Ryan Seacrest started last night’s season finale of American Idol with the announcement that coming into the final vote, there was less than two percent separating the total votes of Crystal and Lee. Which is of course a meaningless statistic since the voting habits change every week with one less contestant.
That’s typical of a show that tries to infuse drama in any way that it can. Because if the final vote between Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox was indeed close, you know American Idol would’ve exploited it. Sadly, my sources tell me it was not.
You Oughta Know
Who would have guessed that Crystal Bowesox and Lee DeWyze had so much in common? Thanks to Ryan Seacrest, we learned that both auditioned in Chicago, both are 24 years old, and both are in it to win it on American Idol!
Brilliant, Ryan. (Not.) But aside from inane judges’ comments about “This is what the show is all about!” after virtually every performance last night, the far-stretching comparisons end. As far as I’m concerned, the title fight ended with a knockout before a crowd of 7,000 at the Nokia Theater.
Though I was hooked on the show from the start, I’ve been purposefully refraining from writing about Lost for the duration of its six-year run. In my mind, the world didn’t need yet another voice to publicly join the vast chorus of crazy theories attempting to explain its mysteries. Of course, that was part of the fun with Lost, and I certainly shared my ideas with friends and family. But much like reading a great book, I simply wanted to sit back and enjoy the ride, trusting the quality of the storytelling and waiting to see how it would all play out.
Now it’s over and you’d think the theorizing would be done as well. Wrong! Think everything was answered? Not by a long shot. But that’s Lost for you, a show that answered questions with more questions. Just as it should be for a show that inspired so many deep conversations.
I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues
This Idol season’s weakest of weeks continued last night. No surprises. No drama. No great performances. And what a dull opening interview with the finalists with questions about how hard their week is between Tuesdays, how badly they each want to win, and how much they each wish they were home with friends and families. At least we learned from Crystal that they get good health care, but man, this hour was padded with tedium.
But at least we had the homecoming video footage, which I for one absolutely love every year. It’s the time in the season when we finally see how much these Finalists’ lives have truly changed (for the short term, if not the long term). Just 4 or 5 months ago, hardly anyone knew who these three were. Now they’re budding superstars with motorcades, TV interviews, and screaming fans filling fairgrounds, football fields, and racetracks.
Blonde Ambition … or Lack Thereof
The ironic thing about American Idol is that the closer we get to the finale and the more excitement that builds in selecting a new winner, the more predictably things play out as they reach their inevitable conclusion. Granted, we’ve had a couple of photo-finishes in recent years with Kris vs. Adam and the Battle of the Daves. But in the course of a season, it’s so much more fun when we have a wide field of candidates with varying styles and personalities, as “Survival of the Fittest” weeds out the pretenders from the true talent.
And so it goes this year with season 9. I’ve no complaints about which contestants have made it this far, save for my incessant whining about the final week of semi-finals, when Lily, Katelyn, and Alex were unceremoniously dropped. But is there really any doubt which two contestants this year are going to duke it out at the Nokia next week … and which one is soon to be a forgettable also-ran?
Don’t You Forget About [Him]
I had forgotten the significance of this stage in the American Idol competition. Those who make the Top Three get to return home after months away, making appearances and performing a concert in their hometown before handling multiple songs on stage next week. The homecoming week is always an enjoyable highpoint for me, seeing the enthusiastic fan response to the local heroes that made good.
In addition to the drama of the results, what a pleasure to see some honest to goodness performances this week! Nothing over the top. Nothing emphasizing spectacle over singing. And admittedly, it’s nice to see former contestants return to the show. As the Idol alumni association grows, there are increasingly more singers worth checking in on to see how they’re developing as artists. So without further ado … the recap!
Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do???)
Most every season, the American Idol producers throw a “Songs of the Cinema” week our way, which seems like a very open opportunity for contestants to pick a song that suits their style or interpret a well-known favorite through their artistic lens. Except, of course, not all songs are cleared for copyright purposes, limiting the singers to 50 or so pre-selected choices that may come across as predictable, dull, and cheesy. And that’s kind of what we got with this year’s list.
Let’s not focus too much on song selection, though. A good performer can still make the most out of a halfway decent song, even if it’s treacle or cliché. That seems to be what guest mentor Jamie Foxx was going for with his return visit. The guy’s so self-assured with his own artistry that he comes off a little cocky and arrogant with his advice—especially since most of that advice stemmed from him staring at the contestants up close while they performed.
The Best Is Yet to Come
Is American Idol the weirdest season yet or is it the most predictable? Things have been pretty rote as far as which contestants have been voted off—including last night’s exit—but at the same time, the performances have been all over the map.
Take last night’s festivities, which included guest mentor Harry Connick Jr and … and Lady Gaga. (Cue theme to The Odd Couple.) You’d think the producers would try to keep their focus on the theme from week to week, but where would we be without at least one insanely over-the-top stage production desperately vying to be the next day’s water cooler conversation?
All or Nothing at All
We’re now down to the American Idol Top 5. It’s the point where (arguably) all the iffy contestants are gone. We’ve been listening to these five individuals sing for more than ten weeks now and have a solid understanding of what their strengths and weaknesses are, what their personalities are like, and more or less what kind of artist each one wants to be: the rocker, the country-pop singer, the blues man, the tender R&B crooner, and the rootsy alt-pop gal. At least one of these five (if not two or three of them) will be securing a record contract in the near future.
And so, in the infinite wisdom of the producers of American Idol, these five talented individuals with defined musical identities are forced to sing … the songbook of Frank Sinatra?
[She] Don’t Impress Me Much
There was indeed some drama with this week's Idol Results, though it was severely downplayed for an overabundance of (lackluster) country performances from Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum, Sons of Silvia … and Shakira???
Well, at least there was no group-sing for once. (Thank you Idol producers, for showing us mercy!!!) It only makes sense at this point with half of the finalists out of the picture. Of course, the show still found time for a stupid vampire themed Ford commercial, a long commercial for the forthcoming Shrek Forever movie, and the four musical performances. My memory isn’t what it used to be, but weren’t the results shows just 30 minutes once upon a time?
Still the One?
Country superstar Shania Twain was one of the better guest judges during the early pre-Ellen rounds on American Idol this season. And she was also a decent enough mentor tonight, giving some practical advice to the contestants concerning performance and arrangement. But did they need to go overboard by making her relatively limited catalog the theme of the night?
Country music night, for me, is usually one of the low-points of the Idol season. It usually comes across forced and awkward to every contestant but the one or two who happen to specialize in the genre. Of course, there’s no rule that says they have to perform a country song in a country style—especially since Shania isn’t pure country, but country-lite gone pop. (I blame her for blazing the trail that Taylor Swift now follows.)
Show Me What I’m Looking For
Last night, we saw Casey James, Aaron Kelly, and Tim Urban in the Bottom Three, and one of them went home. But more on that in a bit…
The usual results show took a backseat to well over two hours worth of pageantry and fundraising for this year’s Idol Gives Back event, which spanned two auditoriums/theaters: Ryan Seacrest hosting from the routine Idol stage and Queen Latifah from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. It was a night packed with emotional footage, feeble attempt at humor, and lots of performances, all spanning the gamut of schlock and good taste. Let’s dive in, shall we?
For starters, I’m glad they still do this event. Yes, the show doesn’t have the same pull as it once had. Yes, the recession had lowered giving for most people. Yes, the cue card reading and cameo appearances felt corny and overwhelming. It’s still a tremendous gesture and effort from one of the most popular shows on television. And if you feel so inclined, please donate at www.idolaid.com or call at 877-Idol-Aid.
Holding Out for a Hero
With the exit of Andrew Garcia and Katie Stevens last week, I’d like to think we’re about two eliminations away from being rid of the mediocrity on this season’s American Idol. Then things really start to get interesting, with every contestant being a worthy contender.
Except there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to the predictability this season, and thus the mediocrity will continue. Watching the singers slog their way through “Songs of Inspiration” last night, it finally hit me what the biggest problem with Idol has been in Season 9: Every week is beginning to feel like a repeat of itself, from the struggles of the weakest singers and the complacency of the middling singers to the consistency of the strongest.
Return to Sender
Wow, with two contestants going home last night on American Idol, the producers didn’t beat around the bush. Andrew, Aaron, and Casey were singled out, Ryan recapped their critiques, and then WHAM, Andrew was eliminated before you could say “Straight Up.” No drama of being in the Bottom Three. You almost got the feeling that Andrew knew he was doomed. And while it’s too bad considering his potential early in the season, America made the right choice based on his recent performances.
Andrew’s sudden departure ended up adding to the drama of who would go next. And with Aaron (and Casey) out of danger, it could be anyone among the remainder! Ryan only magnified that point by recapping all six of the other contestant critiques before declaring Crystal, Siobhan, and Lee safe. That left Mike (again!), Katie, and Tim seemingly in danger.
It’s Now or Never, Contestants
After last week’s dramatic “Reshults” show, as Ryan slurred it, we’ve got an extra dramatic week: two are going home, and no judges can save them. (Plus, with Idol Gives Back slated for next week, it’s very likely that the same scenario will play out next week.)
The musical theme for the return of the Top 9 was Elvis Presley’s deep catalog of hits, and who better to serve as a guest mentor for the night than … Adam Lambert? Well, both are performers ... and I suppose they have similar physical features. It was kind of an odd rationale/justification for why Adam should be the first former Idol contestant to return as a mentor, especially so soon after his Idol run. An interview with executive producer Ken Warwick even suggests that they felt sorry for the flamboyant singer’s so-so career thus far (though Ryan did Adam no favors with his awkward “tongue” comment).
Seven years ago, Jennifer Knapp walked away from her highly successful music career with hardly a peep. Rumors abounded, from talk of her marrying some businessman in the UK to speculation that her sexual orientation was in conflict with her target Christian audience.
Now with a new album finally on the horizon, the mystery is over. Reuters and The Advocate have reported that Knapp is indeed a lesbian, and she discusses it in a candid interview with my former employer.
How many are surprised? I’ve never been one to fuel the rumors, but I’ve also been hearing them them from several reliable sources over the years. Interestingly, Knapp still maintains that burnout was really the reason she walked away from her career, not because of her relationship.
Bravo to Louie Giglio and his Passion team for presenting their second annual Good Friday event in Atlanta. Good Friday at Verizon—so named after the sponsored amphitheater in which the event was held—could easily have been called a concert, with top-draw names like Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Christy Nockels, and Kristian Stanfill on hand.
With a Little Help from My Judge-Friends
In talking with others about the Lennon-McCartney performances from the other night, it sure seemed like things would unfold predictably for the Results Show. There were 3 or 4 contestants that were obviously inferior to the rest.
Ah yes, the ole herding of the contestants into groups bit. A decent attempt at suspense, though I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that all three women were safe—it’s time for one of the guys to go, and this only made it easier to separate the boys from the men, right?
Not so much once Lee and Casey were placed in one group and Big Mike in another. Adding the other three helped clarify things: Tim joined the first group and was declared safe, while Andrew and Aaron joined Mike in the Bottom Three.
Getting Better [Most of] the Time
The songs of The Beatles are indeed some of the catchiest and best known in pop music history. And many of their songs have been covered hundreds of times by an eclectic array of artists in the last 50 years. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the songs of The Beatles—sorry, “Lennon and McCartney”—helped elevate the overall performances on Idol last night.
Nothing is automatic, of course, as fans of the show may recall when The Beatles catalog was first available two years ago. For every creative interpretation (remember Chikezie Eze’s “She’s a Woman”?) there’s bound to be a train wreck (still trying to suppress Kristy Lee Cook’s “Eight Days a Week”).
Thankfully, no one was awful. At worst, we had a few contestants picking obvious songs suited to their bland, creativity-challenged style—it’s going to cost one of them. But there were also plenty of finalists who took the opportunity to prove they’re more than so-so singers, proving themselves worthy of their own Magical Mystery Tour come summer when the Top 10 visit a city near you.
Kids, Don’t Grow Up to Be These Guys!
How nice of Michael Lynche to open up tonight’s Results show. Wait, that wasn’t him? Oh, well, good thing Ryan Seacrest put the two guys together. Despite his weight loss, Ruben Studdard makes the other guy look like Not So Big Mike!
All kidding aside, and despite Ruben’s velvety Vandross voice, it was hopefully a moment for Mike to learn what not to be. We don’t need another Ruben—another fine singer with forgettable songs and a copycat sound. We need someone willing to be his own artist. And we more or less got that this week from Mike and other contestants. (Thought really, Mike, the My Pretty Ponytail has got to go!)
We were treated to some other examples of “what not to be” during the R&B oriented Top 10 Results Show. Stupidest comment of the night? Could it be Justin Bieber saying that Usher helped shape who he is as an artist? Well, of course! It all makes sense now, since both can’t sing a lick! For all of Usher’s good performance advice to the Idol contestants the other night, he was all flash without substance. His new single “OMG” stinks (did a 1st grader write those lyrics? Justin Bieber?), you could hear the auto-tune struggling to keep him sounding on pitch, and Will.i.am didn’t help much either midway through the song. But hey, the flame-pots were cool!