On Wednesday night's "American Idol," Ryan Seacrest declared that over 40 million votes came in. What he failed to mention was that last year at this time, over 88 million votes had been cast. Do the math, folks. An over 50 percent reduction in votes does not bode well for the future of "American Idol," not to mention next week will be Simon Cowell's last show.
Ryan spent time with each contestant, asking them how their experience on the show has been, how it’s changed their life, etc., etc., blah blah blah. The answers were as predictable as Kara’s perpetual bobbing head.
"It’s been hard to imagine." "It’s been a crazy ride." "It's been a lot of work." "It’s made me a better person."
Casey was predictably low-key saying that he had never fantasized about winning the show. Crystal and Lee were more ambitious. Both expressed strong desires to win the whole thing. Thank God there wasn’t the predictable, "My parents told me that I could become anything I wanted if I worked hard enough. Boys and girls, you can do the same thing." Good thing no one said that because I have news for you boys and girls: No, you cannot become whatever you want if you only believe in yourself hard enough. It takes talent, a ridiculous amount of work, rejection, disappointment, disillusionment, connections and YouTube.
The hometown visits were next on the schedule. Again, hate to be a broken record but this lackluster season necessitates it: The visits were, you guessed it, predictable. Casey was first and there were the expected screaming and hysterical teenage girls who were losing their vocal cords and ripping out their hair at the sight of him. I had a strong visceral response to those girls and Kara, who had also been seen looking desperate and lusting over Casey the entire season. She may still have her vocal cords, but surely she must have hair extensions by now.
The first celebrity performer was 20-year-old Travis Garland, supposedly discovered by Perez Hilton who said he found an online video of Garland and thought he was better than Justin Timberlake. Instead, Garland’s performance was bland boy toy stuff.
The next hometown visit was to Crystal's Toledo, Ohio. Crystal’s disbelief at the size of the crowds was all taken in stride. "It’s really weird," she said with that nonchalant shrug of her shoulders and go with the flow attitude. Crystal was just so un-American Idolish, which is something I find so endearing about her. Mercifully, there was not one sign of a hysterical tween.
Lee Dewyze was next with his visit to hometown Chicago. Not only were there a gazillion katrillion histrionic tweens, teenagers and cougars, but even the pre-tween girls were going insane at the sight of Lee. Hell, there were toddlers going crazy. Lee got very emotional and started crying when he was singing to the crowd. Lee’s father was crying, his mother was crying, and damn it all, I was crying and there was no Kleenex to be found. Thank God for long-sleeved shirts.
Speaking of fevered and delirious tweens, Justin Bieber was next to perform. Who is this kid, and why is he the most popular pop star on the entire PLANET? In case you still haven't heard the backstory, Bieber’s mother had been posting youtube videos of him practicing in his room and the videos went viral. And guess who discovered him? Perez Hilton? No, Usher and Justin Timberlake. I got more than creeped out when Bieber was singing "Baby" looking like a mini-Donald Trump. The scariest part? Not only was I familiar with the song, but I knew most of the words!
Oh yes, back to the results. Dim the lights time:
Ryan said, "After the nationwide vote, the first person in next week’s finale is: Lee Dewyze.
No surprise there.
And, since time must have been short (thank God), Ryan continued, "Joining Lee for a shot at the title is: Crystal Bowersox."
Shocker! All the tween votes, cougar votes, Texas votes, and Kara's vote ... none of them were enough to save the golden boy. And as it should have been, as it needed to have been, Lee and Crystal will go to the Final Two next Tuesday because sometimes, if only rarely, life is actually fair.
And as I was drying my eyes, I had this sudden premonition that next Tuesday night’s showdown between Crystal and Lee was going to be a mere formality. Given that there were no crazed fans at Crystal’s homecoming as opposed to Lee’s domination of almost every woman in Illinois, Lee could sing off-key for every song he sings next Tuesday night and still win. Why not? He's been doing it all season.
After the announcement, Casey stood there with that perpetual smile on his face. Nothing seemed to faze that guy. He said softly, "I’m so thankful for the opportunity. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m just so honored that I’m here and it’s amazing." You gotta admire a humble winner.
And, yes, Goldilocks wasn’t the best of singers or performers, and he was damn lucky to have lasted as long as he did, but maybe there’s something we can all learn from Casey James. Casey James, the same young man who had a wild and reckless youth with two DUI's, a stint in jail and a marriage that lasted only three years. Casey James, the same young man who nearly died from a near-fatal motorcycle accident, spent six months in a wheelchair and had been told by his doctors he may never be able to use his left hand again, let alone play the guitar.
Casey learned early that he was mortal, life is short and second chances that come in the form of still being able to breathe and eventually be able to play his beloved guitar put every criticism, every denunciation, every put down from the judges and idiots like me in clear and balanced perspective. He's alive and that's all that really matters.
Casey James didn’t win "American Idol," but maybe we can all agree that placing third and winning Mr. Congeniality ain’t so bad. Casey may be riding into the sunset, but his grace, gratitude and southern charm won’t be forgotten for a long long time.