American Idol: Top 2 - May 15, 2013

Top 2 - Finale Performance Night - May 15, 2013

The anticipation is high for this finale. And didn't it seem like a short show, only 1 hour, when we're used to the 2 hour episodes dragging out? It wouldn't hurt them to go back to this format every once in a while! Candice and Kree represent the best finale since 2009's Adam Lambert vs. Kris Allen Season 8 finale. Both girls have demonstrated unique song choices, beautiful voices, and some truly buzzworthy performances.

For tonight's episode, Round 1 is producer Simon Fuller's Choice, Round 2 is the Winner's Coronation Single, and Round 3 is a Reprise Performance from this season. Shaking things up a bit this year, as usually they end the night with the Coronation Single.

1. Kree - "Angel" (by Sarah McLachlan) A

I was astonished by how much I loved this performance, and how I never envisioned it as a country song before, but it all somehow worked perfectly. It was a very straightforward performance in the sense that she did not change the arrangement or delivery very much, but I loved the subtle country twist she gave the song - both in her tone of voice and the mournful country guitar sound. I cried during this performance because I really felt her delivery of the song and the true emotion embedded in every note of it. (Side note - finally they dressed Kree in something besides a Dress Barn leggings and maternity top combo and she looked gorgeous.)

2. Candice - "Chasing Pavements" (by Adele) A-

While Kree took a pop song and made it country, Candice took a pop song and made it jazzy. I love how she began this song in her deep, low register, really demonstrating the true range of her voice. She proved with this song that she does not need to do a million runs and belt out every song, but instead with her deliberate and delicate phrasing, really interpret a song. In other words, she doesn't fall back on vocal gymnastics to hide her lack of connection to the song or emotional interpretation.

3. Kree - "All Cried Out" B

In the context of the competition, I liked the song, but I did not love it - just not dynamic enough for me. I wish the song told more of a story in the traditional country style. I wonder how it will fare on the country charts. In parts of the song, it sounded like she was straining a bit. Although I've been waiting all season to purchase the winner's single, I'm not sure this is what I was looking for.

4. Candice - "I Am Beautiful" B

Unfortunately, this song didn't live up to what I was hoping for either. OF COURSE the Idol producers would saddle these two extremely talented contestants with sub-par, mediocre songs. I would just expect nothing less at this point. I gave both of these songs the benefit of the doubt, but if they're going to be this sub-par, I wish they would stop trying to make the songs "current" and failing and just go back to the "This Is My Now" / "Do I Make You Proud" style of over-blown, melodramatic, cheesefests. At least those are good in their own right! Anyway, back to Candice's performance. It also sounded like Candice was straining a bit at parts of the performance but I will say she seemed more emotionally connected to the song than Kree had.

5. Kree - "Up To The Mountain" A+

After a very sleepy Round 2, if you did not wake up for Round 3 of this competition, as Keith would say - call your doctor, because you don't have a pulse. This is the sort of performance that gets you up off your couch, that you feel in every beat of your heart, and the core of your being. It is obvious how very connected Kree is to this song and it was reflected in her spirited and moving performance. I literally did not want this performance to end and I think that's the highest praise I can possibly give!

6. Candice - "I Who Have Nothing" A+

This was LITERALLY MINDBLOWING. When she started the song acapella and stayed there for more than just two lines, I think I got up off the couch. SHE LITERALLY BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN. This song was so VISCERAL, so INTENSELY powerful. That voice is once in a lifetime and even more so, she knows how to make the listener feel what she is feeling. Maybe not even relate it to their own personal life, but she offers a glimpse into her own emotions and her own story. It is rare to find a singer than can do that so fully, especially on this show. HOW she was cut last year in Vegas Week is a greater mystery!

In closing, I think it's been a great season with a few amazing contestants (Kree, Candice, Angie) who shined so brightly that they made up for all the dim stars. It's going to be a tough race and it is so obvious Candice has been my favorite all season, but if Kree runs off with the sash and crown, I won't be (too) disappointed.

Until tomorrow, Idol lovers - it's been a while since I've written a recap of the finale and I think it's time I revisit that!