>Season 9 of Fox's smash hit American Idol started out a little bland. Instead of last season's flashy front-runner Adam Lambert, we got dreadlocked mom Crystal Bowersox. Loose cannon Paula Abdul's seat at the judge's table was filled by the more grounded Ellen Degeneres. Katrina Darrel (aka "Bikini Girl") was replaced with Larry, a 62-year-old man who sings about pants. Where had all the water cooler talk gone?
Now, as Bowersox joins competitors Lee DeWyze and Casey James in a battle for the coveted title, the competition is in full swing. Let's take a moment to review the best (and worst) performances of the past four months:
"Falling Slowly" performed by Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox
My favorite song of the competition, despite the camera's nausea-inducing oscillations. (Dear American Idol, MOTION SICKNESS IS NOT ROMANTIC. Please stop swooping during love songs. And... don't let Casey win. Thanks!) Lee and Crystal have fantastic chemistry and sound wonderful together. One of the rare Idol moments where singing was an art. Beautiful and brilliant.
"Straight Up" performed by Andrew Garcia
Andrew Garcia's lovely acoustic version of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" was fun, fresh, and inventive. Though Andrew never quite lived up to the standard set by that first song, he had a lovely, easy style that carried him farther into the competition than anyone expected.
"Midnight Train To Georgia" performed by Crystal Bowersox
Crystal exists as a shimmering beacon of hope for all of us who tune in looking for an actual singing competition. Her voice is flawless, and her storytelling abilities are unparalleled alongside the other contestants. Despite the too-close-for-comfort backup singers and Crystal's relatively un-Crystal presentation, "Midnight Train To Georgia" was one of the most moving moments of the competition. The sweetness and purity of Crystal's voice on the first few notes alone was enough to elicit goosebumps. Best hippie mom pop star ever.
"Pants On The Ground" performed by Larry
The best performance of the season, if not of all time. Larry's emotional conviction as he delivered lines such as "pants on the ground," and "lookin' like a fool with your pants on the ground" was brilliant, and his phrasing put him in a class of his own. If it wasn't for that pesky age limit, I'm pretty sure he would've been our American Idol. 62 is the new 28, right?
"Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?" performed by Michael Lynche and Casey James
The best part about Casey's duet with Big Mike was that Casey tied his hair back. The worst part was everything else. I mean... who picked that song? Really. Because I find it extremely hard to believe that either of those guys felt any real pull to the closing credits music from "Don Juan Demarco".
"Ruby Tuesday" performed by Lacey Brown