Here are the last of the Casey James’ American Idol videos. As a fan, this can be rough viewing as it has his worst-reviewed performance as well as his swan song. But it also has what I consider his best, most unappreciated performance — the tender, vulnerable Mrs. Robinson.
Okay, let’s get this over with. Sinatra Week, Top 5. Best mentor — Harry Connick, Jr. Casey sans guitar is more uncomfortable than the proverbial fish out of water. When I listen to Blue Skies now, knowing how well everything has turned out for Casey, not only do I no longer cringe, but I can see that there were some moments there when his voice sounded really good (most notably during the lines — “blue birds singing a song…all day long”). But this was not Casey at his best or most comfortable and it was a testament to his talent and the loyalty and love of his fans that he came back the next week. This is the only time that the studio recording is better than the live performance.
Top 4 week had a twist. Each contestant sang one individual song and then there was a duet. Telegraphing for the viewers at home who they wanted to see in the final two, the producers paired Casey with Mike and not the more logical Crystal. But Casey and Mike made the best of it, not only doing a terrific job with the song but turning it into their signature piece, part of the American Idol 2010 tour. Casey’s guitar work is particularly impressive in the duet.
What got to me that night, and still does, was his version of the Simon & Garfunkel song Mrs. Robinson. I’ll admit that I, like most of America, thought Casey chose that song as a wink to all the silly cougar comments and ridiculous behavior by the judges based on Kara’s on-again/off-again infatuation.
I was surprised months later, during my interview with his mother Debra, to learn the real reason behind the song selection. Casey, a Simon & Garfunkel fan, chose the song simply because he loved it and for the fact that its lyrics about heaven and Jesus were particularly meaningful that week (which was both the anniversary of Casey’s motorcycle accident and when a close family friend had just suffered a terrible, life-threatening accident). I noticed the tear in Casey’s eyes at the close of the song, but didn’t appreciate the meaning until I learned the truth. This is, to me, the best, most uncelebrated performance by any contestant of the whole year.
Not sure what to say about Top 3 week. It was pretty clear Casey was due to get off the train at that spot and I’m not sure he disagreed. His song choice was a bit confusing for me. It was an unknown song by an unknown artist, very risky at that stage of the show. But the way he was rushed on stage, his pick still in his pocket, the mic not ready, showed that someone thought his time was up. He sang Eric Hutchinson’s OK, is All Right With Me, well, but, with all due respect to the songwriter, there’s really nothing to the song to get excited about.
The last song was the judges’ choice and they saddled hm with a boring song with slightly creepy lyrics written by a slightly creepy guy, John Mayer’s Daughters. Casey wasn’t given the band of angels choir, or the literal spotlight, or the inspiring song — those were for Lee. Casey sang the song well, but that was besides the point.
The next night as Casey felt the relief of reaching the end of the road, he sang Daughters again, this time joined on stage with his cousin’s daughter, Lyndi, aka Bow Girl.
The next week was the finale and while the night was supposed to belong to the final two contestants, Casey stole the show with this dynamic duet with Bret Michaels. There was so much going on that had so much meaning. One rocker coming back from the brink-of-death performing with another who had his own near-fatal, life-changing experience. Casey being the first performer to sling two guitars on one song on American Idol. Casey letting it be known that he was not going to be defined by where he finished on the show. So here is Casey’s last, triumphant and memorable, performance on American Idol.