So this disaster of a season is finally over. Phew. I’ve been a fan since the inaugural season and I’ve been known to (repeatedly) tell anyone who will listen that Kelly Clarkson owes me for her career—I was voting for my girl all along.
From the get go, I’ve always been a proponent of TiVo’s hidden 30-second-skip feature when it comes to Idol. To make the show tolerable, you absolutely have to postpone watching for about 20 minutes to give yourself a solid cushion to bloop through the commercials, the filler, and the bulk of mediocre performances and inane commentary by the judges. But this season forced me to abuse the bloop more than ever before.
There has never been a less interesting group of singers than this season’s Top 12. In an attempt to find someone this year with “artistry” (I.e., someone like Chris Daughtry or David Cook who can take any song from any genre and make it sound like Creed), instead we were forced to suffer though weeks of boring-to-terrible performances by people who simply were not great singers.
With one exception: Crystal Bowersox.
She of the dreadlocks, lip piercing, and smoker’s teeth. In Idol parlance, girl could blow. And not in a boring, clean, Celine Dion/Broadway style, but in a truly soulful way. I know I get shit every year from my music snob friends for getting suckered into this malarkey, but it’s true: Crystal is a great singer. She’s genuinely, sincerely good.
And what made her so great is also why American Idol sucks. Her best performances took all the basic paradigms of the show and dumped them in the garbage where they belong. She often ditched the glaringly corny house band to instead surround herself with a small lineup of acoustic musicians. Her singing always seemed unforced and natural. Her charm was sincere.
You could tell by watching her that she never expected to get this far in this kooky freakshow, but she was going to enjoy the ride and take advantage of the opportunity.
My favorite “critique” came during “Shania Twain week” when Village Voice blogger Tim Breihan wrote, “Obvious frontrunner Crystal Bowersox continues to amaze me just in her ability to find a Janis Joplin song to sing every single week.”
And that might be true. But that only reveals the lack of real soul from anybody else in the competition. In the end, after the series’ craziest season finale, she got beat by Lee DeWyze. Whatever. That doesn’t even matter. The aftermath of last season’s Adam Lambert vs. Kris Allen proved that. So I can barely muster any indignation.
I’ll save the indignation to see what kind of monstrosity Clive Davis transforms her into for her debut album and its subsequent publicity drive. Last year I lamented how “the debut album is always churned through the whitewashing machine of Clive Davis, whose goal in life is to scrub any trace of unique personality from an artist. I mean, Davis made the authentically grubby southern rocker Bo Bice look like this!” I still think that’s hilarious, ha ha, but I don’t think I’ll be laughing when the New Crystal is revealed.
Clive with Janis, 1968My guess is is that she’ll keep the dreads and piercing, but drop fifteen pounds and fix her teeth. The look though is the least of our worries. Will she be willing/able to fight to retain what makes her interesting and unique? She obviously knows what works for her: the laid back, early 70s, Topanga Canyon vibe. But will Clive Davis embrace that niche?
I say no way in hell, but I’d love to be proven wrong. I mean, come on, Clive Davis is the guy who signed Janis Joplin after the Monterrey Pop Fest, so he’s got it in him…somewhere…buried deep down beneath layers of Whitney Houston and and Santana’s Supernatural and Rod Stewart’s American Songbooks. But go for it, Clive. Dig deep. Show some guts. And make a good record. Come on, it can’t do much worse than that Bo Bice turd you polished!
Other thoughts on the finale…
• Alice Cooper can’t sing anymore (or was that Aaron Kelly missing all those low notes?), but he looks great. The makeup helps. And school uniforms are still a great look.
• Barry Gibb can’t sing anymore, and he doesn’t know the words to “How Deep Is Your Love.” What’s up with that? Fallon does a better Barry Gibb than Barry Gibb. Terrible.
• Michael McDonald can still sing, I guess, but that doesn’t make him any less irrelevant. When did this dude get cred? I like the Doobies as much as the next guy, but this guy’s nothing but the 70s version of Michael Bolton. Go away.
• By far the most exciting thing to happen during this entire two-hour WTF-fest was the mic-stealing and Simon-bashing during the segment where they paraded out all of the whacked out freaks and mentally challenged kids who Simon has insulted during tryouts over the years while comedian Dane Cook sang a dopey song. One of these magorkuses actually took advantage of live television and hijacked the show. Good for him. Exploitative assholes.
• Christina Aguilera has a really great voice. Bringing her out there made everybody else look pretty bad. So the most “current” artist they can find released her first single eleven years ago. Yep, “Genie in a Bottle” was 1999.
• Darryl Hall can’t hit the high notes anymore, and John Oates needs to get a new plaid shirt.
• Alanis Morissette. Why is she there? Jagged Little Pill was released 15 years ago. Feel old? You are.
• I’ve never seen anyone less excited to receive a present (this includes children getting clothes for Christmas) than when Crystal and Lee got their ugly-assed custom painted Ford Fiestas. Uh, thanks?
• I was actually really moved to see Bret Michaels get out there and belt out “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” I didn’t give two shits about this guy before “Celebrity Apprentice” where he totally won me over. Now I love him. So I was relieved to see him make it through the song without blowing his top.
• Chicago can’t sing. What the hell were they even doing on this show? Do they even have anything to promote? Awful.
• Paula went on and on about Simon but proved how key she was to the success of this show. Without her, it’s just been a drag. Without Simon next year, it’ll be unwatchable. Unless they hire Noel Gallagher to replace him, of course.
• When all the previous seasons’ winners came out, I didn’t even realize that David Cook was absent. Didn’t miss him. But when they trotted out the other notable prior contestants, I actually screamed “JUSTIN GUARINI” out loud. My wife made fun of me for that. Deservedly. I was too busy trying to tweet something that I didn’t even see most of them. Did I bother to rewind? Are you high?
• It was cool to see Janet Jackson reprise the Paula Abdul choreography for her old song, but her new song was boring and her voice sounded even more like her brother than usual. Great style though. Love the short hair.
• Joe Cocker looks like an old homeless guy. But only slightly more so than he did back in the day.