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Handicapping the Finale of American Idolby Sting7 -- 09/04/2002
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The finale is upon us and after last night’s performance, we will crown America’s first American Idol. And believe me, it is only the first of many to come. In an interesting wrinkle, Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini sang two original songs, and on song of their choice, it was their favorite from previous American Idol performances. If this were a boxing match, it would be the Singer vs. the Entertainer. Kelly’s vocals are out of the stratosphere, Justin’s vocals are more than adequate, but he has a charm and charisma that is undeniable. Who will prevail?
This is what I made of it:
Justin Guarini, “Before Your Love”: Nerves. Justin was big-time nervous. In the beginning, I dare say he was off-key, but he managed to gather himself and deliver a decent performance. The arrangement was sparse enough to give Justin some room to explode if he wanted to... but he maintained a understated delivery. Strategic?
Kelly Clarkson, “A Moment Like This”: The vocal power on Kelly Clarkson is jaw-dropping. I’m not sure who they got to write these songs, but, er, they seemed to have watched a lot of Star Search. That said, Kelly sung like her life depended on it. The amazing thing about Kelly is that you feel so comfortable with her. You never feel like she’s gonna clank. There is something to be said about that.
Justin Guarini, “Get Here”: Again. This was a mistake. I know he thinks that “Get Here” is his ticket, but Justin, we have heard this five times now, and it has never been as good as the first time. I think they gave the finalists a whole 60 seconds to perform their favorites, and 60 seconds is not enough for Justin to get the smolder he needed. Good, but not great.
Kelly Clarkson, “Respect”: A mis-step. Finally. The girl is human. She just tried to do too much with the Aretha classic. In the end, it sounded like a lot of hollering. Considering the short shrift the contestant’s choice was given in the program, this minor pothole in the road to glory won’t mean much.
And then we were treated to a performance by Will Young. There is so much I wanna say about that. But, it’s not my beat. Come on, Dana, do me proud!
Justin Guarini, “A Moment Like This”: Kelly had raised the game, and Justin did his damnedest to meet the challenge. This was probably his best performance of the competition. A shaky start, but he managed to cast a spell and make the song his own. His ending had the crowd hanging on his every note. Phenomenal.
Kelly Clarkson, “Before Your Love”: Let’s note for a moment that in the weeks prior, Kelly has managed to topple Aretha Franklin (twice), Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion (probably leaving Whitney Houston to Tamyra Gray’s capable hand). With “Before Your Love” she has made her case to have her name mentioned in their company on a regular basis. Her performance was far more dangerous than Justin’s. She took vocal chances, she pushed herself, she made the song hers and in the process, outclassed Justin. This is gonna be a landslide...
There is no doubt in my mind. Justin gave an absolutely credible accounting for himself, he deserved to be a finalist. His future is bright, his career is certain. But… The American Idol is clearly Kelly Clarkson. Man, I can’t wait for her to go to England and show them what America has produced! Will Young. Indeed. From the moment she made the top ten, Kelly has been the benchmark. She is like an unstoppable force and completely deserving. Her vocals are world-class, and she’s cute as a button. Goodbye scantily clad junior divas of the pop charts. All Hail the new American Idol: Kelly Clarkson!
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