The lights are off in the Kodak Theater. The confetti is in the dumpster. Jordin Sparks is now safely enshrined in the hall of Idol champions. Given the many disappointments of this season, one is tempted to just consign it to the dustbin as soon as possible. Still, before we do that, let's take the time to look at the memorable aspects of this season ... and see if we can actually learn from them. Call it our version of the Golden Idol, except we put the show itself under scrutiny. Let's get started, shall we?
We've got a bad feeling about this
Very early on we thought the top 24 was not terribly impressive. We wished we would have been proven wrong, but we were right. The cream of the crop were as good as any season you'll find, but the rest were all lacking. Would the likes of Chris and Lakisha got as far as they did any other season? We doubt it.
Why was this the case? We doubt that it's because America became tone-deaf all of a sudden. Is it that hard to find 24 good singers? Let's be upfront: Randy, Paula, and Simon messed up the top 24. Badly. Why did this happen? Maybe because they wanted to avoid what happened in season five and wanted to more specifically control who won. We said so way back in our top 12 roundup. We hate to say it, but we'll say it anyway: we told you so!
What we called then "ham-handed tinkering" resulted in a rather disappointing season. Week after week we got mediocre performances that failed to make an impression on us at home. This show has succeeded in creating singers who have received both commercial and critical acclaim, but we never got that feeling this season. While Melinda and Jordin were talented in their own right, and Blake was able to bring something new to the Idol stage, the rest of the field just wasn't very impressive. Even the front runners didn't always have that unique "X-factor" that separates the merely good from the truly outstanding. Melinda's exit just shy of the finale was, in a way, perfectly representative of the whole disaster of a season.
Make no mistake: most of the problems we fans at home had with this season were a direct result of how the judges bobbled the top 24, and maybe even before that. Perhaps a little less manipulation would be in order. But who are we kidding - this is Idol we're talking about. They're addicted to trying to make things go as they want, even if there's no need for it, or the way they want to go is utterly boneheaded to anyone outside of the Idol machine.
Idols fought the law and the law won
Ah, the delicious scent of scandal. Every season has it. Anyone remember Season 4's Leroy "Can You Dig It" Wells, who ended up watching his appearance during the audition rounds from jail? Or Season 5's Brittenum twins? Well, this season's group had more its fair share. Our personal favorite? Ashyln Carr, who before being allowed to sing twice in front of our judges was arrested by police for ... pouring sugar into the fuel tank of her ex-boyfriend's car. Obviously she's never watched Mythbusters, otherwise she'd have used bleach instead.
Former Idol alums were also part of this season's rap sheet. Season 2's Olivia Mojica (who got as far as the group stages) had her own Paris Hilton moment when her sex tape was released. Season 4's Jessica Sierra ended up getting the full treatment - she smashed a glass over someone's head in a Tampa bar, and was soon booked for battery. When it turned out she had cocaine in her purse, she was booked for that, too. After seeing her mugshot, well, let's just say that Jessica's looked better.
Of course, this season's own top 24 wouldn't let themselves be outclassed in the scandal department. Only two words have to be spoken: Antonella Barba. Her pictures in a variety of, uh, poses, overshadowed the first three weeks of voting. What she lacked in signing ability, she didn't quite make up for with good judgment - taking wet t-shirt photos at a war memorial is downright stupid. While our prediction of her making the pages of Playboy didn't quite pan out, she's still established a permanent place in the pantheon of Idol stupidity. When she was booted just shy of the final 12, we thought the limelight would finally focus on the singing. Well, that did happen - only in a way we never thought possible. Hello, Sanjaya!
Speaking of him, his family turned out to have minor embarrassments of their own. His sister and fellow auditionee Shyamali had photos of her own come out on the Internet - and let's just say rarely have guitars been more strategically placed. Breaking the law seemed to be a family affair, too: police apparently once found Shyamali at the family residence guarding 310 marijuana plants in the garage; she directed the police to another location where both Mom and Step-Dad were, along with yet more ganja. All three were arrested and booked; Mom and Dad's mugshots are public, but because she was a minor at the time, Shyamali's isn't.
Even the celebrity guests got into the act. Akon found himself in hot water in the Carribean island of Trinidad when news surfaced of a raunchy on-stage dance involving a 15-year-old girl. Despite curiously scanty media coverage, the resulting flap was enough for erstwhile sponsor Verizon to pull out, removing his music from their ringtone store. They also canceled their sponsorship of fellow Idol guest Gwen Stefani's tour, which he had been opening for. Last we heard, he's apologized for his shenanigans. His "excuse"? He didn't know the girl in question was a minor.
Is this American Idol or America's Dumbest Criminals?
Idol Gives What Back?
No year-end roundup would be complete mentioning the much-hyped charity special. For many weeks beforehand, Ryan constantly promoted the event, name-dropping who knows how many big names that would supposedly help out with this very, very special event. Of course, given that many of the names mentioned had little, we were wondering just how they would participate. Apparently, their "participation" was limited to dancing along to Stayin' Alive. (We should note that some viewers in foreign countries didn't see this part of Idol Gives Back. Whether that was good or bad, we'll let you decide.)
We expressed our skepticism of the whole Idol Gives Back business when it first aired, and we've seen little to change our minds since then. We still have no idea just how much of the money raised actually came from the companies that produce and sponsor Idol as opposed to people watching at home. We'll repeat what we said then, with some stronger language this time around. Idol Gives Back may have started with the noblest of intentions, but somewhere along the line it became an exercise in self-promotion. Will some worthy causes be helped? Sure, but it was overshadowed by the excessive amount of self-congratulations Idol treated itself to. The ones who really gave back? Not Idol, but the countless millions who watched and donated. They deserve the credit.
The big question down the road is how the money will be spent. Already, questions about one of the heavily promoted initiatives - anti-malarial nets - are being raised. Let's not even mention the endemic corruption in many parts in Africa, and you begin to wonder how much will end up where it can help the most number of people, instead of lining some politician's pockets.
The Sanjaya Zone
We normally don't pay an awful lot of attention to the official contestant profiles. Maybe we should from now on. This question-and-answer from Sanjaya's profile may well have foreshadowed his entire Idol stay.
It certainly took someone who was embarrassment-proof to turn in the kinds of performances Sanjaya did. We knew he was not a good singer, but the bigger stage of the top 12 seemed to "inspire" him. And not in a good way. There, Sanjaya first butchered Ain't No Mountain High Enough, and You Really Got Me was just as horrific. (Did we really need to see that again during the finale?) The "pinnacle" of his stay, however, was Bathwater. It deserves its infamy not just for the singing, although that was its usual quality. It was, simply put, the hair. The fauxhawk was utterly and completely ridiculous. We have it on good authority some sharks ended up taking warm-up laps. The combination of bad singing and bad hair led us to create the Sanjaya Zone. As of now, we have not had any other inductions into it, or even any nominations. Sanjaya was that bad.Most embarrassing moments?
I don’t get embarrassed.
What we find both disturbing and maddening is how some commentators are proclaiming that the Sanjaya is the "star" of this season. We've never heard of a more ridiculous suggestion. Sanjaya is no more a "star" than a circus sideshow was. He'll have his 15 minutes of fame - but so did William Hung. Really, what does he bring to the table? How far can some charisma, and the willingness to "stand out" (read: act like a complete and utter buffoon) go?
I watched American Idol and I wished a fight broke out!
The rather complicated relationship between Simon and Ryan has taken far too many turns towards soap opera territory of late. We think it's time for the next step: for someone to get physical. Wouldn't it be grand if Simon charged the stage like a hit batter charging the mound in baseball? Then, of course, we'd have the band and the audience join in the ensuing dogpile, so we could have a full-fledged bench-clearing brawl.
Of course, we could "help" things along by planting people in the front row audience seats. Maybe the following lineup would do:
1. Roger Clemens
2. Ron Artest
3. Mike Tyson
4. Any random Taiwanese legislator (Search for "Taiwan legislative brawl" on Youtube to see why.)
5. Russell Crowe
6. Jessica Sierra
7. The Cincinnati Bengals
Whose show is this, anyway?
More than any other season, this seemed to be the year Idol decided to bring out the marquee guests, both to appear as "mentors" and to serve as random guests on results night.
Early on, we were rather skeptical about just how useful the celebrity coaches would be. In the end, while some proved to be reasonably useful (Peter Noone, Martina McBride, Bon Jovi), some were completely useless (Diana Ross, Tony Bennett, Gwen Stefani). It was another case where our commentary proved to be unusually prescient.
To make matters worse, the choice of guests usually limited the themes as well, and some of those were woefully limited. Diana Ross songs got the finals off to a bad start (how can one expect guys to sing Diana Ross?), and not too long after perhaps we got the most ridiculous theme in Idol history: songs by Gwen Stefani or by artists that inspired her. Huh? Are our would-be Idols supposed to be psychic, able to read Gwen Stefani's mind now? It's no coincidence that that week was regarded as the worst episode up to that point.
Another trend that reached full steam this season was the guests who only showed up to sing on results night. We understand the big names when it's a special week like Idol Gives Back or the finale, but otherwise we don't like it. We're still scratching our heads what Akon, Pink, and Fergie exactly had to do with Idol that justified bringing them on. Oh yes, how could we forget - they were selling something. Maybe it's just us, but we're not fans of people who haven't had anything to do with the show just suddenly appearing on Wednesday night and having Ryan "remind" us that they have something to sell. (There's a rich sense of irony, though, that some of this season's guests have dissed Idol in the past and won't even clear their songs. Yes, we're talking about you, Pink.)
Does somebody have a DeLorean we can borrow?
There's a big part of us that wishes we could just go back in time and erase this whole season from history. Unfortunately, we can't. It got off to a rough start with plenty of horrendous auditions, and never got better from there. How this season will be remembered? Not too fondly, although some rehabilitation may ensue if Jordin and Blake do surprisingly well with their albums. (The only other finalist we think has a good chance of putting out an album within a year? Melinda.)
What strikes us is just how many mistakes were made. The top 24 could have been better; the themes were uninspired; and frankly we could go on for much longer. Even then, Jordin will make a good winner, and truth be told may even fit the role better than Blake or Melinda ever could. Still, it should be a wake-up call for the Idol powers that be. Things need to change, otherwise Idol will be courting another season to forget next year. You have a lot of goodwill banked up if you're the most watched show in America, but even those have limits to their patience. They may not all be willing to stomach another subpar season. Our best hope is that the lessons of Season 6 are learned, quickly. There is some room for hope: after the near-disastrous Season Three, the rules were changed - and we believe those changes helped turn Seasons Four and Five into the standouts they are.
We want to like Idol, but it's been hard to do so this year. Here's to hoping Season Seven is much, much better.
That's it for the Idol Guy this year. On behalf of the other members of the Idol writing crew - AJane, MotherSister, Yardgnome - I'd like to thank you, our readers, for staying with all of us through more than four months of this roller-coaster of a season. We hope to see all of you back next year. To borrow a phrase from Idol's own Ryan Seacrest - Idol Guy, Out!