Over the course of American Idol season 9, one of eventual winner Lee DeWyze’s defining characteristics as a singer was to take a popular song, add his own spin to it, make it recognisable but somehow different from the original and rock it out. I mean, his covers of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer’ and Shania Twain’s ‘You’re Still the One’ were arguably better than, but definitely different from, the originals.
That is why it was so puzzling how, having chosen U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ as his winner’s single, Lee pretty much followed the original arrangement completely. True, he did add his own subtle nuances here and there but by and large the song was done pretty much in the same vein as the original, a move which got him panned by many (including me).
He should have just sung it this way, the way he did in an Access Hollywood performance after winning the competition:
Whether it is better than the original or not is again arguable (his take on the song during the finals definitely wasn’t, though) but it cannot be denied that Lee transformed the song almost into something entirely new. True, this version might be more low-key than an Idol coronation required but, hey, if you can’t copy the original well, might as well do something totally different, right?
I actually prefer this one, personally, because it not only brings out Lee’s best points as a singer (the emotion and the raw grit in his voice) and hides his flaws (propensity to go off-pitch, lack of real, explosive vocal power), but it actually sounds like a contemporary alt-pop single that someone like James Morrison or Gavin DeGraw could have whipped up.