Mild-mannered Kris Allen has not exactly proven to be a risk-taker during his run on [url id="/news/topics/a/american_idol/"]"American Idol."[/url] But on Tuesday night, the 23-year-old from Conway, Arkansas, set himself apart from the other finalists by going very contemporary on a night dedicated to songs from movies.
With a pleading look in his eyes and a spare arrangement, Allen performed a moving rendition of "Falling Slowly," the Oscar-winning waltz-like ballad from the sleeper 2007 indie flick "Once," the only song of the night to come from the 2000s. Like the scrappy songwriters behind the tune, Irish rock survivor [artist id="1590337"]Glen Hansard[/artist] (the [artist id="1171115"]Frames[/artist]) and former girlfriend and first-time actress Markéta Irglová, Allen has at times seemed like the underdog. But with the roll of the dice on a song that judge Kara DioGuardi feared many in the audience might not know, Allen delivered what she deemed one of his best moments to date on the show.
The choice of the song, one of the least likely Best Original Song winners in recent memory, really seemed to suit Allen. Guest-mentor director Quentin Tarantino said he could tell it was picked because the movie meant something to the singer. The tune originally appeared on the Frames' 2006 album, The Cost, which almost lost it an Oscar spot because of rules governing the nomination of songs that have previously been released. But given its central role in the touching story of a scrappy, heartbroken busker (Hansard) who meets his musical soul mate (Irglová) for a love affair that almost was, the song was allowed in the competition and won.
In fact, the acceptance speech by Irglová and Hansard made for one of the most moving moments in recent Oscar history, when host Jon Stewart brought Irglová — who had been cut off by the band due to time constraints — back out onto the stage after a commercial break to finish her speech. "This is such a big deal, not only for us, but for all other independent musicians and artists that spend most of their time struggling, and this, the fact that we're standing here tonight, the fact that we're able to hold [an Oscar], it's just to prove no matter how far out your dreams are, it's possible," Irglová said.
"And, you know, fair play to those who dare to dream and don't give up. And this song was written from a perspective of hope, and hope at the end of the day connects us all, no matter how different we are." Accompanied by acoustic guitar, restrained female backing vocalists and dramatic strings, Allen brought a soulful vibe to the song, navigating the tricky see-saw melody and hitting a keening falsetto note as he wrapped up the final line "Falling slowly sing your melody/ I'll sing along."
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