Sunday, May 25, 2008

America Voted...And Actually Got It Right.

I feel bad for how negative I’ve been towards David Archuleta. For the entire season, I would laugh as he forgot lyrics, gave his “Aw shucks” look, squinted, licked his lips and talked about the great message every single one of his song selections was supposed to convey. He went weeks after “Imagine” to put up another great song (and that’s debateable), but no matter how uninspiring his effort, Randy Jackson would praise him to high heaven and make the exact same comment about singing from the phonebook. Now that the season has ended with a dominant David Cook victory, with a lot of people around the internet very, very joyous, I can realize why the idea of Archuleta’s victory bothered me so much.

It really boils down to two reasons. The first goes back to the aforementioned Mr. Jackson, whose constant, inane praise of Young David made me naturally react with vitriol towards a completely innocent 17-year old kid with a crazy dad. It’s like when LeBron James was about ready to make the leap to the NBA and Dick Vitale was calling one of his high school game. James delivered a perfectly nice but perfectly normal behind-the-back pass on a fast break and Vitale began extolling the young King’s virtues, screaming “How many people in the country can make that pass, baby?!” when the answer was literally thousands, if not tens of thousands. I was against YDA simply due to the ratio of ridiculous hype bestowed on him versus actual quality of song was so high.

The second is less his fault and more the fact he stumbled into tween-and-grandma-inspiring cuteness and a pretty good voice, meaning that he came across as a focus group-perfected Idol contestant. It’s as if they crafted him in a lab, only they couldn’t find a way to perfect his cold, dead eyes. When you add in some awful song selections and the early awesomeness of David Cook (“Hello,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Billie Jean,” “Always Be My Baby,” “Music of the Night”) and you had a clear-cut hero and clear-cut villain this season.

Courtesy of Vulture.

But now that’s it over, I think YDA made a grateful (and relieved) loser, and reading the interviews about how much he looked up to Cook really reveals the dynamic they had. The only lasting bitter feelings I have coming out of this season are towards the voters for stealing Michael Johns and Chikezie away from us too early and towards Randy Jackson, who needs to go. Even the New York Times is getting in on the bashing, and I very happily quote:

“The “American Idol” producers have also been soliciting opinions online, as they have in past years, about which of the three judges are most integral to the show and which might be expendable. Much public discussion has focused on Paula Abdul, whose verdict last month on a performance that had not yet occurred drew attention and some scorn.

But it is anticipation of those unscripted moments that draws marginal viewers to the show; fewer fans, it would seem, tune in to hear Randy Jackson’s weekly admonitions about whether each performer stayed on pitch.”

I feel like this season will go down as one of missed opportunities. From individual song selections being poor, voters knocking off contestants just as they seemed to be hitting their stride (Carly, Michael, Kristy Lee), other promising contestants unable to handle the pressure (Brooke, Castro to a certain extent) and the songs just being so old in general (see below, courtesy of What Not To Sing), what could have been a great season ended up being an okay season with a great ending.

As far as prediction metrics for next season goes – for those of you that will be joining us in an expanded Idol suicide poll; with congratulations to Dill and Jake for their joint victory this year due to our lack of ability to come up with a tie-breaking system – the Freakonomics blog takes a look at the best options, and my old standby, DialIdol, appears to be the best option. The only time their busy signal analysis was wrong was when KLC went home when they had her very much safe.

A few bullet-points to take us out:

  • I know the folks over at Entertainment Weekly’s Idolatry adore Carly Smithson, but even as she and Michael Johns dueted on one of my favorite songs, “The Letter,” I still didn’t get her. She always seems right on the verge of just screaming at me instead of singing. She’s got the voice for a big-time career, but there’s just something about her I don’t get.
  • Michael Johns, with all of his old man, creaky dinosaur dancing, is still my favorite. The only good thing about his early ouster was his voting bloc was able to make themselves friendly with Cook, which is how I assume his final voting margin was so large. Every other eliminated contestant’s fans galvanized against the screaming teenagers voting for YDA, except for perhaps Clifford the Crunchy Muppet’s supporters, who might have swayed their way, totally off-rhythm, to the Archuleta camp.
  • Oh wow, Amanda Overmyer, how in the world did you make the Top 11? Amazing.
  • Not that Syesha was unattractive at the beginning of the season, but the Idol stylists molded her into a stone-cold fox. I can’t imagine how she doesn’t have a career in Broadway, acting or even modeling if things don’t work out as a recording artist.
  • Kristy Lee Cook must have watched Carrie Underwood perform and just smiled very confidently, counting all the money she’d be making performing the exact same stuff in nine months.
  • Seriously, though, get rid of Randy Jackson. My sister and mother are huge Dancing With The Stars fans, and the biggest difference between that show and Idol is that Tom Bergeron has three capable judges with varied opinions that are all worthwhile, while Ryan Seacrest, the consummate professional, has exactly one, and he’s generally cut off far too early by booing or cheering.
  • Song Girls + “We’re Brothers Forever” = fantastic.

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