It's Candice vs. Kree, in an Idol final that feels a bit lopsided going in, but also promises to be one of the most entertaining in years; I'd happily take either of these finalists over any winner the show has given us since Carrie Underwood.
Three rounds tonight: a song chosen by Idol creator Simon Fuller, the winner's first single, and a repeat of a favorite performance from earlier in the season.
Kree, "Angel" -- I appreciate that she didn't try to turn the song into a belt-fest, letting it stay the low key song that it is. The challenge, though, is that you still have to fiind a way to hold the audience's attention even without the big notes and the flashy technique to show off, and Kree didn't quite figure out how to do that. Quiet can be riveting; this was just sleepy.
Candice, "Chasing Pavements" -- Not a terribly interesting song, and the little ending tag (I assume the record ends with a fadeout) was a bit too sleazy Vegas lounge. She worked it as well as she could, but you can't make tapioca very interesting no matter what you do to it.
Round One to Candice, but not by a lot, and neither was anything to write home about.
Kree, "All Cried Out" -- The song suits Kree well, and it's a pleasantly serviceable country tune, which is a nice change from the usual Inspirational Anthems. It seems tailored to show off the strong belt she has in her upper register; however, even though the notes aren't all that high, Kree sounds strained as she goes for them, and she's not always quite getting to them. That's unusual for her, and I'd bet it's just a mark of exhaustion and stress.
Candice, "I Am Beautiful" -- It strikes me that no one ever sings a song with the message "I Am X" unless there might be some reason to doubt the singer's X-ness. You wouldn't hear Elton John singing "I Am Gay," or Marvin Gaye singing "I Am Black." And so there is something just a little unpleasant about assigning a song called "I Am Beautiful" to the woman who's not a size 2. And even beyond that, Candice projects such confidence that it feels off to hear her singing in the voice of a woman who takes such comfort in the fact that "he says" she is beautiful. She knows that already, dammit, and doesn't need anyone to tell her so. As for the performance, it's fine, though I'm not sure the song is as instantly commercial within her market as Kree's would be in hers.
Round Two to Candice, by a somewhat wider margin than Round One. But we still haven't seen anything exciting from either singer.
Kree, "Up On the Mountain (MLK Song)" -- Very good. She's slightly drowned out by the band and chorus at one point, but she sounds better than she has all night. Still not hearing the spark of magic you'd hope to hear at least once from an Idol champion on finale night, though; it's a solid performance, but it's not a thrilling one. And that, I think, is an apt summation for Kree's season. She's been a consistently solid performer, but she's never had that moment that makes you sit up with chills and say "oh, my" (It's been many weeks since we heard her do this song, but I think her earlier performance of it was better than this one, and the closest she's ever come to giving us that "oh, my" moment.)
Candice, "I (Who Have Nothing)" -- Oh, my. That's what I'm talking about. That's as close to flawless as you get on Idol, and it ought to be the decisive knockout punch.
Round Three to Candice, by a landslide.
Which means that with three wins in three rounds (and, in my opinion, season-long dominance), Candice should be the easy winner. But as we learned from Kree's surprising survival over Amber last week, you cannot underestimate the strength of the Idol country audience, and I will not be surprised at all if Kree wins.