I’ve been a fan of American Idol since the very beginning, and I don’t ever remember seeing a final three that was this deserving. Sometimes by the time we get to final two I don’t feel like either of them are deserving. But this time we had three very deserving Idols, where all were very different, but no less deserving. No matter how the vote went tonight, we knew we’d up up with a great finale. We also knew that either way it was going to be hard to say goodbye to someone tonight.
Danny Gokey was a guy we followed since his audition. His plans had originally included auditioning with his wife and going on the journey with her. Yet just a few weeks before the auditions, she died of a heart condition. His grief almost kept him away from the auditions, but he thought people might learn who she was through him. Instead, he auditioned with his best friend, Jamar Rogers, who came close to making it, but didn’t make the final 36.
An early favorite of many since that first audition, Danny continued to wow us in Hollywood and again in the final 36. People were whispering about him being in the final two since the very beginning, just as they were with Adam Lambert. Paula told them both every week it seemed that she’d see them in the finale. I think the problem with all of this early attention was that Danny started to believe it. He can’t be blamed necessarily, as it was a new thing for him, unlike Adam who was so much more seasoned. Danny sang great every week, but he didn’t constantly challenge himself, and all the songs started to blend together with his trademark of starting slow, then jamming his way to the end.
The problem with this is that Danny was in a competition and couldn’t afford to take it easy. Kris Allen came sneaking up on him. It’s hard for me to believe that the Kris that sang Heartless last night was the same Kris that sang Man In the Mirror in the semi-finals. He grew on us all little by little every week, with that “aw shucks” charm and simple vocals. By the time he sang Falling Slowly from the movie Once, we were all stunned. Where’d this guy come from?
Danny had an unusual off week last week, and suddenly people were calling for his head on a platter. Somehow he survived it as Allison Iraheta, the final girl in the competition, went home instead. It seemed to have humbled him a little, though, as he showed nerves for the first time in his performances last night. He kicked it into gear after a bit, but both songs started out a little shaky. He sang very well, but made some questionable melody changes to a classic. Yet vocally, even Simon had to admit it was like Danny was holding a Vocals Master Class. But the creativity of the night went to Kris who came out with the biggest risk of the night, singing an acoustic version of a rap song, only backed up by his own guitar.
Danny’s nerves were still showing tonight as Ryan Seacrest was trying to go through the usual banter with the Idols as they sat on the couch, and Danny told him he just wanted to get it over with. This was the first time in the competition that he appeared worried that he might not stay. His fears were not unfounded, and he left, but not before we got to see how he started this journey, along with a picture of him and his wife at their wedding, invoking tears across the nation, I’m sure.
At Danny’s audition, all the judges loved him, and Randy told him he was one of the best they’d seen this season. He was right. Danny got his ticket to Hollywood, and leaving the audition room, he went the wrong way, then said he didn’t want to be the guy that goes the wrong way, but did. He then told his wife this was for her.
Danny, you didn’t go the wrong way.
Photo courtesy of Fox