SUSAN PIERCE: More than 100,000 aspiring singers auditioned for Season 9 of "American Idol," and tonight we're down to two: Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox.
Tonight's performances will decide who wears the Season 9 crown. It's the battle of the girl who's consistently brought her A-game each week vs. the guy who has consistently improved and gained more confidence with each weekly test.
In a perfect world, the most talented singer would win, and that would be Crystal. She has been pegged as the judges' favorite since the start, much like Adam Lambert was last season. We saw how well that worked for him.
I predict a repeat of last season's finale: The underdog will win. Lee's style of music reaches a broader fan base, his voice is very commercial-sounding, and he just has that aw-shucks appeal that's so endearing.
Susan's pick: Lee DeWyze.
KAREN NAZOR HILL: After last year's shocking win (I'm an Adam Lambert fan), it truly is a toss-up who the voters will elect as the American Idol.
I think Crystal is the most talented of the two finalists, but I also know Lee has a great deal of appeal to the audience and especially to the judges, who may see him as a more marketable talent than Crystal.
But then again, I can see Crystal fronting a band. She's extremely versatile in that she can belt out anything put before her, and we've seen her impressive talent on guitar, piano and harmonica. When I buy a CD, it's because I love the singing and the music. And I buy my fair share of CDs. I wouldn't buy a Lee DeWyze CD. I would buy one by Crystal Bowersox. I'm hoping America gets it right this year and votes for the most talented contestant: Crystal.
Karen's pick: Crystal Bowersox.
CLINT COOPER: Well, Susan and Karen, I guess that leaves me to break the tie.
From the beginning of the round of 24, I have said Crystal was far and away the best talent. She effortlessly tackled whatever genre of music was thrown her way, and she entered the competition already comfortable with her voice, range and versatility.
I admit unashamedly I was shocked Lee made the original 24 contestants based on the limited time he had been shown on television. I did not care for him. However, as he has grown in confidence and found his voice, I have found him eminently appealing and felt some of his performances were my favorites of the season.
He still has further to grow but has come so far this season that I am going to give him my nod over Crystal -- whose talent I believe is better -- by a whisker. As Susan said, I believe Lee's voice has more commercial appeal, and "Idol" producers need that after recent winners Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks and Kris Allen have failed to catch fire.
Clint's pick: Lee DeWyze.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...