SCOTTY WINS! FATALITY!
Lauren Alaina : I kind of feel like Lauren should be congratulated on two entirely separate scores: one for turning up and singing despite the burnout of her vocal chords that apparently put her ability to sing in the finale in question, and one for even bothering to turn up when she had about as much chance of winning this as Nigel Lythgoe has of getting the BBC to commission a third series of So You Think You Can Dance UK. Not that it made any impact on the night, but I thought she sang well in the final – you could tell she was nervous about blowing her tonsils out again because there was a definite restrained quality to her performances, even more so than usual, but with all things considered I thought she acquitted herself well on the night. She picked the right song to reprise, her picked-by-Carrie-Underwear song was fine, and she had by far the better winner’s single, even if it was an offcut plucked from Kristy Lee Cook’s debut album. Ultimately at this point I feel like I can only echo what countless other people have said before me – it’s a shame Lauren didn’t wait a year or two and give herself time to build her confidence before auditioning, because if she’d had a bit more presence and passion in her performances, she might have been a legitimate contender for the title. Still, since it became apparent early on that the only prize worth fighting for was that of the person who gets to be in the final with Scotty, the girl done good.
The Mark Anthony & J-Lo Variety hour : So, as well as being a profoundly creepy looking human being, Mark Anthony is also a singer/entertainer/all-round song and dance man. I guess he kind of has to be, as J-Lo’s vagina refuses to open for those who don’t work in the performing arts (it’s a curse), but I’d never seen the evidence before tonight, and bless him if he didn’t go a stand-up job providing the aural canvas for his wife to shake her ass to. It was either a really sweet gesture, or a solid sign of all the thumb-screws and concessions J-Lo applied to the producers so that she’d appear on this series. Either way it was enjoyable. And we all saw the downside earlier in the evening, as we were reminded of the litany of perverts, panty-sniffers and boot-lickers that J-Lo had to suffer through on her merry path through auditions. It’s all very well to have Ryan Seacrest ooze professionalism about how sexy you are and striking up music cues from the 1930s, but when it’s just common or garden normal person perverts it must be less fun.
Born This Way : An interesting choice, to open the finale show with all of the Top 13 singing Lady Gaga’s tribute to Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’. Considering American Idol, at least in Simon Cowell’s day, was an industry that absolutely ran on gay panic, perhaps this is a sign of the new regime where it’s totally okay to be who you are. Either that, or the equally plausible reason that they just sang it because Gaga was on the show later and they wanted to keep her sweet. The performance had its moments, notably Jacob Lusk’s terrifying pelvic thrusts, James Durbin facing the thankless task of trying to make sure that Paul McDonald remembers to sing and dance and not fall off the stage, and several of the boys looking uncomfortable with the notable exception of Scotty McCreery, who despite his previously demonstrated distaste for Gaga seemed to be having the time of his life during this number. It was one of several moments in the finale that made me think he might not be all bad deep down.
And Speaking Of Gaga : I love how she completely and utterly upstaged that Spiderman bollocks by staging the most ridiculously OTT performance the show’s ever seen. I guess if you’re Gaga, and it’s the American Idol Final and you’re trying to capture the nation of America’s imagination which is basically the theme tune for a “The Raccoons” 21st century reboot, you need to go big and go home. And staging a live sex show with a So You Think You Can Dance contestant on top of a big rock whilst dressed as Princess Amidala, before topping yourself melodramatically is certainly going big. Certainly bigger than Spiderman bouncing round on bungee ropes. Ever since “Born This Way” sound-tracked the Top 24 reveal, Gaga has loomed large over this series, although thankfully nobody’s been stupid enough yet to try to take on one of her songs solo off their own back (proper like, not that weird week where Haley acted like some sort of zombie meat-puppet for the decades long Born This Way marketing campaign). Ah well, there’s always next year.
In It To Win It : Each of the judges got their own tribute VT which hit them in their most exposed area of vulnerability, so naturally Randy’s tackled his reliance on catchphrases and general stupidity. So we were “treated” to all the times in the audition process where he attempted to convince us that he was going to be the wise old voice of reason amongst these kerazy new kids on the panel (and to his credit, he did have me fooled, however briefly), and then once the live shows kicked in, his declaration that every single performance indicated that the contestant in question was In It To Win It. He threw this around with an almost offensive lack of discrimination – at one point he said that Jacob Lusk was in it to win it. JACOB LUSK, I ask you. Sadly, I suspect the exposure of this quirk of Randy’s won’t discourage him from doing it all over again next year – so you may be wondering why I even chose this as a point of interest in the first place? Simple: because it gave us a brief, but glorious, clip of Ryan Seacrest taking the piss out of Randy and attempting to do his catchphrase for him, and for some reason I absolutely love it when Seacrest tries to impersonate Randy. It shouldn’t work, and it doesn’t, but there’s something so goofily endearing about Seacrest attempting to do the whole For Me For You Dawg In It To Win It schtick that however bad the season might be, I will stick around just on the off-chance that might happen, even once.
SHOCK BOOT SHOCK BOOT SHOCK BOOT! : I feel like, oddly enough, if the final was a launching pad for any contestant, it was for Casey Abrams. And not even as a singer or a musician, but as a comedian. How many opportunities was he afforded to show off his comic timing? I would imagine that was what the Jack Black duet was for, because damnit if Jack didn’t out-sing him. But really where Casey shone was in the pre-pared video packages. Ragging on the ages of the two finalists, and more particularly participating in a discussion as to whether he or James was the biggest Shock Boot of the season. Clearly it was James (of the two) so well done them for including Casey, rather than trying to make Pia be funny which, as the last 5 seconds of the clip showed, wouldn’t have been a good idea. I look forward to Casey being announced as a new member of Lonely Island on Saturday Night Live shortly.
All The Single Ladies : So, you may have noticed that Beyoncé was around for the finale. Indeed, you would’ve been hard-pressed to miss it, because her appearance was preceded by the women of the Top 13 recreating her entire back catalogue, or what felt like it. I think she was a smart artist to choose for the girls’ group performance actually, because since Naima and Ashthon are fairly unpredictable (or rather, predictably poor most of the time), the producers could let them loose on the songs that are less about vocal prowess and more about performance value, which was something they were both more comfortable with. There was a nice opportunity for a toilet break when Thia Megia and Karen Rodriguez bored their way through ‘Irreplaceable’, and the group performance of ‘Get Me Bodied’ was fun. Then Pia got given ‘Déjà Vu’ as her big solo showcase, which just felt like the latest in a long line of kicks in the face for poor Pia, because nobody likes that song and it’s impossible to sing well, though she did her level best with what she was given. Eventually, after about six hours of this, the lady herself turned up and did a few more songs with the girls, and at this point I noticed that the red screens in the background combined with the darkness of the auditiorium and the flashing white lights in between made the whole backdrop kind of look like a giant Confederate flag. Interesting.
Ladies, and Gentlemen, Mr Tom Jones! : That’s right everyone, the girls get to sing with probably the biggest female star of the modern era in an extensive journey through her back-catalogue, with each song hand-picked to match their vocal strengths. The boys got to honk through a medley of Tom Jones hits before he came out at the end and ignored them all. At least Stefano got to do Kiss, which is basically a Prince song anyway. Everyone else was stuck with the indifferent material that was only made interesting by Tom Jones distinct…personality. Seeing someone of James’ vocal range trying to hold himself down to “What’s New Pussycat?” was a pain, although at least this way the producers could make sure that Paul didn’t embarrass himself totally. You know, any more than is usual.
Turn Off The Dark : I think the show was very much missing a trick here – absolutely no one is going to see Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark for the quality of the songs, they’re going for the promise of a visual spectacle and the odds-on chance that a member of the cast will mutilate themselves horribly right in front of you as yet another stunt goes wrong. So while we were treated to a very brave stunt Spidey somersaulting across the Nokia Theatre at the beginning, for the most part we simply watched while Bono, The Edge and the cute-but-terrified-looking guy who plays the lead in the show itself ambled their way through one of its dull rock numbers. They really could’ve done a lot more with the staging, especially because halfway through Spidey-Lead and The Edge had to share a microphone so they could both sing at the same time, which seems like an odd thing for two people on this show to have to do. That said, the whole thing was validated to an extent by the ending, in which Stunt Spidey reappeared, dropping down from the ceiling above J-Lo, at which point she “acted” “surprised”, then made a completely hamfisted job of pulling his mask off to reveal his mouth JUST LIKE WHAT KIRSTEN DUNST DONE IN A FILM, and then went “WIBBLE!” and tweaked his nose rather than actually kissing him, before dissolving into a fit of giggles. Oh, J-Lo. Assuming you probably can’t be bothered to come back next year, this was at least an appropriate note for you to go out on.
Scotty McCreery : Your American Idol ladies and gentlemen. To be fair, you would have needed a mental impairment similar to that of whoever was in charge of styling Lauren Alaina every week not to have known this was going to happen for a good month or so (I called this particular Top Two at their very first country-style duet I thank you *smug smug*), and certainly several of the eliminated contestants have interviewed to the effect that everyone in the Idol house has known for months that they’re playing for second. So this was his chance to consolidate the victory and what do they do to him? Saddle him with a Winner’s Single called “I WUV YOU THIS MUCH!” and repeatedly stick the boot in with regards to how much of a better singer Lauren is than him (which she is, but that isn’t really the point). It’s really for the best that he won, if only because Lauren Alaina gives the sense that she has the thick skin of a bowl of custard and the impulse control of a lab monkey. Making her famous, and the automatic Lee DeWyze shaped target that forms on an Idol winner would just have been cruel. At least with Scotty you’ve got someone who can laugh at himself a little bit. I don’t really remember any of his final performances apart from maybe Gone? I know there was one with a man? In a hat? Of some sort. Ah, I was never his demographic anyway. Well done Scotty McCreery. At least you might actually sell some records I think.