After a lackluster soundtrack night, Chris Daughtry and Fantasia Barrino show the newly-crowned top 3 how it's done

By Sandra Gonzalez
Updated March 02, 2015 at 04:45 PM EST
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American Idol

S5 E39
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Let’s face it, after last night’s results show that sent one of season 9’s most polarizing contestants packing, everyone has a hole in his or her Idol heart for one reason or another.

First, you have the nostalgic group, the ones who wept at the sight of our past contestants in the montage video of hometown visits, while simultaneously crying out, ”Why, God? Why!?” A few in this group probably couldn’t help but crack a hint of a smile when Fantasia belted a rendition of ”Bittersweet” with enough vitality to reach into the depths of our dark souls and shed a little light, or when Daughtry’s voice once again echoed off the walls of the Idoldome with power unheard of for most (if not all) of season 9.

Then you have Michael Lynche fans. The loyal group that could see past his often overwhelming personality and appreciate him for being (undeniably) a talented singer, only to be let down as Big Mike was dismissed, which we pretty much knew was going to happen when he was left standing up there next to Crystal — who was not necessarily in the bottom two, per Ryan’s repeated ”in no particular order” declaration.

And finally you have loyal EW Idoloonies, who look forward to reading recaps from our dear ailing Michael Slezak. Never fear, he’s on the mend, but this morning it’s just us. Yes, I too feel like a sad, lost Idol lamb, but if this season has shown us anything, it’s that we all have more strength than we think. C’mon, we’re the group who sat through Paige Miles’ ”Against All Odds” a few weeks back. We will not receive a parade, have appearance at a local AT&T store, or be honored at a mini-concert for our accomplishment and strength. But still, let us gather in our respective grief, cheer once for ourselves like Randy Jackson does, and carry on. Because we’ve gotten this far, right?

Speaking of getting far… oh, Big Mike. When we one day put together our photo gallery on contestants who got a lot further than we thought they would, Mike will definitely grace the countdown. Admittedly, I wrote Big Mike off as a gimmick, a personality with a decent (but unthrilling) voice. A ninth-placer. I was obviously wrong, and I can admit that.

He started trying to win us over — and with a fourth-place finish, you could say he succeeded. His fellow contestants liked him (I supposed personal space wasn’t important to them), and Big Mike was the only one with the physical ability to throw Ryan off the stage, making him generally a good guy to keep around. But in trying so hard to get people to like and remember him, especially after he was saved, at times I found myself wanting to push the TV away, as if it were a sticky toddler on a playground seeking a hug. Don’t campaign so aggressively for my affection! You’re covered in sand! Er, fedoras. You’re covered in fedoras. Anyhow, overwhelming as he was at times, it was admirable to see him put his heart into it. And this season, trying is enough to get you fourth, unless your name is Alex or Lilly or Didi or…

NEXT: Fire in his eyes

Sure, our frontrunners have been pretty unenthusiastic all season. But we got sparks of life from them last night thanks to a collection of clips of Idol contestants of years past visiting their respective home towns. How could that footage of Kris Allen’s (Yes, Slezak! It finally happened!) cheering crowds, or Carrie Underwood and her young fans, or David Cook’s happy tears not inspire greatness? Or at least inspire you to go back and watch clips of great Idol performances on YouTube?

The strongest reaction to the segment probably came from Lee DeWyze. In response to one of Ryan’s few decent questions of the night, the Chicago native said plainly: “I want that to be me.” Cue my rousing cheer for the competitor’s spirit that seems to have finally made its way past Lee’s bundles of nerves and into his bones! Now if only a little more confidence could break through the ever-growing tuft of hair upon his head and seep into his brain, we’d be good to go.

Lee’s underwhelming Tuesday night performance of Seal’s ”Kiss from a Rose” definitely lacked fire, which he failed to take responsibility for last night. ”I probably could have done more with the arrangement, but I’ve done a lot with a bunch of the songs I’ve done…. but I guess this one I just wanted to stay true.” Dude, the Beatles? Okay to stay true to. The song from Batman Forever? It’s all right to play with that one a bit. If he can somehow find a bottle of passion and drive in the next few days, I say drink up, friend. Because there are no duets next week to save your night.

On that note, was anyone really surprised that Crystal was the one who suggested ”Falling Slowly” for her and Lee’s duet? Or that Big Mike was responsible for picking the ultra-sappy Bryan Adams tune that I all will always deny is on my iPod? Both songs were distinctly representative of the contestants’ respective musical styles, which was great because Lee and Crystal both work on a similar frequency. [Side note: Who would have loved to be in that rehearsal room watching the magic come to life? Side note 2: I need Crystal’s adorable penguin shirt, which I initially believed to be one of those x-ray-style shirts. Yes, I thought the penguins were lungs.]

I don’t think Big Mike’s choice worked out as well for Casey as Crystal’s did for Lee, though. And I was hoping Ryan would ask what Casey’s pick would have been. Fail, Seacrest. Nonetheless, Casey won the spot in the top three and will soon smell Texas air again, so I guess he’s not complaining. As orange-tinged (!) Ellen would say, particularly when she’s running out of points to make, ”I’m proud of y’all.”

NEXT: Longing for ”September”

On to the night’s performances.

Fantasia Barrino: ”Bittersweet” The quick shot of Randy Jackson after her performance said it all. If his silent tears of longing could be made into shiny material, we’d have enough to make replicas of Fantasia’s silver jacket for everyone in the audience — and the judges. My gripe is with the talking portion of the song. This girl can sing! Why waste her pipes on speaking? It’s a pet peeve. B-

Ford music video We were spared the ”live” group performance but still had to deal with one of these. I’m not fans of them in general, but this was one of the least musically offensive ones in recent memory. I’ll award this a C simply because who doesn’t appreciate a chance to get a fresh Diet Snapple?

Daughtry: “September” Here’s hoping this season’s contestants picked up a thing or two from season 5’s fourth-place finisher: This, newbies, is how to own a stage. This is how to perform a song with conviction. This is how to project your voice to the furthest corners of the room. And this is how to rock hair on only half your face. Stay hungry, Chris. A-

Bon Jovi, ”Superman Tonight’‎’ Love the song. Was not a fan of it live. This could be Idol‘s wonky sound system claiming another victim, but it was all off balance. Richie Sambora was too loud and drowned out JBJ. Legends deserve better. Yes, I said legends. Do not mess with Bon Jovi or I will find someone to bench press you. Now excuse me as I go hide in shame. B-

Well, that’s it Idoloonies. We’re down to the top three. What’s going through your heads right now? Now that Big Mike’s off Idol, will you be checking him out on iTunes?

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American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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