Remember this time last year, when everything was extra exciting because Kris Allen and Adam Lambert were super strong competitors with equally matched momentum, and our national nightmare of Danny Gokey making a heart symbol with his hands had finally come to an end? Yeah, this is going to be different.
Because this night is going to be mostly about our 9 year love/hate affair with the sometimes witty, sometimes cruel, sometimes sweet, sometimes rude, always rich Simon Cowell. 10% will be about Idols old and new. And the rest of it will be about old people.
Ye Olde Ryan Seacrest comes down the stairs wearing a goofy but strained grin; perhaps the reality of a future without Simon is suddenly hitting him. He is chipper enough setting the tone for the show though. Ryan reminds us that we will have a new winner in two hours, but instead of offering astronomical vote totals as usual, he only reveals that the victor won by only two percent. He then brings out old 49 and 51%, who are dressed like parochial school kids. Ryan asks Lee how he feels. Lee: “I mean I’m happy. I just … to be here, I mean, I’m happy to be up here with her.” Crystal in her Peter Pan collar answers that her head is up in the clouds, and that she is amazed by what an amazing journey this has been.
We go remote to the Crystal and Lee rallies, in Toledo and Mt. Prospect respectively, and then all of a sudden there are a bunch of strangers on stage singing “School’s Out.” Oh wait, it’s the Top 12. I remember 8 of their names, but it’s fun to see T-Urb and Siobhan again. Orianthi’s playing guitar, and a bunch of zombie children file down the stairs like zombies to add atmosphere before Alice Cooper comes out and reminds us how unmerciful time is. Respect, though.
We come back from commercial with last year’s champ and my favorite male artist under 5’8, Kris Allen. He and his band do the new single “The Truth,” and while it’s not my favorite song from the album (or even top 3, but whatever), it’s a really good performance. Kris sounds great, and he throws some cool changes into the song. So even though he’s a little too obviously giddy at being there with the audience and everything, still he is awesome, and I have to say he could easily walk away with the competition again this year. Phone lines are open.
BEST. FINALE. EVER.
Now it’s time for our first extended tribute to Simon. We begin with some reminiscing about how much of a prat he always is to terrible auditioners, and then there’s video of Paula (!!!) talking with sarcastic sincerity about how professional and supportive he always was at the judges’ dais. Ellen says some stuff, and then Kara, but ugh. Ryan and Randy show off their terrible acting by expressing extreme sorrow into a camera and then wacky behind the scenes joy at Simon’s leaving. Hilarious. Can’t wait for next season with these two headlining.
Siobhan and Aaron now favor us with a slowy but pretty intro of “How Deep Is Your Love,” and only have time to remind me how much I hate Sibby’s faces when she sings, and to make me wonder why no one combed her hair after they took out the hot rollers, before Barry Effin’ and Robin Gibb themselves come out to tame applause and take the song over. I can’t … the one word that keeps coming to mind when trying to describe the remaining Brothers Gibb is “desiccated.” I feel really bad about that.
So let’s just move on really quickly. Next up is … the return of Big Mike? Oh, crap. He’s singing “Takin’ It to the Streets,” so I expect Michael McDonald to come growling out at some point, and what do you know, there he is. He and Mike do a generous duet, they exit at opposite ends of the stage, and then it’s over.
And then this clearly becomes the nadir of the evening, as Dane Cook follows with his own original comedy song, comprised of horrible things Simon has said, and then horrible things Dane Cook says. I would’ve preferred a regular roast. Simon looks like he wishes he could murder Dane Cook with his eyes. A bunch of Idol rejects file out, including illustrious cray-crays such as Midriff Mary, Normund Gentle, the Bittermint Twins, the “Everyone Is My Brother” guy, and Tatiana del Toro. One nameless nutbar suddenly grabs the mic and goes rogue, pulling a Kanye, sputtering about how much Simon sucks, and how thoroughly he is now going to take over the show. This is followed by Dane Cook backing the hell away from the crazy, Tatiana trying to grab the mic and outdo the crazy, and the producers panning away to cut immediately to commercial. Well done, y’all. Well done. They should come on every week.
A Singing Competition
When we return order has been restored, and lovely Didi Bananas has once again found her center. She begins Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” and is soon joined by the rest of the Top 6 girls, all dressed in black with various accessories to highlight their distinct personalities – one with a leopard bracelet, one with a huge fascinator, etc. For some dumb reason they’re all singing the melody, so basically they sound like a children’s choir. And then since Siobhan is the closest thing we had to a lady rocker, and Katie Stevens is the closest thing we had to sassy attitude, they lead off “Fighter.” Oh also, there’s Paige Miles! I forgot she existed and just now had to look up her name, but to her credit, she sounds pretty awesome for once. Maybe she really did have laryngitis.
So they all do a strong-girl strut to center stage, and Siobhan almost falls over in her heels, and then La Aguilera herself comes out dressed in a black corset and spangled pantyhose. Oh, Christina. You and your constant struggle to prove yourself have given me so many happy moments. I’m glad she’s back on the scene, especially when she wails the song to a close, making all the contestants look foolish and inadequate. If the intent was to highlight their talents, this was poorly planned. The girls fade out and leave X-tina to sing a slow-moving but very pretty ballad called “You Lost Me.” I hope they were all taking copious notes over in the wings.
Also, Ricky Gervais is friends with Simon, so he taped a very British Funny goodbye to him.
None of the Following Is Ironic
Boys’ turn now. This year’s corny guy with glasses and Lee start singing “I Can’t Go for That,” and I’m excited even though they kind of suck, because I think this means that Hall & Oates are coming! I love Hall & Oates, so unironically. Apropos of nothing, I once toyed with the idea of starting a band called Oates & Garfunkel, but I found out some hipsters had beaten me to it. Anyway, in the meantime we hear Casey and T-Urb have a good time trading leads on “Maneater.” Then the boys get out of the way in time for Daryl and John to come out and swing “You Make My Dreams.” When they’re done, they get a huge swell of applause from the audience. I’d like to think that’s because of their awesomeness and not the cute boys in the Top 6. I am routinely naÔve.
There’s some time to kill, so we take a minute to check in with all the screaming loons in Ohio and Illinois, and Ryan tries to make nice with Crystal’s adorable biker dad in the audience. Then Crystal herself comes out in a prairie miniskirt and hot brown boots, to sing “Ironic.” Wow, so … Alanis? No, no way. But Crystal sings “Ironic,” and looks extremely happy singing it, which is pretty sweet. Then time stops, and oh snap, Alanis Morissette is actually here. Enough time has passed since her angsty hellfire debut to make her a sanctioned American Idol finale duet. I officially feel old. I bet Dave Coulier feels worse though. They do “You Oughtta Know,” and Crystal hilariously sings “Will she go down with you to the theater,” and Alanis looks glowing and serene, and they just stalk the stage, staring into the audience, and singing the mess out of that song. I wish it was 1995 again when things like this could happen all the time.
Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!
The finale-ubiquitous Carrie Underwood is back to sing her newest single, “Undo It,” which sounds like that other song she had about not knowing who she slept with, but less fun and clever. Turns out she wrote it with Kara, so yeah. Nothing further.
Kris is back via taped segment to give Lee and Crystal their deluxe Ford automobiles, and they each try their best to look animated. Final Ford shill: Lee and Crystal dressed in black singing something about wishes while watching highlights of all the previous commercials.
Next, Casey James returns to the stage, this time with two guitars, doing what is at first a stripped down version of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” By the time stroke and hemorrhage victim/reality show winner Bret Michaels comes out, we switch from acoustic to electric, and Casey and Bret do a pretty friggin entertaining job. That was nice to see. But Bret, honey, I say this with all due respect. Go lay down. And please watch out for the set pieces on your way off the stage.
Lee is from somewhere around Chicago, so I guess that’s the reasoning used to justify his singing with … wait for it … Chicago. Yeah. We’re just bouncing all around the twentieth century tonight. So Lee and company work their way through standards like “If You Leave,” and “25 or 6 to 4,” while Lee looks like a mound of clay. A mound of clay with a guitar. I would blame him, but it’s Chicago. Not that they weren’t cool in their day, but I’m just saying their day was about fifteen years before Lee was conceived.
To Simon, With Love
Here we have more lengthy Simon love, including a much too unnecessary look at Randy and Simon in bed together. How awkwardly hilarious!
That foolishness leads to more, as we dive right into the obligatory reprise of General Larry Platt’s runaway hit, “Pants on the Ground.” This was really fun back in January, when General Larry had control over the song and his image. But tonight between the b-boying back ups, the General attempting to break dance, dancers pulling their pants down, and the sudden and completely random insertion of the long-forgotten William Hung, this is now a full-on minstrel show. Whoops. I guess Idol just can’t have nice things. This runs on for a bit, so I’ll just be over here playing “Sara Smile.”
Yet more of Simon’s farewell, which begins with Paula narrating the day she and her soul mate met. Those first tense auditions have blossomed into a love so pure, so true, and so dysfunctional that I’m surprised no one has yet written a song about it. I suppose Kara would, if she weren’t so jealous and smelly. The video ends, and then a screen on stage lifts to reveal PAULA!, bronze and beautiful Paula, in a dress shaped like a rose, with that old familiar loony light in her eyes. She takes a moment to bask in the audience’s adoration before saying what’s up to everybody, asking Ellen to dance, and verbally pinching Ryan’s cheeks while asking him to return her lip gloss. Lord, I miss her on this show. I know some of you can never share that road with me, but you have to admit, the little stand up routine she proceeds to do about Simon is pretty funny. I especially loved the crack about their ridiculous relationship producing a baby, and the shout out to MC Skat Cat. When she finishes, a long retrospective plays of Simon’s finest moments, wittiest barbs, most amazing facial expressions, and stupidest haircuts, all set to the tune of “My Way.”
Then it becomes a one-two punch of sentimental memories, as all the previous winners save David Cook file out for THE MOTHER OF ALL GROUP-SINGS. I hope you taped it, Unklescott. The champs trade lines on some piece of schmaltz called “Together We Are One,” again sounding like a kids’ choir, and then a host of other also-rans dressed in white join them finish it off. Melinda! Matt Giraud! Archie! Iraheta! Elliott. Bo! Guarini, even. My heart actually does a little leap at the shot of Paula on Simon’s lap, and I’m reminded of how much I really did love this stupid show before this season. So much nostalgic goodwill they’ve squandered over here.
Ryan makes Simon take the stage to do the customary two-minutes. He remarks on how emotional he is while looking as cold as ever, and almost proposes to Paula with his eyes while saying how happy he is to see her. Suck it, Kara. He talks about how much of a failure he thought Idol was going to be before his acerbic scoffing captured a nation’s imagination, and thanks the crew, the staff, all the contestants, Ryan, and the world before saying that the show will be different without him, but that it will certainly go on. And to his credit, he says nothing at all about X-Factor. But he knew we all would anyway.
Gimme a Beat!
Well, we’re nearing the end so it must be time for the yearly super-superstar performance. The green lasers all around don’t announce anyone in particular, but then all of a sudden Siobhan’s in the camera making weird faces and singing the opening lines of “Again.” This can only mean one thing: my hero Janet Jackson is finally allowed on live TV again! It’s difficult to pay attention to the Top 12 finally displaying some harmony when I’m just waiting for her to come out. Too bad. Janet (I can call her that because I am not at all nasty) finally appears looking very regal in her freshly shorn hair and Starfleet Command robes; she joins them for the final lines of “Again,” and then leaves them behind to do her sweetly sleepy new single “Nothing.” Then a troupe of boy dancers floods the stage while she slips into a body glove and reappears for “Nasty.” This part is lip synced, presumably to facilitate Janet getting down to the nasty groove. Yay! She gets a standing ovation when she’s done, and enthusiastic cheers from Randy, not related, and smiles adorably while exiting the stage. Awesome.
The Only Fitting End to the Girl’s Year
But now we’re down to the allotted Lee and Crystal portion of the evening. Since serendipity had them both audition in Chicago, the producers have put together an appropriately fateful package about their roads to the finale, set to Sufjan Stevens’s “Chicago.”
And then Lee says, “What would you do if I sang out of tune?” LOL, kudos to whoever selected “With a Little Help from My Friends” as the Crystal and Lee duet, and an extra cookie to whoever assigned Lee that lyric. Joe Cocker comes out to join them, and Lee completely boffs a cue, and Joe and Crystal go on to do a number while Lee is kind of just also there. I feel for him; he looks seasick.
He continues looking like he could upchuck all while Ryan is collecting the results envelope from the British accountant. Crystal for her part looks ready for anything. Lights are reddened, Lee tenses up like this is a roller coaster, Crystal has her hand on his back and is looking toward the ground, and all of a sudden Ryan announces Lee DeWyze as Season 9's winner.
Wow. He drops to the ground, Crystal claps for him, he cries, and I think he is seriously about to hurl, but luckily the rest of the Top 12 flood the stage and surround him. Ryan asks how it feels, and he says, “I don’t know!” I don’t know how to feel either. WHO WILL YOU BUY PAINT FROM NOW, AMERICA? WHO?! I guess we’ll ponder that this summer, but for now let’s just celebrate with a cool glass of turnip juice. Lee says thankful things and goes on to sing “Beautiful Day” again, kind of just as crappily as he did last night, but it’s excusable this time because he’s about to vomit a ton of anxiety and tears.
Congratulations, Lee, and good luck. His jittery triumph wraps up season nine, and yeah, it fits. I have no fears for Crystal Babble/Busker/Wowersox’s career, and I wish her the best of luck as well, and await her new music with anticipation.
Well, it’s been yet another blast covering this season for the FORT. Thanks to everyone for reading my fevered ramblings, and special thanks to everyone who said something sweet about them. And many, muchos, multi thanks also to MsFroggy, my partner in snark; couldn’t possibly have finished this cycle without you. Until next season! Or X-Factor. Whichever.