American Idol Season 9 Finale

Crystal BowersoxSo 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 Davis with Janis Joplin
Clive with Janis, 1968
My 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.

8 thoughts on “American Idol Season 9 Finale”

  1. “…buried deep down beneath layers of Whitney Houston and and Santana’s Supernatural and Rod Stewart’s American Songbooks.” All of which made massive amounts of money for Clive. I have a feeling he thinks he knows what he’s doing.

  2. Agree with you on a lot of points, specifically the current contestants. I feel like the producers did a lot of manipulating at the beginning with the semis in order to fill certain demographics, which is how unfortunately some of the best possible contestants left WAY too soon( Lilly, Katelyn, Alex). Every so often you’d see a song performed horrendously and think hmmm how would one of those three have done it? Instead we get watered down crap from the likes of Paige Miles, Lacey and any of the men, since most of the men sucked.

    Crystal was the only bright moment. She had talent, she truly knew herself and what she was doing. If you haven’t Jake, look up the YouTube vids of her when she was singing at 13, her own songs. They sounded like someone twice her age wrote them. Unreal.

    Four yrs ago JB did a show for Folk You, I was heavily pregnant then so the name of where escapes me. There were four different acts that night. One of them was a young blonde girl with her guitar. She was probably about 19. When she started playing and singing the room had a hush over it. And I sat there with my mouth hanging open, she was FANTASTIC! Just very pure voice, a lot of soul. I forgot about her for a while til a few months ago when JB started pointing at our tv screen saying “I played with her! that’s that girl!”. It was Crystal Bowersox. I loved knowing we once saw her play, before she was on millions of screens. So we followed this horrendous season just for her. There were times she would start playing on AI and I’d get goosebumps. To me, she was THAT good.

    Lee is generic, he could barely keep in tune half the time and I predict he’ll go on to be the lowest selling Idol. You mock David Cook, but have you really listened to his cd? It’s pretty darn good man. And his new one coming up is a bit different from the first, he’s signed with RCA I think, so a bit more reign. Oh and least he has emotion when he sings,unlike Mr. DeWyze. Sorry, but during the R.E.M. song the other night I told JB that he looked like he was straining on the toilet while he sung. His face looked in pain. That’s why I don’t feel he deserved it. The judges called him most improved. Guess what? That doesn’t mean you deserve to win a singing contest. sheesh.

    Crystal’s pretty headstrong and word elsewhere is she has a vault of songs in a Chicago studio that are ready to go for an album. I don’t think 19 will mess with her that much, and given that artists like Miranda Lambert, Melissa Etheridge and a few others have actually mentioned really liking her-she’ll have a good career ahead of her.

  3. Agree re: goosebumps via Crystal. And I hope Clive lets her do her thing. If she fights him too much, the album will be buried and her career will be over. That’s how he rolls. They know that, she knows that. She has no choice but to play ball. They own her now. That’s the deal.

    I’ll admit I never listened to David Cook, and sorry but I never will. Hated his voice, hated his delivery. Can’t imagine that any record is going to change that.

    Lee’s version of “Everybody Hurts” sucked balls, but it was still better than the original, ha ha!

  4. I only ever follow Idol from brief passes through the family room where my wife and kids are getting their Idol fix. But I must agree with Jake that Crystal made me stop and pay attention – she’s great. But NOT at covering the dribble that the idiot producers shove in front of her every week.

    And just like last year when that kid won instead of Adam Lambert (Chris Allen?), this year’s winner was a joke compared to the runner up. Whatever. I’ll most likely never ever buy her album or hear her songs whenever they’re released. Of course first they must all go out on the Idol tour to squeeze out several more million dollars from the masses.

  5. You’re really way off base if you think Clive Davis whitewashes Idol artists. He obviously didn’t whitewash Fantasia but captured her. The same for Carrie Underwood. We all know he found the hits for Kelly like Since She’s Been Gone, Behind These Hazed Eyes and Breakaway which everyone knows she disliked and now they are the ones that healthily define her. He recognized Daughtry’s writing and developed and nurtured it. Regarding Bo Bice, look what he’s been recording by himself the last three years. Nothing has surfaced so don’t blame Davis. Davis has obviously not been turned on by the winners of the last three years so he’s not been involved as the credits show he’s done Whitney, Jennifer Hudson and Leona Lewis. All of us in the industry, we agree with Simon Cowell who just this year called Davis the greatest record executive in history. So your instinct is right — the man who was there to discover Joplin and Patti Smith and Whitney and Alicia is the best there is. Crystal should be so lucky to convince him to help her as Adam would have been.

  6. Ok….as far as the original bunch of Idols….Kelly Clarkson was by far, the one that deserved to win the most!! She could sing anything, from any genre. Her problem came when she decided to change her image, which she said she would never do. She tried to go “hard rock” which obviously, did not work for her. She got depressed, gained weight, and couldn’t get out of the hole until Reba pulled her out. She still has an awesome, incredible voice….she should have just stayed true to herself. She’s def not a hard rocker!!

    Clay Aiken, while being gay and all that, had a tremendous voice. He’s definitely a performer….he should have beat Rueben Studdard…hence the runner-up thing.

    Fantasia….oh G-ROSS!!!!! i can hardly look at her, much less listen. She’s so whiney and goofy….hmmmmm, I wonder if that’s why she isn’t spouting out the hits!!!

    Carrie definitely deservered the win…she has totally gotten better since she won. I’m a country music fan along with my other music, but I’m kinda over her. She went from the down home country girl to the crossover country-rock, wearing the 5 inch platform boots (that she can barely walk in and it looks ridiculous watching her try), the sexy outfits, and the “not-so-great” dancing she tries to do…..it’s actually comical.

    Taylor Hicks….well…no words can describe the horror I felt watching this guy make a fool out of himself.

    Jordan Sparks….well she was better than the others…not alot to choose from..

    David Cook was by far the best in a while. I enjoy his music and agree with Jen B on him….his albums are great….take a listen…

    Chris whoever??? whatever??? Adam was far better!! AT&T messed up!! Just sayin….

    Now….Crystal is way way way far far far better than Lee ever thought about being. Everything that comes out of her mouth is effortless. She never strains…she never even looks like its at all painful, stressful, even a little bit tough. I agree with whoever above here that Lee looked constipated on the entire finale. He was scared to death. That’s not a star. Crystal rocked it and was, by far, the winner!!!! She blew him out of the water!!!! Of course, with all the little girls voting, Crystal didn’t have a chance. Crystal was the obvious choice and she will go far with her career. As for the Clive business, she needs her teeth fixed and could stand to lose 15-20 pounds….Carrie lost 20 pounds and it helped her look tremendously!!! I just hope Crystal gets the recognition she deserves. I pulled for her from the beginning. She is a true artist and, like Kelly Clarkson, can sing ANYTHING, in her own way!!! Go Crystal!!!

  7. I still love Taylor Hicks. I was so excited to see him on the finale. When he came out their doing his Taylor Hicks moves, I was giddy. Dude just cracks me up. Look at him! Best Idol ever (after Kelly, of course).

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