At this stage of the season on “American Idol,” you know who wants to win and who could care less. You hope that they all want to win, and probably do, but some just want it more than others. Last night that was made perfectly clear during both rounds of performances. No mentors this time around, just two performances each from Casey James, Lee Dewyze and Crystal Bowersox. They would choose one song, and one or two judges would pick the other. Here is our recap of how it went down, and we’re going to do it differently this week…we will break it down by performer and grade them at the end of our analysis:


Casey’s own choice was a risky one, Eric Hutchinson’s “OK, It’s Alright With Me,” a song that I know but probably only 10% of Americans optimistically do. It’s a really good song but Casey absolutely did not deliver a winning performance with this one. At this stage, you’ve got to really hammer home the fact that you want to win, and Casey just didn’t. Randy said it was an interesting title, because that performance was “just alright with me”….Ellen said it wasn’t a “moment” and didn’t blow her away…Kara said it was an odd choice being that it was likely the first time many folks were hearing the song…and Simon said it was a dud. Grade: C

Casey’s judges choice was “Daughters” by John Mayer, chosen by Kara and Randy. I liked the choice, because even if it was a subdued song, it showcased Casey in his wheelhouse, and he even nailed the guitar solo note for note. Randy said the song fit like a glove (what else was he going to say?)….Ellen said it was a great choice…Kara said he showed more artistry and vulnerability (can she stop using that word already?)….and Simon said it was better than Casey’s first song, and it sounded really good, but he felt it was a lazy choice by Kara and Randy. Snap! Grade: B


Crystal started with her own choice, an obvious one of Melissa Etheridge’s “Come To My Window.” It was very good, but not Crystal’s best, not for this stage of the competition. Randy said he didn’t love the arrangement but did love the vocal…Ellen said it was a good choice….Kara said Crystal got lost in the arrangement but it was a good vocal…and Simon said it wasn’t stunning, but he likes that Crystal is always true to herself. Grade: B

Crystal’s judge choice was Wings’ “Maybe I’m Amazed,” chosen for her by Ellen. I was thrilled with this choice right from the start, and Crystal really nailed it vocally. But it was weird hearing her sing the lyric, “Maybe I’m a man, and you’re the only woman who can ever help me.” I mean, that’s just weird, right? Lucky for her, the judges didn’t even mention it. Randy said it was a great song with great vocals, and that Crystal is “in it to win it”….Ellen said she couldn’t have asked for anything more…Kara said it was a big risk that paid off….and Simon said he was surprised at the choice but that he got it, and talked about how much soul Crystal has. Grade: A-minus


Lee started off with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man,” and it was a strong and heartfelt version. For me, Lee had this look in his eye last night that showed focus and the determination to want to win it all. Randy said it was a great choice and he liked the lyrical theme for Lee….Elle said he’d gone from a baby lamb to a gazelle since the start of this season…Kara said Lee has showed us all everything he’s got, and that he won Round 1….and Simon said the song choice was on the money. Grade: A-minus

Lee’s judge choice was Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” chosen by Simon. I and most other folks who watch this show are annoyed by now at how often this song is covered, but I understood the choice. And Lee just killed it, in the pimp spot, no less. He had that look in his eye to want to win even more the second time. Randy said it was Lee’s biggest moment of the season…Ellen said she’s glad Lee listened to Simon….Kara said Lee is what this show is all about and he owned the night…and Simon said he was very proud of him, and that he is both a fantastic singer and a great person. Yeah, pretty much. Grade: A-plus

So I’ve been kind of saying all along that it’s Crystal’s competition to lose, but she’s shown some cracks in the armor the last few weeks. Meanwhile, Lee is just vaulting himself into serious contention. Not that he wasn’t a contender before, but now he’s just made it his competition to lose. And I don’t see him messing up next week, assuming the voters didn’t go Melinda Doolittle on Lee.

As for tonight, I’ve been saying Casey should be eliminated for maybe the last three weeks, and I’m saying it again tonight. But honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it was Crystal. What do you all think? Let me know and we’ll see you back here tomorrow!