As Blake Lewis showed this week, chivalry is not dead. But it may well have killed his hopes of winning “American Idol.”
After last week’s results show, a coin toss decided the performing order for the finale. Blake won the toss, then asked Jordin Sparks if she wanted to go first. The teenager, wise beyond her years, said no.
Blake then agreed to open the show instead, giving Jordin the coveted closing number.
It was a gracious, honorable gesture … but it was also really dumb. On a stage as big as this one, where popular votes decide the outcome, getting the last word before the audience is a tremendous advantage. The fact that Jordin had it would prove decisive.
Each contestant sang three times in the finale: an encore performance of a song they’d previously performed on the show, something new and the songwriting winner.
Blake had the slight edge after the first two numbers, but each finalist had to finish with “This is My Now,” the winning entry in the show’s songwriting competition. He must have looked at the lyrics and music and said to himself, What could possibly have come in second? It didn’t suit his style at all, and he looked as if he knew it as he slogged through the vocals.
Jordin, however, found it right in her wheelhouse. She belted out an impressive vocal performance, even as she broke down at the finish.
That was enough to make her the favorite as the voting began.
The real star of the night, however, was Seattle. Simon Cowell at one point called the city’s auditions “the worst we’ve ever seen.” But both Blake and Jordin made it all the way from there to the finale, not to mention that Sanjaya Malakar tried out there as well.
At the end of Blake’s final number, Simon said, “I always said there was talent in Seattle and I was right.” Good call, Nostradamus.
Round 1Blake opened the night with a repeat of “You Give Love a Bad Name” from Bon Jovi week. It’s easy to see why he chose it; it gave him the chance to start in with the beatboxing and race across the stage like a full-fledged rock star. The judges were each impressed to varying degrees, with Randy giving him a 10 for beatboxing, and Paula a 10-plus on general principles. Simon said, “You’re not the best singer in the competition, but you are the best performer.”
Jordin responded with Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter.” It was a nice choice, because if Jordin wins this, the producers will be hoping that she has the same kind of career Aguilera does, only perhaps without the whole crazy period in the middle. But it wasn’t a great start for the 17-year-old, who looked like she was overthinking her performance instead of letting herself go with the flow. The judges liked it anyway. Randy said, “I feel like we’ve got the great entertainer against the great singer.”
Round 2In a pre-performance video clip, the audience found out that Blake learned how to beatbox because his parents never bought him a drum set. Those who don’t like his style might want to consider that when the holidays roll around this winter.
For the second week in a row, he picked a Maroon 5 tune; this week’s being “She Will Be Loved.” It won praise from all three judges, but more tepid comments than his opener. The song itself was a bit dull, especially compared with the first one.
Jordin’s video featured her parents claiming she has been singing since birth. She went with “A Broken Wing,” a Martina McBride song that she originally did when McBride was the guest mentor.
Randy called her the most talented 17-year-old-singer he’d ever seen, and added, “I think that’s better than the original.” Good luck getting McBride back on the show after that one! The other judges were equally impressed, though the vocals still didn’t have a ton of energy behind them.
Round 3It’s understandable that the producers made the contestants finish with “This is My Now,” since that’s supposed to be the first single for the winner. But in this case, it may be a smart idea for everyone to have a backup plan in case Blake wins.
The song, a typical “Idol”-winner ballad that’s got more saccharine than a case of diet soda, was as far from Blake’s comfort zone as possible.
The judges seemed to recognize that, and were kind despite the dull effort. Randy said, “You don’t have to feel that bad about it.” And Simon added “I thought it was all a little odd. We have to judge you tonight primarily on your first two performances.”
Blake probably would have gotten away with that had Jordin suffered similar issues, but she didn’t. The teenager saw the opportunity and took it, giving a strong effort until she broke down and cried at the end. All three judges preferred her performance, with Randy saying, “You were the best singer tonight. You deserve it all. You are what it’s all about.”
It even forced an apology out of Simon, who acknowledged, “Last week I didn’t think you were good enough to make the finals, and I want to admit to you publicly tonight that I was wrong. This is a singing competition, and you just wiped the floor with Blake tonight on that song.”
The verdictIf the show had flipped the song order, with “This Is My Now” coming first, Blake would have a better chance. But the fact that he closed the show poorly is probably too much for him to overcome. On Wednesday night, expect Jordin Sparks to be crowned the sixth season’s “American Idol” winner.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.