Good Lord, that was excrutiating!
I could spend these paragraphs detailing all the ways in which last night's finale of American Idol was absolute torture -- the twang, the hyperbole, the ridiculous clothing forced upon a teenaged girl, the pandering. All of it added up to a total nightmare, as far as I'm concerned. Look, I have nothing against either Lauren or Scotty. They both seem like very nice kids, and there is definitely something a bit moving seeing how much this experience means to them. That look of wonder in their eyes is powerful stuff. But you can't tell me that you weren't bored by the complete lack of any variety in that hour. When Taio Cruz singing some song that America apparently helped write (I was always kind of vague on the details of that particular contest) is a highlight of the evening, you know you're in trouble.
As I thought about it this morning, I couldn't help but think that it was maybe just as torturous for the producers as it was for us lowly viewers. Sure, the ultimate winner of this show will likely sell quite a few records. (Country fans are pretty loyal and willing to part with their money -- far more so, I suspect, than rock fans. We're cheapskates, we rock fans.) But considering the fact that all of the Idol-related Facebook posts I saw last night talked about how awful the finale was (with a couple swearing off the show forever), I'm thinking Idol has a problem. If you look back over the past ten years, each finale really did have a way to appeal to just about anyone -- pop, rock, country, soul, beatboxing, folk. This year, we have country and country. I sat and listened to songs I would never willingly listen to last night -- and I didn't like a darn one of them.
Of course, the ultimate responsibility for this failure lies in us, the voting public. We're so driven by good looks, perky smiles, and charming personalities that we don't think about how miserable an hour of all country music could be. We let interesting artists slip away because they seem bratty (Haley) or weird (Casey) or maybe a little too emotional (James). Of course, the producers know this and play to that by giving us loads of footage of Scotty's winning charm or having Lauren visit tornado-ravaged neighborhoods...or have her sing a song about her mother TO her mother. (I can't help but think that the producers suspect Scotty is okay regardless of tonight's outcome but that Lauren needs the win to guarantee her album sales which is why she got the stronger original song -- the more manipulative original song -- and had the judges flipping out over her sudden brilliance.)
Am I walking away from Idol after last night? Probably not. The truth of the matter is that, even when it's bad, Idol is an awful lot of fun. I had a tremendously good time last night mocking the proceedings -- making me wish I could live blog while I watch because seriously, you guys would be rolling! After last year's travesty (Lee beating Crystal), I sort of came to a sort of peace with Idol, recognizing that the best would not always (if ever) win, that personality trumps all, and that America has no taste when it comes to music. And I somehow still love Idol for all of that and more.