Four Guys in a Row (Plus “Gold Star” Judging)
As boring as last night’s Idol Final 2 performances were, the Idol results show was far more entertaining (even though I didn’t glimpse David anywhere in the audience this time as I did yesterday). Part of the reason was the diversity of music and performers. What a stark contrast from what the Final 2 represented!
So, what exactly is going on with “America”? Seriously, when the Top 13 came out to perform, I completely and totally forgot how diverse the group was. The season started out with such promise!
I didn’t realize how much I missed Naima, or that Karen and Thia really didn’t get a chance to grow, even though they sounded great in the Beyonce medley. Then Beyonce and Marc Anthony (love me some salsa BTW!) came out and did their thing, and it’s like: wow! Some “color” and flavor on the Idol stage!
And had Steven Tyler gotten over himself, he might have actually spent time “judging” contestants so that they could actually learn how to perform the way he did tonight (because, seriously, Tyler OWNED the night with his “Dream On” – and as such I forgive him for his “gold star” judging).
So here’s the thing that irks me to no end. I don’t think “tweens and cougars” are ruining American Idol by voting for their favorite TV boyfriend (which, BTW, is such a chauvinistic viewpoint; it presumes that only women would vote mindlessly for a cute guy over talent – as if that’s the only reason we voted like mad for David Archuleta!). I’m going to go out on a limb and say I believe it’s the evangelical Southern Christian mega-church crowd who’s driving the power vote these last few years (yep, the same folks who think Mormons like David belong to a cult and that gay guys like Adam Lambert are “destroying America” and that strong rebel girls like Crystal Bowersox are not “good role models”). Those folks who could care less about talent (or today’s pop music for that matter, hence why the past few winners haven’t sold well).
However, I also believe that Idol’s producers are tipping the odds in certain people’s favor. I care that folks like Scotty and Lauren got more face time since auditions began over other folks. I care that “diversity” is used to draw in different kinds of audiences and then easily tossed aside because the “power voters” vote for “safe and middle-of-the-road” over edgy or different every time. I care that each week, Idol brings in musical guests who are topping charts, who look NOTHING like the contestants who keep advancing in the competition (and then they wonder why their recent winners aren’t selling like they used to – get a clue: what “America” votes for is not the same thing they “listen” to). I believe Lady Gaga said it best when she told little Lauren Alaina that no way would she have made it through the door on a show like Idol. Winners like Scotty prove the point.
I guess I’m just disappointed that, when a season actually started out so promising with the musical diversity presented – from the reggae style of Naima to the Latin tones of Karen Rodriguez to the jazz offerings of Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart to the heavy metal bravado of James Durbin to the gospel inflections of Jacob Lusk – we get two boring, middle-of-the-road-John-Denveresque country drivel. I mean, we don’t even get the Dixie Chicks version of country. Oh No! Just this safe little country prom version, replete with Scotty singing a song about “passing notes in class,” asking a pretty little gal to “check yes or no,” as if that represents today’s teenager (more like a 6 year old). And as someone who did spend my teenage years in Bible Belt places like Georgia, I know what I’m talking about. This version on Idol is just… Sad!
And so, I got to blame the “gold star” judging for these results. Because, seriously, how did boring Scotty run away with this when Aaron Kelley (who is pretty much on par talent wise) didn’t reach the semi-finals last year? When everyone is presented as being “fabulous and wonderful” and given a “gold star” for trying, audiences are left to make up their own minds. And when they do, they choose safety! They choose something recognizable and mundane and bland. They don’t go for daring.
So now we’ve got our fourth guy in a row who has won American Idol. And I’ve got to laugh at the irony. I’m sure most of you don’t remember this, but back when Jordin Sparks won American Idol Season 6, folks were wondering if a white guy could win again after Taylor Hicks. Heh, I know no one is wondering about that anymore.
But, I’m definitely feeling that a new era of Idol has been ushered in, where we may not get another Jordin Sparks or – heck – even another Kelly Clarkson. If last year was the result of Justin Guarini (Lee DeWyze) winning over Kelly Clarkson (Crystal Bowersox), then this year Blake Lewis, the one-trick pony with his beat-boxing (Scotty) beat out Jordin Sparks, the young girl with the big voice (Lauren).
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not accusing “America” of having some kind of gender or racial bias (see, I would only make those accusations when, say, a Melinda Doolittle is booted off in 11th place, but not when you can’t sing on key, as was the case with Naima, even though I loved her energy on stage). I do however think, when the playing field is level (as in, all things being equal, everybody’s nothing special with room to grow), the blandest of the bland often prevails.
So, the judges need to step up their selections for Top 24 and really give America some vocal forces to be reckoned with; then, we wouldn’t have such scenarios where the blandest of the blands are crowned the next American Idol.
I’m now more convinced than ever that Paula Abdul had been the driving force all along for scouting talent while Simon was the driving force for getting that talent to up their game. Who knew Randy was so useless after 10 years on this show?
If this continues to be the trend, I may seriously (for real this time) have to bow out and stop watching this show, which is becoming more and more irrelevant the longer it stays on.