Well, the American Idol finale showdown between the Davids did not disappoint. The show opened to what would become a rather prolonged metaphor for a singing boxing match of sorts, complete with the Rocky theme song, Michael Buffer, and shiny robes! Tension was high and it felt like anyone's game heading in before the singing started, especially after young Archuleta faltered last week.
To guide the Davids, Idol brought in two final mentors in the form of Clive Davis and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The first one makes sense, being a legendary hit maker and all, but again with the Lloyd Webber. . . I don't totally get it. Before we get to the singing, though, I have some thoughts which you can check out if you read more.
- When the announcer introduced David Archuleta weighing in at 100 pounds soaking wet I laughed loud and hard. I felt for the little guy, though, because it seems like he's getting picked on a lot these days.
- David Archuleta won the pre-show coin toss and chose to sing second. I think it's a smart choice to choose the final performance spot of the season.
- Singing aside, I think David Cook won the charisma non-round in the beginning. Where Archuleta could barely take in the giant, enthusiastic crowd, Cook seemed calm, excited and totally ready to rock.
Not only did the contestants sing two original songs written for Idol, but they sang a song of their choice along with one picked by the mentors. Simon told Ryan that in order to win this thing you needed to hate your opponent, which was followed by a lovefest of back-pats, and mutual admiration between the Davids on stage. So, on to the singing. . .
First song: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (U2). I was a little worried at first because the verse was a little off. But once he got going it was good and he even took tiny liberties on the melody here and there. Randy said it was a great way to kick off the night, Paula told us we have found David Cook (was he lost?), and Simon called it phenomenal.
Second song: "Dream Big" (songwriting contest). So the lyrics are, well, dorky. I think there was something in there about how if you don't dream big you shouldn't dream at all. That's not David's fault though. He brought out his guitar for this one and I thought he sounded a little weak on the verses but great during the chorus. Randy said he was clearly singing his face off, Paula said it was a great way to take a song we don't know and make us love it (I might have to agree to disagree here, Paula), and Simon called it lightweight and said it wasn't a winning moment. Yikes, first big wet blanket of the night.
Third song: "The World I Know" (Collective Soul). David took a big risk picking a song he hadn't performed before for his closing act. It's a great song and he played an intimate acoustic version of it. Not only did his voice sound pretty but his heart was entirely in it and the overall effect was moving. He was visibly emotional in the end, teary eyes and everything. Randy said it showed his sensitive side and that's the kind of album he should make, Paula told him he was standing in his truth (what?), and Simon said that while he is the nicest, most sincere contestant they've ever had he thought it was completely the wrong choice.
First song: "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" (Elton John). Now this is a great choice for David A. It's one of those perfect Idol songs that builds up to a goosebumps-inducing chorus and David knew exactly how to squeeze every bit of goodness out the song. Right off the bat he proved his head was in the game, or ring, or whatever the metaphor is. Randy called it the best performance of the season, Paula told him the sun is never going down on him, and Simon said it was arguably the best he's ever done and gave the first round to David Archuleta.
Second song: "In This Moment" (songwriting contest). If there is anything Archuleta was born to sing, it's these "This Is My Now"-esque Idol songs and he did a great job with it. The whole performance reminded me of one of those big theme songs from a Disney movie soundtrack. David was clearly emotionally connected to it and entirely believable. Randy wasn't crazy about the song but said he could sing the phone book so whatever, Paula called it pure magic, and Simon thought the lyrics were very self-centered and he liked that. He then declared that he had taken Round Two as well.
Third song: "Imagine" (John Lennon): David Archuleta chose the safer route, opting to recreate the magic of his original performance of this highly nostalgic and pretty song. This performance brought the house down and David's version of it was heartfelt and there is no question his voice was stellar that night. But I'm kind of a sucker for singing a song that lovely straight and I think he mucks it up with all those runs. Randy went nuts and said he's exactly what this shows about, Paula was rendered speechless, and Simon said that we witnessed one of the great finals ever and that the night was officially a "knockout."
Who should win? It's a tough call for me because while David Cook definitely didn't do his best, he also didn't play it safe. His choice to try a new song instead of something he clearly could have done well with like his cover of "Billie Jean" was risky and may have cost him the title — but I respect that. Plus, the emotional weight of his second song was the most compelling moment of the night, in my opinion.
Who will win? David Archuleta played it straight and smart. Not only was he born to sing those cheesy Idol finale songs about dreaming and soaring and whatnot, he didn't miss a single beat the entire night. Singing "Imagine" was a savvy and smart way to completely seal the deal. I'd say this one is in the bag.
Photos courtesy of Fox