Image Credit: Michael Becker/FoxThere are certain things we’ve come to expect from an American Idol performance-night finale: Copious boxing metaphors from the judges. Misty eyes and beaming smiles from the contestants’ parents. And “coronation songs” that would make even the kindliest grandma want to spit cynical bile into a bucket. Tonight’s season 9 installation, however, only delivered on two of those counts, and I can’t say I’m upset about it. [SPOILERS ahead, west-coast friends! Don’t say you weren’t warned!]

Nope, there were no “No Boundaries“-style clunkers in the mix tonight. Instead, the show’s producers had Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox respectively tackle tunes by U2 and Patty Griffin as their potential “Idol singles.” And while it may not have been the “contestant originals” that 90% of readers said they wanted to hear, it certainly beats the heck out of trying to break through at radio with “Do I Make You Convulse From a Saccharine Overdose Proud,” no? Of the two performances, Lee got the more commercially viable song with “Beautiful Day,” but turned it into a bit of a hot, honeyed wreck; Crystal’s “Up to the Mountain,” by comparison, is probably a little too folksy for modern radio, but damned if she didn’t sing the bejeezus out of it.

The judges seemed to hand the Simon Fuller challenge to MamaSox, too, but I thought that was more of a draw. Sure, Lee’s “Everybody Hurts” wasn’t flawless, but neither was Crystal’s “Black Velvet.” In fact, R.E.M.’s tearjerker was such a comfy fit for the paint-store salesman, I kinda wished he’d been able to close his set with it. Crystal, meanwhile, seemed to be working overtime to drag Alannah Myles’ big 1990 hit into relevancy, and at times, the strain showed.

As for Round One, I’m going to admit: I’ve always been totally resistant to the concept of a “Contestant Redux” round, and that’s one of the reasons I absolutely adored David Cook back in season 7, when he chose a new song (“The World I Know“) instead of repeating “Hello” or “Billie Jean” (as Simon said he should’ve done). But rules are rules, and certainly Crystal’s “Me and Bobby McGee” trumped Lee’s “The Boxer” in terms of (Glee reference in 5, 4, 3…) vocal adrenaline.

Enough of my yammering though. I’ve got a 2,500-word TV Watch recap to write — including a head-to-head comparison of Crystal and Lee’s 13 weeks of performances — that will post on early Wednesday morning. And so with that mountain to climb, I turn the pulpit over to you, Idoloonies. (Before I do, though, do sign up for tomorrow night’s LiveBlog widget, embedded at the end of this post!] Who performed best tonight? Which performances soared and which sank? Who do you think deserves the win? And is that the same person you think will get the confetti shower at the Nokia tomorrow? Sounds off below, and to get all my Idol news and commentary, follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak. [Related: My ultimate American Idol season 9 playlist (15 songs total, not ranked); ‘American Idol’: Simon and Randy predict Lee DeWyze will win season 9, but should they?; ‘American Idol’: 10 Under-the-Radar Successes]


Contestant Redux

Lee DeWyze: Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”

Crystal Bowersox: Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee”

Simon Fuller’s Choice

Lee DeWyze: R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts”

Crystal Bowersox: Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet”

Coronation Song

Lee DeWyze: U2’s “Beautiful Day”

Crystal Bowersox: Patty Griffin’s “Up to the Mountain”