LOS ANGELES — Casey James only had an all right night on "American Idol."
The judges didn’t back the soulful 27-year-old musician from Fort Worth, Texas, on the Fox singing contest Tuesday, the final showdown before next week’s season finale. His mellow renditions of Eric Hutchinson’s "OK, It’s Alright With Me" and John Mayer’s "Daughters," which was selected by Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson, drew little praise from the panel.
"If you were having dinner, that’s the salad," Simon Cowell said of his "Alright" song choice.
Instead, the judges were wowed by Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze, the other two remaining finalists.
Bowersox, a 24-year-old musician from Toledo, Ohio, beguiled with her selection, Melissa Etheridge’s "Come To My Window," as well as Paul McCartney’s "Maybe I’m Amazed," a tune by Ellen DeGeneres that inspired Bowersox to strut across the stage.
"You may be thanking Ellen for putting you in the final," declared Cowell.
Lee DeWyze delighted with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s "Simple Man" and the Cowell choice of Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah," which concluded with the reserved 24-year-old paint sales clerk from Mount Prospect, Ill., surrounded by backup singers. After the soaring performance, Jackson deemed it "unbelievable" and DioGuardi called DeWyze "the heart of the show this season."
"I am very, very proud of you," said Cowell, who championed DeWyze early in the competition.
Cowell, who is departing "Idol" after this season to launch a U.S. version of his British talent show "The X Factor," apparently isn’t going without a fight. The tell-it-like-it-is British judge took issue with DioGuardi and Jackson for choosing the dull "Daughters" for James, suggesting that the duo should have written a bigger climax for the finalist.
"Yeah," DioGuardi retorted, "we’ll just rewrite a Grammy Award-winning song."
One more singer will be eliminated Wednesday with the final two crooners battling for viewer voters and the "Idol" title next week. The finale comes at a time of change for the aging franchise. Fox executives announced Monday that Tuesday night performance episodes would be 90 minutes, while the Wednesday results show would be chopped in half to 30 minutes.