Sunday, 29 May 2011

'American Idol' Finale Post-Mortem

I complain, I moan, and I cry conspiracy all season, but I am always a fan of Idol finales. Those folks know how to put on a good show, and they get amazing talent in there. Even last season’s uneven finale (seriously, Lee performing a “duet” with the band Chicago because he auditioned in Chicago? Seriously?) still had some great moments (Alanis Morisette and Crystal Bowersox FTW!). This year’s show was fantastic, in spite of an uninspiring final two. Here are a few notes about the Idol finale in no particular order:

Carrie Underwood is a class act, yo. We’ve seen what Carrie can do on that finale stage, and frankly every time she (or Kelly Clarkson) appears on the show, she legitimises it more than just a little bit. So I think it’s pretty admirable how much she dialed it back for Lauren’s sake in their performance of "Before He Cheats" (Carrie's first real breakout song). Even the last several bars, when Carrie is prone to inhabiting pure awesomeness in her vocals and performances, she let Lauren have some great riffs and glory notes. Classy. Same for Tim McGraw. I enjoyed both of those duets, which, you will recall, can sometimes lean toward the awkward (remember this little gem? It's like they were singing two different songs. I still feel uncomfortable).

HALEY AND TONY BENNETT, RIGHT?! Seeing Haley’s level of confidence during that performance (and in her other performances that night, for that matter) was wonderful. If anyone had a true “Idol journey” this season, it was Haley. In her first few performances this season, I was really put off by her performance mannerisms and an unlikability (not a real word) that I can only classify as stankness (also not a real word). But when she performed “Bennie and the Jets”, something clicked for her. She had a hilariously awkward “scootch” off the piano halfway through the performance (about :44 in) and a manic arm-swing going on throughout, but it just worked for her. As she came into her own this season, it was fun to see her gradually gain confidence in her performance style and her vocals. Do I even need to mention her victory march during her last three weeks on the show? That’s the stuff of Idol legends. Haley Reinhart, I salute you.

That was definitely Handsome Mark of SYTYCD fame dry-humping Lady Gaga atop the Aggro Crag, yes?

I thought just about every time Casey performed or commented, he was hilarious. OTT yes, but hilarious and fun. Honorable mention to Pia for skit-chastising James and Casey in their little bit about being the “most shocking”. That was cute.

[SIDENOTE: Where was Pia’s duet in the finale? Shocking omission.]

I loved the Beyonce medley for the female contestants (who were strangely sans Lauren). I think that was the best Karen and Thia ever sounded, and when Haley and Ashthon sang on “If I Were a Boy”, I suddenly felt a little sad that Ashthon never got the chance to show us that side of her during the finals. They all sounded amazing.

Beyonce can saaang…even though I’m not mad about her new single.

On that note, the Lady Gaga performance was pure Gaga and pure fun, but way too risqué for the Idol stage. If I had kids, I would change the channel when Gaga performs. So that’s why I was a little shocked to hear Beyonce sing the lyric, “Make love to me”, over and over again, mere minutes after Gaga's simulated sex scene on a large, fake cliff. Those two performances definitely took a usually pretty TV-PG kind of family hour, and turned it into at least a TV-14 kind of hour, in spite of the fact that the finalists were probably the most G-rated finalists we’ve ever had. Wow. Careful there Idol: never underestimate the “family show” audience’s predisposition to boycotting. #producermiscalculation

Oh, how bad was that U2-Spiderman fiasco? Wow.

Obviously, I’m not a Scotty fan, but I liked his show of emotion at the end. I don’t buy his calculated image, generally, so it was nice to see an honest overflow of tears and gratitude coming from the kid when he won. I also liked that his hair was all mussed. When he matures a little bit as a musician (read: stops imitating other country singers and understands that singing is actually a craft) and releases a fun, pop country hit, I’ll probably download it. I hated David Archuletta during his season (even though I recognized that he could sing really, really well) because I saw him as a tool of producer manipulation and an indirect source of Simon Cowell’s vitriol toward Carly Smithson and sometimes David Cook, but when he released “Crush”, I had to admit that I liked the kid and his undeniably catchy song. I hope the same could be true with Scotty.

Sooo, it may be unnecessarily creepy to speculate about the “relationship status” of a couple of teenagers, but the question has been begged: Lauren + Scotty = showmance?

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