Various Artists

American Idol: Season 9

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The usefulness of American Idol season samplers has diminished in the digital age, where each individual performance from an episode is available as a download the day after the show airs, but these official albums are a good time capsule of a particular season, and offer an opportunity to assess what went right and what went wrong during the course of that season. In the case of Season 9 -- the last season with Simon Cowell as a judge, the first with Ellen DeGeneres as a judge -- the one thing that went right is that the show secured show-long tributes to both the Beatles and Rolling Stones, and almost everything else went wrong, all stemming from the dullest final 12 the show has ever managed. Anybody who didn’t watch the show faithfully -- and that number dwindled over the course of 2010 -- would be hard pressed to pick Lee DeWyze as one of the final two contestants based on his hammy stumble through “Treat Her Like a Lady” here; he sounds like a cut-rate Tom Jones tribute act. Crystal Bowersox fares better with “Me and Bobby McGee” but that’s largely because she does a faithful Janis Joplin, pointing out the best that Idol has to offer in 2010 is mere competence. Bowersox is the best of this breed, with only Casey James giving her a run for her money with a coffee house reading of “Jealous Guy,” but the rest veers toward hotel nightclub forgettable and, in the case of Tim Urban’s reggae-fied “Under My Thumb,” just plain awful. As this comes to a close, there’s little wonder why Simon Cowell is departing Idol for greener pastures.

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