacent when it comes to voting.
3) Lee DeWyze, "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
I think Lee played the Southern rock card in an attempt to wrangle that Southern voting bloc and shuffle some votes away from Casey. Cynical? Maybe. But smart, I think. Lee sounded like Lee, in his perfectly competent faux Chris Daughtry sort of way. I do like him, but he's starting to seem calculated - he gave the exact same reason as Crystal for why he picked his song. And the judges gave him the opposite treatment of Casey by overselling him. Or maybe it sounded great in the studio and meh on my tinny computer speakers?
4) Casey James, "Daughters" by John Mayer
For all the talk of the cougar factor in Casey's fanbase, there certainly didn't seem to be too many in the audience at his hometown. Or maybe they just didn't show any in the 10 seconds they showed of his hometown visit - what's up with the rapidfire editing? Like I said, I'm a sucker for the home visits. I'd rather have a bit more of that and a bit less of Kara and Simon yapping at each other. As for Casey's performance, I thought it was a pretty astute choice by the judges given the fact it allowed Casey to blend his guitarwork and singing. It was a cakewalk for him. But oh boy, I would love to hear what John Mayer thinks of his song being on "Idol." John! Use your Tumblr for good!
5) Crystal Bowersox, "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney
I really hate to say this - I mean, I really hate to say it - but did Crystal sound a little bit shouty during this? At first I thought the entire choreography of the song from the stairs to the stage to the half-circle was throwing her off, but it didn't get much better when she stopped moving. She seemed to try to power through the words and it got rather shrill and Siobhan-y. For the first time ever, it didn't seem effortless for her. Crystal seemed to know it, too, when she responded to Kara about hearing parts of her voice that she had never heard before. I am worried.
6) Lee DeWyze, "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen
Now, what the hay - no crowd shots for Lee in Chicago, even? Just a shot of him on the jet. Lame! Simon alludes to the fact that this song is done to death on "Idol" but that he has confidence that Lee will change it up - he certainly did, with the full backing choir, but I'm calling cheap on it. Would Lee be as memorable if the producers weren't always pulling out all the stops for his performances? Crystal gets a didgeridoo, sure...but now Lee has bagpipes and a choir. Judges' pet. It's kind of gross.
So who's gonna go? I really am not sure, even after seeing the performances. I think Lee's safe. It's a tossup between Crystal and Casey. I'll go with the odds and say that since Casey performed first when fewer people are watching that he's going home tomorrow.
Check back with Billboard after every "American Idol" performance night for our recap and predictions, and follow us on Twitter @billboarddotcom for our live blow-by-blow of each episode.
Previous 'American Idol' Recaps: