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MAY
15
2 YEARS

'American Idol' Finale Recap: Kree Harrison Battles Candice Glover

The judges have apparently decided on who they'd like to win. Will the rest of America follow suit?

American Idol May 15 2013 L
Ray Mickshaw / Fox

If only it were possible to crown two winners.

Because in this battle of soul singers -- the first girl versus girl finale since 2004 --  Kree Harrison and Candice Glover, both wildly talented, have proven to be equally deserving of the season 12 title.

Recall when Kris Allen pulled off an upset victory against the glorious Adam Lambert, a far superior performer, in season eight. More injustices: goofy Taylor Hicks winning over angel-voiced beauty Katharine McPhee, circa 2006. Lee DeWyze usurping the throne from Crystal Bowersox. And, dare I say it, Clay Aiken was robbed in season two. 

But after Wednesday's performance show, I must confess: while my fan-dom for Candice remains unchanged, it would not irk me -- not in the very least -- if Kree snagged the prize away from her rival. The latter sing-testant, who shared her heartbreaking past during her hometown visit last week, performed a stirring reprise of Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain," reminding us again why she was this year's one to beat early on in the contest.

Although there is no clear winner, in my opinion, the judges' panel seems to be playing for Team Candice. The vocal powerhouse from St. Helena Island, S.C., closed the show with "I Who Have Nothing," which just so happens to be my least favorite song of all time. (Seriously, I'd rather listen to "It's a Small World" or -- worse -- Smash Mouth's "All Star" on continuous loop.) But I'll concede: Candice, a favorite for her consistency and jazzy style and remarkable ability to make a stale song sound fresh and new again, absolutely nailed it. She always does. The judges showered her with praise. "It's about singing and, baby, you got it all!" bellowed Randy Jackson, in good spirits days after submitting his resignation letter.

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America (or the tiny sliver of the country that continues to watch Idol): good luck making this decision! In roughly seven years on the Idol beat, the first and only time I have ever voted for a contestant was in 2008 -- for obscure 10th-place cast-off Chikezie Eze. (I should not be admitting that, right? But I loved his rendition of Donny Hathaway's "I Believe to My Soul.") Like Tom Brokaw declining to vote for president out of respect for journalistic objectivity, I shall not text in my selection in the Candice/Kree match-up, even though I might be one of the most biased AI bloggers this side of Vote for the Worst. 

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ME. Back to Candice and Kree, who duked it out over three rounds of songs: Idol creator Simon Fuller's selections; the singles they would release if they won; and their favorite covers from the season.

Round One: Kree sang a sweet and soothing version of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel," which was recently heard on NBC's The Voice. (Apparently, Mr. Fuller is a fan of the competition.) While the lullabye-ish tune perfectly matched the pretty inflections and tone of Kree's voice, the Texas native appeared somewhat paralyzed onstage -- nerves? -- while Randy nearly nodded off. Candice successfully took on Adele's "Chasing Pavements," delving into her lower register to reveal even more layers of her multi-octave range. However, as Randy said, "neither of these songs were the right songs ... both [were] a little sleepy, to be honest." 

The winner of this round, according to me: Candice, for doing Adele justice.

Round Two: Kree's coronation song? "All Cried Out." Good title; depressing lyrics; sounds like a Faith Hill B-side track from the '90s. Someone give this woman good, original material! (You available, Angie Miller?) Phillip Phillips was lucky enough to score "Home," easily the best and most marketable post-finale single from the past 11 years. Out of all the country ballads rejected by Carrie Underwood, Idol's music supervisors can do better than this. The song chosen for Candice -- "I Am Beautiful" -- has an appealing Mary J. Blige/Christina Aguilera-esque message of self-empowerment, although the lyrics are a tad treacly. But sensitive hunk Keith Urban approved, saying: "It fits her like a glover!" Ha. Good one, Keith. SWOON.

STORY: Kree Harrison and Candice Glover: Ready for Their Final Bow

The winner: It's a draw. The finalists both did the best they could with the musical hackery handed to them.

Round Three: Accompanied by a choir, Kree delivered her strongest performance in weeks on "Up to the Mountain," which Nicki Minaj called "uplifting" and Keith praised for showing off her "spirituality and soulfulness." The kudos continued for Candice, whose "I Who Have Nothing" had the panelists piling on the compliments extra thick. "That girl can plum flat-out sing! This is how you do it!" gushed Randy, while Mariah Carey -- who's made no secret of her love for the contestant -- said: "I know I'm going to be listening to you for years to come." Meanwhile, Nicki dubbed Candice a "superstar" and directed attention to her short dress, teasing: "Are we seeing your legs tonight for the first time?"

The winner: Kree. I'm sorry, I hate hate hate "I Who Have Nothing."

Next up: Thursday's big reveal! So many questions, Idol Worshippers: who are you rooting for? If forced to listen to "All Cried Out" or "I Am Beautiful" for an entire day straight, which would you choose? Also: do you agree that Carly Rae Jepsen should not sing any song besides "Call Me Maybe"? Sound off in the comments.

Twitter: @ErinLCarlson

Email: erin.carlson@thr.com