Of course, nothing is official until the results are revealed by Ryan Seacrest during the results show Wednesday, but every sign points to Casey James being the unlucky third-place finisher. It’s not all his fault, but he didn’t do enough to give him anything more than a texter’s chance against the other two, either.
Each of the three finalists performed twice on Tuesday, one song of their choosing and one judges’ pick. James opened the show with “OK, It’s Alright With Me” by Eric Hutchinson, and it was a vintage performance from the Texan on every level. He looked natural as a performer, but uncomfortable on the “Idol” stage. He did a very nice job ... on a song that most of the audience was likely unfamiliar with.
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It was the latter point that got him negative feedback from the judges, whose comments can be boiled down to “next time pick something that people have heard of.” Interesting, considering Hutchinson was one of Kelly Clarkson’s opening acts on her All I Ever Wanted tour. Guess the judges must not have shown up early enough for any of those concert dates to hear it.
That aside, it was a performance that seemed geared more toward James himself than the voters, which won’t help his chances. And Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi did him no favors by also making him sing John Mayer’s “Daughters” because, as Kara said, his audience is “women and girls.”
At this point, I have to stop the show and rant for a second. “Women and girls”? Is that saying he’s getting votes because he’s pretty to look at? Because there are plenty of men I know who enjoy the blues and country vibe that James is going for.
The cougar banter has helped James get this far, so it seems ungrateful to complain about it now, but it seems crazy to me that he’s supposed to sing to the opposite sex because of how he looks. Hey, Kara, 1950 called and it wants its pop-star story lines back.
Jackson and DioGuardi patted themselves on the back for their wisdom afterward, which is exactly why the judges who pick the songs shouldn’t get to squawk about it. But regardless, it wouldn’t have mattered because Bowersox and Dewyze were just too good.
The judges weren’t thrilled with Bowersox’s choice of “Come to My Window” by Melissa Etheridge, which is unfortunate considering that’s the type of song that will likely be on Bowersox’s debut album. But Simon Cowell mitigated some of that by noting, “What I like about you and what you did tonight is that from the very first day we met you to now in the semifinal, you haven’t compromised yourself as an artist. I have a lot of respect for you for that. You came out here and decided to do what is you.”
For Bowersox’s second song, Ellen DeGeneres had her sing Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which was more well received and probably locked up her final spot. And in contrast to the Jackson-DioGuardi “We rule!” feedback on their song choice for James, DeGeneres put the focus on the contestant. “I couldn't have asked for more. That's what I was hoping you'd do, and you did it,” she said.
But the night belonged to Dewyze, who seemed to take a huge dose of confidence pills before going onstage. Picking Lynyrd Skynard’s “Simple Man” was a great choice. It was a song and a group that accentuates Dewyze’s strengths. Everyone loved that one, with DioGuardi stealing Cowell’s “Round One goes to ...” gimmick and giving it to Dewyze. Way to break that out a week early, Kara. Better have something new picked out for next week.
For the judges’ choice, Cowell had Dewyze sing “Hallelujah.” When I heard that, my first reactions were “Why?” and “Not again”! The song’s had more than its fair share of “Idol” airplay, which makes me think that we’ll be hearing a lot of it at the season 10 auditions, which means I may have to buy a new TV next year when I hurl my set to the floor in frustration when that song gets mangled.
To his credit, Dewyze made Cowell look like a genius, which is great considering the British judge is a meek and mild man looking for an ego boost. Oh, wait ... that’s usually Dewyze, but not Tuesday night. He performed with the most swagger he’s shown all season. It was enough to win him the night and likely ensure that he and Bowersox will be back next week for what’s sure to be an entertaining and memorable finale.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/craigberman.