All season long, the "American Idol" producers have been touting this as a "girl's season," but in the end, two women -- two very talented women -- gave their hearts out for the title.
Finalists Kree Harrison and Candice Glover each did three songs Wednesday night -- a song "Idol" honcho Simon Fuller selected, the single they would release as the winner, and their favorite past performance of the season.
Each round is recapped below, followed by a winner's prediction:
Round 1: Simon Fuller's selection
The show got off to a slow start. Simon picked Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" for Kree, a sedate, melodically simple song. And while she sang it beautifully, there was very little she could do with it. Before Randy Jackson said it, I wrote down "sleepy." Simon did Kree absolutely no favors by picking this song.
Candice sang a more contemporary song -- Adele's "Chasing Pavements." Candice included her trademark runs, perhaps a few too many for my taste -- but she actually did something with (yet another bad) song choice. If these were the best selections the "Idol" boss could come up for the opening round, no wonder the show is in trouble.
Winner this round: Candice (though both deserved better songs)
Round 2: Winner's single
I really really liked Kree's single, called "All Cried Out." It was county, it was confessional, it was Kree. She audibly strained in some spots, but not badly. Since day 1, I've noted Kree's mature sophistication; Taylor Swift or Lauren Alaina wouldn't be able to pull this off genuinely. What I hoped for from her -- and something I've criticized her all season long about -- was a little more showmanship, especially after the snoozy first song.
Candice's song, "I Am Beautiful," is everything a winner's coronation song should be: uplifting, positive, and powerful. Candice really seemed to connect with the lyrics and performance, too. The song was a bit generic, but she made it special. As the fireworks flashed on the screens behind her, I wondered if the producers all but handed the title to Candice on a silver platter.
Winner of Round 2: Candice
Round 3: Favorite past performance
Kree needed to pull out all the stops in the final round, and she did. She brought the fire in a red dress and impassioned performance to "Up To The Mountain." The vocal was near flawless, and brought the audience to it's feet. Had she sung like this all evening, it would've been showstopping.
Even before Candice sang her first note (acapella, amazingly), I knew she would reprise "I Who Have Nothing." The song served the last female "Idol" winner -- Jordin Sparks -- well, and I knew Candice would seal the deal with her performance. It was dramatic, daring and a little diva.
Winner of round 3: Candice (though Kree put up a great fight)
So who should win and who will win? The answer to both is Candice.
To quote outgoing judge Randy one last time, Candice has been "in it to win it" since the beginning, consistently taking risks and delivering great performances. It's hard to believe that she unsuccessfully tried out twice before, but the third time will be the charm.
Kree has the strong Southern/country voting bloc, but hasn't delivered time after time like Candice. Regardless, Kree will have a successful career after this.
One final note. It's wonderful to see two real-sized women with beautiful voices, personalities and looks in the final two. They've acted admirably and authentically all season -- and that's a true "Idol."
-- Lawrence Yee