Thursday, 27 May 2010

I Love/Hate American Idol Voters

Okay, I have a little bone to pick with the American Idol voters. For years, yes years, I have defended the voters of my favorite singing competition. It's true, we've had our ups and downs, but it was the voters who gave Ms Kelly Clarkson the win over that curly-haired fellow in season one, bestowed on Reuben the rightful talent victory over the lovable underdog in season 2, rewarded Fantasia for the best single performance in Idol history ("Summertime", duh!), showed us that country music singers deserve a shot at Idol stardom, too, and gave David Cook the ultimate points for originality with his victory over the pin-up worthy little teddy bear with the heart of gold. Sure Idol voters have royally missed the mark, too. The premature eliminations of a long list of talent from Elliot Yamin to Melinda Doolittle to Michael Johns and Carly Smithson (during dream season 7!) to Lilly Scott from this season show that voters are capable of both underestimating the staying power of talented front-runners, and totally ignoring said talent because they don't fit into the image of the winner that they want. And Taylor Hicks' victory was just wrong.

The voters really let me down this season. Don't get me wrong: it's not that I don't like the dreamy paint salesman from Chi-town. On the contrary, I think that he deserved to be in the final two this season bar none. He has a pleasant tone to his voice, a nice-guy kind of personality, and an ability to make songs "his own" (to borrow an overused term from the Idol dictionary). He also showed oodles of growth and an occasional tear in his puppy-dog eyes. But let's be honest here: Crystal won the season from the very beginning. She still showed growth, but not as much as Lee. She didn't need as much growth as Lee.

Case in point: remember Lee's cover of "Chasing Cars" during the semi-finals? I didn't either until I looked it up. But that same week, Crystal busted out the Bob Dylan harmonica on her well-rounded cover of Alanis' "Hand in My Pocket", followed by CCR's "Long As I Can See the Light" the next week. It's hard to show a lot of "growth" when you're already pretty good from the beginning and you have a strong sense of who you are as an artist. Crystal Bowersox goes into the Adam Lambert/Melinda Doolittle file of contestants who won based on talent, but lost in the final vote to contestants that showed more "growth" and, let's be honest, physical attractiveness. (Not that I'm ragging on Kris Allen. He's more my type of singer than the Glambert, but he's boy-next door cute and straight up not as technically good as Adam Lambert. Just keeping it real.)

I don't want to dwell in the negative, though. It's pretty exciting that a folky, singer-songwriter like Crystal Bowersox could make it to the top 2 on a show as "poppy" as Idol! She gave us a mini concert every week and never lost who she was in the Idol machine (I'm so talking to you, Siobhan). Doubtless, I'll be one of many buying her future records and making arrangements to see her in concert. She also (to my knowledge) introduced both Melissa Etheridge and Alanis Morrissette to the Idol stage and actually performed a Patty Griffin song during a voting night. All very good things! This was a fledgling, lackluster season at best, but Crystal, and quite often Lee, as well, were bright spots. Lee shouldn't have won, but it was not the worst possible outcome for this season!

Hopefully, the voters and I will be friends again after So You Think You Can Dance this summer, or after next year's Idol. It's starting to seem like a streak to elect a "cute boy" the winner three years in a row, so here's to hoping that the most talented will win again in the near future. If Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have proved anything with their post-Idol careers, it's that voters are more than capable of recognizing talent when they see it. Oh well, maybe next year.

Some things about the finale episodes worth noting:
- "Up To the Mountain" has been my dream Bowersox song all season, and I thought the final product was her best performance of a season of very good Mamasox performances. Could not have been better!

- Why did they make Lee sing a song that U2 actually charted pretty high?? The by the book arrangement did him no favors. It seemed like he was drowning in a sea of sound. I'd much rather buy a cheesy original song written by Kara than a recycled U2 mess!

- Remembered just how mediocre the other contestants were this season during that atrocity of a group number. It felt like it took a long time to get to the finals this year!

- I've never been a fan of "roasting" Simon during results shows. Glad that tradition is ending.

- Did Paula make things a little awkward with the judges not named Simon, or was that just me?

- When Mamasox introduced Alanis onto the stage for a duet during her magical cover of "Ironic", I actually squealed with delight. I may have jumped a little bit, too.

- Carrie Underwood ALWAYS brings it.

- There was an audible inhale by my Idol buddy and me when Kelly Clarkson appeared onstage for the reunion number. We love her so.

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