Welcome to the Blade blog Culture Shock, a three-times-a-week riff by Pop Culture Editor Kirk Baird on pop culture news, events, and trends. The blog will appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings here, with the odd night or off-day posting if something is merited.
There's been some unusual drama surrounding Crystal Bowersox in the past several days: reports she nearly quit American Idol two weeks ago, and that she texted former American Idol contestant Katie Stevens this weekend to say the show's host, Ryan Seacrest, had "betrayed" her by exaggerating her nearly leaving the show to the media.
Tuesday night, though, the only drama was onstage as Crystal delivered an emotional performance of the Impressions' “People Get Ready” that had her in tears by song's end, and the judges amazed.
Crystal wore a black gown, sang without playing an instrument for the first time on American Idol, and hit her biggest note of the season mid-way through the song.
Simply put, it was Crystal's best performance yet on the Idol stage.
Randy: "Been a fan since day one. That is how you do it. That was unbelievable. I've got to give you the standing [ovation]." [Stands up to clap]
Ellen: "Crystal, you have never looked more beautiful. You just get more and more beautiful and you keep evolving and growing and getting better and better. That was so beautiful. And whatever that thing is, I like it." [Points to a homemade microphone stand that features an antique lamp attached to it]
Crystal: "This is my mic stand from back home. I used it every show until I came to Idol."
Ellen: "I like it. Keep it with you. Beautiful, Crystal. Beautiful."
Kara: "Crystal, thank you so much for taking a risk and putting your guitar down. You're at another level tonight. And Momma Sox, you know why they call you that? 'Cause you just schooled all those contestants on how to do it.”
Simon: "That was inspirational. You know what, Crystal? I'm actually happy, in a strange way, to see you emotional because you have kind of like closed down a little bit. All of us felt this song meant a lot to you. You sang it fantastically, and for me, it was in a completely different class to everything else we heard tonight. Congratulations."
Following the judges' thoughts, Seacrest asked Crystal about why she turned emotional at the end of her performance.
"My dad's here,” she said. “This is the first time he's been here. I just saw my dad, and I was like, Thank the lord for my family.”
Crystal's father, Bill, was there [he's the one sporting the mirrored shades], along with his mom, at least one brother, if not two, and other family members.
If there is any lingering animosity between Bowersox and Seacrest over the she quit rumor/story, it wasn't apparent onstage as they stood arm and arm. The pair even joked about a handkerchief that was taped to his front coat pocket that she wanted to use to dry her eyes.
“I love you, Ryan,” Bowersox said as the two exchanged high fives.
Could it have been acting? Doubtful. Crystal clearly wears her emotions on her sleeve, as we saw Tuesday night. If there had been any drama between those two, it seems to have been cleared up.
I do think the show of emotion by Crystal, as Simon alluded to, will cast her in a different light with viewers. With all the attention given to her possibly leaving the show on her own, people — including her fans — may be wondering if the 24-year-old single mom has the moxy to make it through the season grind. I think her performance Tuesday night answered those concerns.
Crystal may be emotional at times, and sometimes moments of weakness and humanity get the better of her. But when she digs down deep, there's no one this season who can touch her skills as a performer, her authenticity as an artist, and her heart.
Yes, there are still seven contestants remaining on American Idol, so it's still early to crown her the champ, but Tuesday night Crystal took another big step toward winning the show and launching what should be a very successful recording career.
People get ready, indeed.
Reminder: Tonight brings a two-hour American Idol, beginning at 8, with its Idol Gives Back charity fund-raiser, featuring performances by Alicia Keys, Elton John, Carrie Underwood, the Black Eyed Peas, Annie Lennox, Jeff Beck and Joss Stone, and Mary J. Blige, among others. At the end of the show, seen locally on WUPW-TV, Channel 36, one of the seven Idol finalists also will be eliminated.
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