Fans of American Idol season 9 champ Lee DeWyze can now exhale. While lots of critics (me included) were less than enamored of his rendition of “Beautiful Day” on last week’s Idol performance finale, the former paint salesman more than redeemed himself this morning by offering a unique, stripped-down twist on the song as part of Today‘s summer concert series. Playing an acoustic guitar, and accompanied on piano by Idol‘s Michael Orland, Lee made significant changes to the rhythm and melody and turned U2’s soaring anthem into an intimate, placid ditty; honestly, I felt like I was hearing the song’s lyrics again for the very first time. Better still, Lee’s vocal was clean and clear — no getting swallowed up by a V-formation of strings players here! — and allowed him to put his own stamp on a contemporary classic, as opposed to merely getting lost in Bono’s massive shadow. Is it me, or does the arrangement almost sound Bruce Hornsby-esque?
Incidentally, when Lee stopped by the Idolatry studios for a video chat on Tuesday, I asked him why he didn’t go with his acoustic rearrangement on Idol (a previous and similar version of Lee’s had been streaming on YouTube), and his answer was, well, pretty interesting. I’ll say no more for now, except to add that the Idolatry video Q&A will stream here on EW.com later in the week, so do follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak, and I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as it’s posted.
Below, check out Lee’s Today performance (followed by his Idol rendition), plus Crystal Bowersox’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” and the duo’s reprise of “Falling Slowly,” then scroll down to take our “Beautiful Day” poll!