What a finale, eh? This thing was so chock full of good, bad, and wha?? moments, and so jam-packed with nothing and with awesome that it may or may not have been the best thing ever on television. I’ll leave it up to you to decide. But what is clear from the way the whole show worked is that this year American Idol has become fully self-aware; the little talent show that could is now relishing its position as a full-grown pop cultural power-brokering entity, as evidenced by the way that the finale’s focus was so decidedly not on the top 12 contestants, or even the final two standing, but instead on all the guests and superstars that Idol could get. I know it’s the way of all “next big things;” they grow, they change, sunrise, sunset, but I’m still pretty upset that more time during the 130 minute broadcast wasn’t devoted to the contestants who built this season (on rock and roll). There. Pout done. Now we can get down to all the crazy that went on in this cheesefest, because if there’s one area where Idol never disappoints me, it’s the cheese.
We begin our hugely bloated evening with Ryan, of course, standing in his dramatic backlighting and making sure that we know the world is watching. Not a good time to have on a powder blue tuxedo shirt, Blake. This … is the last time all season that Ryan will say “This … is American Idol,” so savor the flavor. The audience in the Kodak Theater is all hepped up on goofballs, or whatever they feed these people to get them so worked up over Rickey Minor and the
hackhouse band. Ryan’s looking sharp in a black suit and tie from the Regis Philbin Collection, scruff all shaved off for this momentous occasion. Everyone’s glammed out –Randy in his suit made from a hanging tapestry is just excited to be allowed in the building and wants to know the results right now, but Ryan demurs that he’d lose his job if they gave the viewers any sort of satisfaction. Paula’s looking elegant in black. She’s slightly more alert than the day before, but her hair is sadly deflated. Hmm. Maybe the hair got the downers today by mistake. Simon’s above it all as usual, can’t be bothered to button his shirt or come up with anything really witty in reply to Ryan’s flirting. Sad. I thought they’d pull out the big guns and give us a kiss. I mean it is the last night, after all.
Time for actual singing! Jordin and Blake come out with “I Saw Her Standing There,” reminding us at once how old Jordin is, and how tall she is, as she stands there being just 17, and towering over Blake as they dance. I’m sure this means nothing, and has nothing to do with the results. Both of them are in good voice; Blake’s vocal ability has been growing this season, so he held his own with Jordin pretty well. She seems to have picked up a bit of Haley Scarnato style oversinging, but I’ll chalk that up to nerves, as well as the weird kiss that ends the number.
Not getting such a pass is Gwen Stefani, who’s on some other stage at some other show, but gets to perform anyway because she skipped out of Idol Gives Back. She sings “4 in the Morning,” and it’s all pretty unnecessary, especially the pink tulle bubble skirt cinched around her legs. The song’s not bad, but yeah. Unrelated, unconnected to anything. Unnecessary.
She’s followed by Kelly Clarkson who is also not doing anything with the Idol kids, but she is an Idol, so yay. She sings her new single “Never Again,” and it’s not a song I’m a fan of, but Kelly voice definitely makes up for an insipid song.
A Golden Egg and A Golden Oldie
Oh joy, it’s Golden Idol time. I love how that announcement gets no reaction from the audience whatsoever. I think even the people in the Kodak fast-forwarded through this. But, I am tireless and hearty, so I will soldier on through the first award for Best Presentation. As far as I can figure, that’s a polite way of saying Best Nutjob; the nominees are the guy who thought he was a panther, the girl who compared herself to Janis Joplin and then faked an orgasm, and Margaret Fowler. It’s no surprise that Margaret wins; she’s the least nutty of the nutjobs,, so they don’t really have to fear her appearing on live TV. The band reprises the Sesame Street theme as Nigel escorts Margaret on stage in full Big Bird regalia. She then plants a huge kiss on Ryan and brings him to his knees while she wiggles her behind happily and does a little chicken dance. I can’t say how sorry I am for her family right now. Stay strong, y’all, wherever you are. She does some back and forth with Ryan and her phone starts ringing. Ryan answers it, and she shouts out Atlanta, Memphis, and Indianapolis, but Margaret? Honey, nobody there is going to claim you. Turns out Miss Fowler has written a poem, or so she says before she begins incoherent babbling in a way to beat Paula’s and Diana Ross’ and Little Richard’s averages combined. As many rewatchings of this as I’ve had, I still can’t make out one bit. Consider yourselves blessed.
Having no sense of decency whatsoever, the producers have made it so Sanjaya and Chris R. sing immediately after Miss Fowler leaves the stage. Bastards. But they are only a small part of the top 6 boys’ rendition of “Ooo Baby, Baby;" Chris Sligh (remember him?) and Phil follow up the other two and save the day, also Brandon Rogers is there. But none of this matters because SMOKEY is there too. I’m a Smokey Robinson fangirl, so while he’s singing “Being With You,” I’m not paying too much attention to the 6 guys doing those awesome Temptation dance steps in the background in those white suits. Sorry guys. Everyone but Blake sings again on “Tears of a Clown,” but they’re still overshadowed, even when Smokey starts stumbling over the words. Blake didn’t sing at all during this performance, but I think he got a big kick out of just being on the stage, judging by the huge grin on his face.
Beat Box Bonanza
Or maybe he was just extra-hyped for what comes next: a whole beat boxing extravaganza all his own. As soon as I can get over the shock of seeing Blake in an actual pair of jeans, I’m in full squee mode, because Doug E. Fresh!! Doug E. Fresh busting out with “The Show!” Yes!!! What, son? Don’t knock the old school flava. Or the gratuitous exclamation points. I love a good throwback, so my favorite part of the whole thing is Doug E. doing the butterfly. But the call and response, and the challenges, and Blake’s “Oh my God!” squeals are hot too. No, Blake isn’t the ‘original’ beat boxer, but he’s very good at it, and if his style makes it possible for hip hop, for Doug E. Fresh to be at the finale of American Idol? I’m happy about it. Blake looks like he had a ball, and I’m so full of good will that I’m not even going to snark on that awkward attempt at a dap that they pull off at the end.
Style, Grace, and Poor Taste
More Golden Idol nonsense. This time the award is for Most Original Vocal. The nominees aren’t people I remember -- some nervous guy who sang “Unchained Melody” in a high warble, a girl who grunted out a bunch of noises that may or may not have been words, and eventual ‘winner’ Sholandric Stallworth, who’s got the projection thing down, but not so much the singing. Ryan has him go center stage with no mic, and he belts out Silent Night for the people way in the back. Nice, but I’m more impressed by how tight Sholandric’s edges are than anything else. I might need to find his hairdresser.
That’ll have to wait though, because it’s time for the girls’ all-white number now. They begin with an odd bouncy arrangement that makes “Heard it Through the Grapevine” sound more like the theme from Fraggle Rock. I remember how much awesomeness Stephanie Edwards is, and Haley continues to define herself as “not just looks” by shaking her legs in her short skirt. LaKisha dominates, until Gladys Knight herself comes out on stage and pwns them all on “I Feel A Song.” Seriously, Gladys rules, she’s still lovely, her voice is still lovely, and I’m so jealous of them all on stage with her. More so when she, Melinda, and LaKiki begin trading lines on “Midnight Train to Georgia.” That’s so much wonderful I can’t even begin to describe it.
Next on is Tony Bennet, apparently Idol’s BFF this season, who gives a classy, if a bit dull reading of “For Once in My Life.” He gets Paula all misty, earns a standing ovation from the crowd, and some extra enthusiastic props from Smokey and the fabulous Jennifer Hudson, who’s in the audience looking wonderful and making me covet her glasses. Very cute.
From this we segue into yet another Golden Idol presentation for Best Buddies. It’s between the poor kid that Simon called a bush baby and his partner in obscenity, Obnoxious Skank Twins Antonella and Amanda, and my pick for the win, Rymon. Ryan coyly smiles and says “Good luck, buddy,” to Simon, who duly crosses his fingers for luck, but to no avail. The winners are Jonathan and Kenneth. I’m not dignifying the rest of this segment, because it is so awful to me. Really awful. Simon gives them a standing ovation as they accept their award and leave the stage, and he’s not being sarcastic or cruel at all. Also, I am 7 feet tall, with purple skin, and when I cry, my tears are doughnuts.
Sweetness and Light
To cleanse that moment of grossness from our collective system, here now is Melinda, singing with BeBe and CeCe Winans! I swear, if I weren’t already aware that this show hates me, I would think this finale was a love letter to me. I love the Winanses, especially CeCe, and even though “Hold Up The Light” isn’t one of my favorite tunes, it’s still totally cool to see BeBe, CeCe, and MeMe up on stage. They all look like they’re having a great time, and I can definitely dig the poetic justice of Melinda sharing the spotlight with two of the very people she used to sing backup for. The look of joy on her face as they finish and hand out the hugs is a highlight of the whole season for me.
Speaking of season highlights, our final Ford pimpmobile of the season is a complete copout, but a sweet one, as it revisits all the previous commercials and we get to remember people like Brandon who were only here for a hot minute. This all sets up Jordin and Blake getting spiffy Ford Mustangs. Hooray.
Also, here for no reason is Carrie Underwood to reprise her version of “I’ll Stand By You.” Again, only tangentially related. Couldn’t they have thrown Gina a bone and made it a duet? Oh, and I’d said I was done pouting about that, didn’t I? My mistake.
A Completely Worthless Segment
Clive Davis. Old guy. Really old guy. Makes records. Makes money. Hands out hugs to people who make him money. Does not love Taylor. Does not love Katharine. Has trouble opening his eyes. Mumbles and likes to move his hands. And that’s really all there was to get out of that whole six minutes, 5% of the entire show wasted on Clive Davis. Riveting.
Highs and Lows
I hate Mumbly Joe even more when he is followed up by the joyous and delightful African Children’s Choir. They are so beautiful. I want to keep them with me always. And I think I already do, sort of. In my heart. So anyway, they light up the stage and get the audience clapping arhythmically, and all in all have the same effect as the salt sprinkled in a sumo ring. They make everything good and pure.
But then, oh then. Purity and goodness can take a slow boat to hell, because here is Sanjaya, being compared to Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Einstein, and Lincoln. I’m all for a good mocking joke, but really. Gandhi? Even I have my limits. Sanjaya proceeds to stomp all over them with his reprisal of “You Really Got Me,” and I’m a bit sick at the thought of this fool getting a solo accompanied by freaking Joe Perry, while LaKisha, Phil, Sligh and the rest of the top 12 get shepherded into the background. Phenomenon or not, that just ain’t right. The only positive to come out of this is the return of Crazy Crying Girl, but she stays in the audience with her mom, so she isn’t half as effective as she could be. They missed a golden opportunity to have her on stage as a fly girl. Instead we have to settle for more of Sanjy's locks flowing to and fro in the wind.
Santastic The Tragic is oddly enough followed by Green Day performing “Working Class Hero” in tribute to Darfur, which is admirable, if confusing for everyone out there wondering how American Idol and punk go together. Hey, though, some people wondered the same thing about chocolate and peanut butter, and now we all love Reese’s cups, right?
Shadows Of Their Former Selves
And now a man who needs no introduction! Well, he doesn’t get one anyway. It’s season 5 winner Taylor Hicks, singing something I’m going to guess is called “Heaven Knows.” He still has an inexplicable penchant for gaudy jackets, but he’s slimmed down even more, and actually has a sensible haircut now. Also, he sounds better than he used to when being compared to Elliott every week. I’d probably even really like this song if it weren’t Taylor singing it. Sorry, Soul Patrol.
Heads up, Season 2 fans! Roooooooooooooooben’s in the house. He’s singing “You’re All I Need To Get By” with Jordin, and something about Ruben really brings out the best in her – this is the most conviction I’ve heard in Jordin all season long. The two of them harmonize beautifully together too, and it’s nice to hear how really lush and excellent Ruben’s singing can be when he has competent material to work with.
After that triumph, who do we see but Bette Midluh! I love you Bette, but no way do you top Prince. I mean maybe if you donned some skintight purple crushed velvet slacks … nah. I’m going to say this is a downgrade from last year’s super! shocking! guest performance. She does totally ham up the performance, but the singing? The less said about this “Wind Beneath My Wings,” the better. I’m just going to think about fixing a sundae until it’s over. Jerry Springer likes it though. He’s in the audience with prayer hands and everything, looking as if he’s never been so moved in all his life, and probably thinking about being a better person. I’m thinking I’d like hot fudge sauce instead of caramel. Also, commercials. For the love of Sadie what in the world is The Simpsons Movie going to be about? I can’t tell, and it’s driving me nuts. Ooh, nuts. Those’ll be good with the fudge.
Several shocking things have happened so far this evening, but Ryan announcing a tribute to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band gets me looking out my window to check for four horsemen galloping down my street. Dude. The Beatles and Idol. Together at last. Both a delight and a shame if you think about it, but let’s just focus on the delight. Kelly Clarkson is back to rip up the title track with Joe Perry, and it’s absolutely awesome. Kelly pretty much is the future of music. She’s completely kinetic, her energy on stage, her gritty voice, and even her recovery from mixing up the lines all have the crowd eating out of her hand like they’ve done for no one else. That may also be due in part to “Sgt. Pepper” being one of the bestest songs evah! but I’m going to give Kelly a huge chunk of the credit too. Taylor tries to get moody on “A Day in the Life,” and he sounds all right but he really only reminds me of why I don’t like him, so I kind of space out a bit. Again, my apologies. Carrie employs her best soaring skills on “She’s Leaving Home,” and Ruben rocks my socks by singing “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” Then, finally, some of this year’s kids get to take over on “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Gina and Chris Sligh sound really great, Haley continues to embarrass herself, Brandon redeems his horrible performances on the show with a good job here, and Stephanie just plain rules. What a sweet way to end the season.
My One and Only Friends, The End
But oh! No matter what your Tivos and TiFauxs may have told you, this isn’t the end of the show. We don’t have a winner yet. Well, I mean we do, they just haven’t said her name yet. Oop, was that a spoiler? Ryan begs for final predictions from the judges, and they all say Jordin’s going to win. Blake tries to look congenial and gracious, and he does a pretty good job of it, even whispering a sweet nothing in Big J’s ear. Some boring accountant gives Ryan the numbers, and after a drawn out drum beat of suspense, he announces Jordin the winner. Yay! Of course Blake gets the first hug, everybody cheers, and there are the obligatory tears and waves of disbelief, and emotions and thanks and all that good stuff. Then Jordin sings
the song that was frickin written for herher coronation song, and sparks fly and confetti falls, and it’s really sweet how she’s all choked up but carries on to do a real number on that pile of cheese anyway. Aww. Congratulations on your win, Jordin!
And congratulations to you all for making it through another season of America’s biggest show. I’d like to give a shout out to all the other AI folks, hard-hitting interviewer Yardgnome, unrivaled analyzer Leo, and my outstanding co-recapper, the fabulously witty AJane for covering all the highs and lows and nonsense of this season, and never having one pitchy week. Last but not least, I’d like to thank God and my mama for making this season possible. It’s been a ball, y’all. See you in January!
Yes, season 6 is just over, and I’m already honing my audition piece for next year. I can’t decide between “Safety Dance” and “Muskrat Love.” Any advice? PM me here.