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“Idol” Performance Finale Is a Showdown Throwdown

Kree Harrison
Kree Harrison
Photo by Ray Mickshaw / FOX.

It's all over but the singing, folks. Oh, right. The singing is over, too, if you're reading this. So tonight (May 15) American Idol finalists Kree Harrison and Candice Glover had an epic showdown the likes of which this show hasn't seen in at least a year. 

Longer, if I'm being honest.

Idol producers noticed, too, and cued the dramatic, symphonic battle music while the girls faced off with pithy observations about how winning could change their lives.

"This week all the hard work is going to pay off," said Ryan Seacrest. Well, maybe add a few months/years more of hard work, but yeah. Something like that.

The show was once again divided into three rounds: Idol producer Simon Fuller's choice, the contestant's first single and, finally, their favorite from the season. Here's how it shaped up.

Round 1

Kree was given Sarah McLachlan's “Angel,” which was actually a pretty good choice for her soulful brand of country singing. She played it soft right through the end, accompanied by piano and steel, sounding a little unsure in a couple spots, but overall it was very pretty.

Candice got to sing Adele’s debut single, “Chasing Pavements," which was also a pretty sensible choice that let her stay right in the pocket. She wound it up a little bit in the end, throwing some of her trademark ad-libs in there. 

A subdued first round on the whole, but I'd say the advantage went to Candice. Randy agreed, saying of Candice that "at least she took the song and tried to make more of it and had some interesting choices."

Before Round 2, we got to hear Carly Rae Jepsen's single "Take a Picture," which has been some kind of interactive project with Coca-Cola and Idol viewers. Also, Carly was a Canadian Idol finalist so it was a homecoming of sorts.

Round 2

The winning single for Kree was a song called "All Cried Out," which is more like a song you'd expect to hear Carrie Underwood sing. Kree flubbed a couple of notes in there, but it sounded like something from the heart and thankfully there was no mention of a mountain or seizing the moment or whatever.

Candice's song was called "I Am Beautiful," and it was much more of the traditional Idol coronation template: a power balled about self-empowerment and self-worth. Still, she sang the fire out of it and it wouldn't sound totally out of place on Top 40 radio.

I'd give Round 2 to Kree, for having the slightly more memorable song. "Both of these songs were tailor made for the girls," said an enthused Keith Urban. He picked Kree as the winner, while Nicki Minaj chose Candice.

Round 3

For her season favorite, Kree chose Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain," which she originally sang in the Las Vegas rounds. And holy cow, she aced it, just squeezing every last drop of soul and emotion out of it until there was nothing left. That's how you do it, folks. Nicki thought the energy was "uplifting," and Randy called it a "winning kind of performance."

Candice went back to "I Who Have Nothing," dressed in black and surrounded by dramatic swirls of fog. She sang the entire first verse a cappella, coming in right on key and doing all those dazzling runs she loves. It was yet another powerful knockout performance in a series of them, and very possibly a game-winner. The judges certainly seemed to think so. "What comes across is superstar, commands the stage," said Nicki.

Tough call in Round 3, so I'll just call it a draw. Both ladies were amazing.

Considering it was a pretty doggone strong night from both contestants, I honestly have no idea who's going to win tomorrow. And you know what? I find that kind of exciting.