By Sohyung Kang
Like many of you, I spent much of the week eagerly anticipating last night's "American Idol" performance finale. A battle of opposites. A larger-than-life, flamboyant rocker pitted against a pocket-sized, understated boy-next-door. Two talented men, facing off in what appears to be a very close competition, maybe the closest since season two's Ruben Studdard vs. Clay Aiken matchup. It's got to be appointment television, right? Wrong. The show could not have been more boring.
Things more exciting than last night's show: C-SPAN. Watching a mouse trying to free itself from a trap. A romantic evening with John McCain. The most climactic part of the night was when the fembot Carrie Underwood stopped singing and the series premiere of "Glee" began.
In any case, here's how the finale breaks down:
I was disheartened to find that the contestants had to perform songs they had already done during the season. If I wanted to sit through repeat performances of "Mad World" and "Ain't No Sunshine," I'd visit YouTube. There were only a few subtle changes to each respective performance. The most noticeable was Adam's wardrobe. I did a double take as he appeared onstage, initially believing him to be wearing a dress. That would have made the show infinitely more amusing. But no, it was just a giant cape. How disappointing.
I remember Adam's first take on "Mad World" as being my favorite performance of the season. This time around, it wasn't quite the goosebump-inducing moment it was before. And while he was solid, he didn't alter the arrangement at all, so I was left cold. Therefore, the slight edge goes to Kris in Round 1. His reprise was better than his first performance. He added a few runs and seemed emotionally connected to the song. However, it still had me reaching for a Red Bull.
The only performance of the night I'll really remember was Adam's excellent rendition of Sam Cooke's classic. It showed Adam's singing ability and versatility. The guy can do anything: blues, pop, R&B, rock and roll, even country. Plus, he kept the screeching to a relative minimum. Are the planets aligned? My eardrums and windows thank you, Adam. The one complaint I have about this performance is Randy's review of it. Listening to one of Randy's redundant critiques is like playing Mad Libs, using the same stock phrases over and over again. "[Dude, Dawg], your vocals were [pitchy, off-key, off the hook, a little rough at first]. And I loved your [song choice, arrangement, look] but your [song choice, arrangement, look] makes you seem [old, dated, young, current]. But yo, you know what's most [important, surprising, interesting]? You can really sing!" Please, someone replace this guy with a "You Can Sing" sign.
As for Kris ... wait, what did he sing? Oh, right. Poor Kris was amateur in comparison, as though he belonged in a coffeehouse. His take on "What's Going On" sounded like it ought to be a hidden bonus track on the limited fan-club edition of his unreleased European album.
In the final round, the contestants were forced to belt out a coronation song so schmaltzy it had to have been written for Danny Gokey. "No Boundaries"? Yikes. Unfortunately for Adam, our first exposure to this hideous anthem was through his performance, and I am sure he does not want that memory to stick out in viewers' minds. His version of it was a bit strained and off-pitch at times. The song fit him about as well as a polo shirt with a popped collar.
But as bad as Adam was, Kris was worse. Coronation songs are supposed to be emotionally moving and inspirational. However, the only emotions Kris brought out of me were agony and guilt. The agony of listening to him go outside his one-octave range, and the guilt of preferring Miley Cyrus' performance of "The Climb" earlier this season to his performance last night. It is clear that he cannot perform without an instrument. He also flubbed the lyrics, though no one seemed to notice. But judging from the swinging camera shot that revealed a large-screen teleprompter of the song lyrics behind the judges' table, I can't see how he could have forgotten them. That screen was enormous. But hey, if I were Kris, I'd probably want to forget those cheesy, cringe-worthy lyrics myself.
In conclusion? I've been predicting all week that Kris would upset Adam and win, but after last night, I'm not sure he stands a chance anymore. Vocally, he can't come close to matching Adam, though only cats could share the same range as that guy. But one thing is for sure: Both Adam and Kris are probably hoping to lose tonight, so they will never be forced to sing that dreadfully saccharine song ever again.
What do you think? Did Adam win the night? How bad was that coronation song? Did the finale make you feel comatose, too? Leave a comment below.