If you’re like me, you sat and plodded patiently through this past, awful season of American Idol knowing that at the very least we’d receive some sort of consolation in knowing that Crystal, the immensely talented busker from Ohio, would win it all and thus preserve the one thing this franchise had left: a thread of legitimacy. But alas, it was not meant to be. Lee DeWyze took the crown on last night’s show, thus serving up yet another upset in the hallowed history of American Idol. I wasn’t feeling the choice, but was I tremendously upset? Nah. Not really. Like many other people, I just didn’t really care who won ultimately. I was pushing for Crystal, but eh, Lee’s fine too, I suppose. Granted, he can’t quite hit any notes, and granted, he looks overwhelmed by the mere sight of a tulip, but hey, if there’s anything we learned about the reappearance of Taylor Hicks last night, it’s that star power isn’t necessary to win Idol. All you need is a strong blue-collar fan base, and you’re golden.
How else to explain Lee’s victory? It certainly wasn’t because of musicality or talent or any semblance of a dynamic personality. Clearly his Everyman from Chicago persona resonated a bit more strongly than Crystal’s Earth mother, feathers-in-the-hair, coffeeshop look. Besides, she lacked Lee’s humble nature (and perhaps some decent quality toothpaste), and that can work against you.
But again, who cares? Last night’s show wasn’t about crowning a winner. It was about saying goodbye to Simon and to a larger extent, American Idol as we know it. In honor of this special occasion, Fox pulled out all the stops, and by that, I mean they paraded out the world’s most impressive lineup of adult contemporary music stars and has-beens. Granted, many of these musicians are living legends, but I’m not sure many of them have had songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 in about ten years (with the exception of Christina Aguilera, who I missed when I stepped out for frozen yogurt mid-finale with my friend Sly).
The first geezer to hit the stage was the one and only Alice Cooper, whose voice (or what was left of it) stood in stark contrast to the squeaky clean Disney-fied sounds of the Idols. (side note, I almost just wrote “Alice Walker,” which indeed would have been a sight to have seen). I don’t know which genius thought up this pairing, but it was one of the most bizarre sights of the night. It also highlighted the sheer lack of charisma this season’s cast has. Alice Cooper could barely get a note out, sounding more like Golem at karaoke than anything else, and yet he was infinitely more fun to watch than any of the other wannabes prancing around beside him.
The night soon descended into Lite FM territory though after a pleasant but forgettable Kris Allen performance followed by Siobahn Magnus and Aaron Kelly crooning with… the Bee Gees! Okay, I’ll confess: I really liked Siobahn and Aaron’s duet at the top of the number. Even if it was unbearably outdated, they sounded pretty amazing. And then the Gibbs arrived, and it all got a bit weird. But whatever. The producers were throwing a bone to baby boomers watching, and that was cool. Surely we’d get a more current artist soon, right?
Not so much. Instead we got Michael Lynche and Michael McDonald performing “Takin’ It To The Streets.” Again, this was a perfectly proficient performance, but seriously: Michael McDonald? I sort of thought these things wouldn’t be happening after The 40-Year Old Virgin scorned the musician mercilessly. But alas, here we were, watching the modern incarnation of Uncle Sam bellowing out his famous tune for all the world to hear. Bleh.
Around this time, I traipsed off to Hollywood Boulevard for a froyo break, courtesy of Cantaloop, which turned out for the best because apparently I missed an ode to Simon courtesy of Dane Cook. Needless to say, I did not rewind my DVR. I apparently also missed the top six girls singing and dancing with Christina Aguilera, but again, I’m not losing any sleep over that one. Xtina (as they say) has a fantastic voice, but I’d be hard pressed to name her last good song. Oh wait, I’ve got it: GENIE IN A BOTTLE.
When I did return to my apartment, I turned on the TV just in time to hear someone say “Ladies and gentlemen, HALL & OATES!” Color me thrilled. I know it’s all retro-campy fun to say you love Hall & Oates these days (although, my friend Caty TRULY does still love them), but I’m not one to get terribly excited by them. That being said, they sounded pretty good (at least on the Alice Cooper scale). However, honestly, all I can think about when I remember this performance was the very end as Big Michael Lynche mugged for the camera with the most bizarre look on his face. Sadly, he mugged at the wrong camera; so he looked even more idiotic than usual. I, meanwhile, took quiet satisfaction at his showboating gone awry, even if it was in the smallest of ways.
We then inched towards a cool moment with the pairing of Crystal Bowersox and Alanis Morissette, but again, Alanis hasn’t lit up the charts in years, and so while I appreciated the nostalgic nod, I couldn’t say this was a brilliant way to make the competition skew young again. Nevertheless, Crystal started things off with a fun rendition of “Ironic,” and then soon Alanis herself marched onto the stage singing her signature revenge anthem, “You Oughtta Know.” I was kind of psyched to see this pairing, but damn, whoever told the women to pace back and forth on the stage should be in charge of handing out Dramamine to America. It was getting to be a bit much, watching the camera trail one woman and then another. I definitely had brutal memories to the Swirl-o-Vision Idol submitted us to during Crystal and Lee’s very own duet just two weeks ago.
Nevertheless, watching Crystal pace along the stage next to Alanis reminded us how little presence she actually has, but then again, there’s always hope for growth. Take the next performer, Carrie Underwood. She used to be a total dud on stage, but now that she’s blossomed into a bona fide superstar, she knows how to bring it. That being said, it seems like we get five Carrie performances shoved down our throat ever season on Idol; so I respectfully fast forwarded.
I should note that in between these various performances were silly montages that either were an ode to the finalists, their journeys, or Simon. None of them were compelling, and none were memorable. For instance, I REMEMBER NONE OF THEM. Oh wait, there was an awkwardly low-key segment when Lee and Crystal each won a car, and neither of them had anything more to say than “Cool.” And therein lies the problem with this season. SNOOZEFEST.
Back to the performances, we then had Casey James singing with Bret Michaels, who a) has been everywhere this week, b) shouldn’t be everywhere since he had a brain hemorrhage four weeks ago, and c) kind of didn’t deserve to win Celebrity Apprentice . Nevertheless, they had a nice moment together, even if both guys seemed to be singing in different keys.
Speaking of brain trauma, I think I nearly suffered one watching the geriatric ensemble that is Chicago take the stage with the Windy City’s new favorite son, Lee DeWyze. This was one medley of songs that did not need to be sung. It’s not that I don’t like Chicago. I just don’t like listening to them (and Lee) butcher their own songs. Melodic croaking is the best way to describe this experience, and as some people have mentioned on Twitter and Facebook, one of the band members had an eerie resemblance to Will Forte, and that’s never a good thing.
Just when things couldn’t get any worse, the inevitable novelty act appeared on stage, this time in the form of General Larry Platt, who sung his seminal hit, “Pants On The Ground.” I never, ever understood the appeal of this thing. It wasn’t funny to me when I first heard it, and it certainly wasn’t funny to me now, not even with a bunch of spritely dancers zipping and zagging around the General. Making matters worse was that William Hung then entered the fray, thus taking a dead horse and beating it with the carcass of another dead horse. The entire spectacle was hideous, and it made me pine for the good ol’ days of Michael McDonald.
Soon after this ridiculousness, Paula Abdul took to the stage, and dare I say it? She looked amazing. She really did. And she seemed somewhat lucid. She delivered a sweet, if longwinded, tribute to Simon, and eventually, it seemed like she was cut off for a video montage of their times together. This was followed by an epic Idol reunion which saw all the past winners (except David Cook, who had a charity obligation) as well as several notable alumni take the stage and serenade Simon. Glaringly absent? Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, and Jennifer Hudson. Bizarrely present? A barely recognizable Mikalah Gordon, a smiling Kristy Lee Cook, and a chesty Ace Young.
Also back for screen time was Constantine Maroulis, whose greasy Grecian hair was now longer, stringier, and more disgusting than ever. He sort of looked like a lecherous, pot-bellied version of the girl from The Ring. And in case you’re wondering, the answer is no, that is NOT a good look.
We also caught a brief glimpse of Melinda Doolittle, who has exchanged her Lilly Tomlin hair for a neat Macy Gray afro poof. I’m not sure that I love the look as it ages her tremendously, but awww, it’s Melinda. How can you say anything bad about her?
Well, once the singing was over, Simon took to the stage and thanked the fans and contestants and Paula Abdul in what he claimed was an emotional moment for him, but I’d be hard pressed to actually detect a hint of any emotion beyond his usual biting sarcasm (and for the record, that’s fine by me).
Once Mr. Cowell’s farewells were concluded, it was time to hit the final stretch of the show, but not before a musical interlude courtesy of Janet Jackson. It began with the current cast singing “Always,” and after they had mangled it enough, out walked Janet, barely acknowledging the young talent by her side. Instead, she nodded toward the audience and sauntered to the middle of the stage where she performed her latest single called “Nothing.” Far be it for me to bestow praise on anything that comes from a Tyler Perry movie, but I thought this understated theme song from Why Did I Get Married Too? was actually quite lovely. Methinks I might be heading to the iTunes store for a purchase after this.
Of course, “Nothing” was entirely too staid to be our lasting impression of JJ, and while her slicked back hair was certainly dramatic, we all know Janet is capable of leaving more of an impression, even if it means baring her boob to the world. And so after the song, the beat came in, the dancers showed up, and BOOM! Suddenly, she was wearing a slinky body suit that showed off all her curves. Janet then proceeded to sashay all over the stage, swinging her badunkadunk to and fro whenever she could. It was sort of amazing, undermined only by the nagging feeling that she looked like her older brother Jermaine in drag.
Nevertheless, it was fun to hear something that didn’t involve a strumming guitar (something we’ve had entirely too much of this season). Janet soon disappared, and then we were treated to a stirring performance of “A Little Help From My Friends” with Crystal, Lee, and Joe Cocker, who may or may not have been expunging a giant turd on stage. It was actually a great moment, and Crystal played off Joe perfectly. Lee, well, he was just kind of THERE (as usual), but of course, as we all know, his general lack of presence or superstar musical ability wasn’t going to keep him out of the winner’s circle.
Sure enough, a few minutes later Ryan declared him the new winner, thus rendering the former paint salesman momentarily speechless. His happiness was definitely endearing, but as we watched him growl his way through his victory tune, “A Beautiful Day,” I couldn’t help feeling like I had just wasted many months of my life. Truth be told, I wasn’t super surprised by the outcome as the occasional live cutaways to Crystal and Lee’s towns kind of spoiled the results. Lee had an entire town square filled with fans as far as the eye could see.
Crystal, however, had a respectable, but small crowd in Toledo, Ohio. How could we tell? Well, the cameras tried to fool us into thinking there were thousands of people present, but we could see rows upon rows of empty seats in the auditorium or arena where the rally was being held. And thus my theory: whoever has the bigger hometown crowd on the finale is gonna win. And sure enough, Lee won.
Now we can put this season to sleep and pretend like it never happened. Too bad Simon’s swan song had to be so miserable.
What did you think about the finale? Happy with the outcome?