Friday, May 27, 2011

American Idol Grand Finale

In the years that we’ve known each other, Rhea has often told the story of how her father, who is not Jewish, taught himself Hebrew as a means of occupying himself while accompanying her mother, who is Jewish, and the children to temple.  Much the same theory is in play with all of the American idol commentary I’ve blogged in the last few months: Rhea’s Aerosmith fandom has made watching the silly contest a given, so I might as well try to be entertained.  Or, to put it in terms Randy Jackson would likely approve of, I might as well be in it to win it.  Since I’ve taken it this far, I suppose a big wrap-up post is in order.

Shortly after the results were announced Wednesday night, I threw a brief post up gloating that I’d predicted Scotty McCreery would win months ago.  In that original post, I’d also stated that Lauren Alaina would be the last female standing although, to be completely honest, I also said there was little chance of her ending up in the final two regardless of that fact.  As I suggested in the gloat post, if I had this kind of foresight into something worthwhile like, say, the lottery, I’d buy a seaside mansion, dock my boat next to Jimmy Buffett’s, and…well, probably continue to write this blog simply because I find it fun.  Anyway, re-reading my old predictions post, I was really happy with how much I got right. Still, for all my Kreskin-like accuracy, I did get one thing absolutely wrong in it.  To wit:

While McCreery may have won the contest, there is no doubt in my mind that the second James Durbin took the stage to sing with Judas Priest that he actually won American Idol in a way that might have some real legs.  Not necessarily in the music industry, but certainly in a scenario like this: thirty years from now, when McCreery is an investment banker in Austin, and Alaina is the main ambassador of cheer at a flagship Cracker Barrel, Durbin will still be able to tell all of his friends how he once sang for his idols…and then be able to go on whatever the equivalent of YouTube is at that time and prove it.  The quality of his performance was meaningless (although, to be completely honest, I thought the kid held his own marvelously); look at his face when he sings with Rob Halford.  That’s exactly the kind of feel-good moment that no cheese-ball-Hallmark-lyrics ballad on iTunes can even hope to simulate. 

Looking back on my predictions piece, I was far too hard on Durbin.  No, he’s not really a great singer (good, sure, definitely better than me, but not great), but I had no idea how much I’d miss his enthusiasm and performance flair once it was gone from the show.  Honestly, I’ll take Durbin’s contagious love for performing any day over a million calculated McCreery microphone-tilt sneers, regardless of who’s got the “better voice”.  I’m not sure he should have won, but I think Durbin vs. Alaina would have been a far more exciting finale than what we actually got.

The problem with McCreery vs. Alaina is that it was somewhat akin to deciding whether or not to have onions on your cheeseburger.  The end result either way is either going to appeal to you or not, and the difference between the two choices is slightly noticeable but hardly huge.  For a viewer like me who would rather listen to almost any type of music in the world ahead of modern pop-country, I found myself not caring in the least which of them I was going to ignore from Wednesday night forward.  For the record, I find Alaina’s teenager-done-good persona far more charming than McCreery’s post-Twitty smuggery, but I couldn’t imagine wanting to hear an album by either one of them in a million years.

They’re also both too green for prime time.  I wouldn’t even remotely suggest that you can blame teenagers simply for being teenagers, but you do have to look at the reality of it in a case like this.  Alaina reminds me a bit too much of Taylor Swift, who is still popular to the extent that I’m not sure the world is really looking for her to have a spiritual kid sister.  McCreery simply hasn’t spent enough time on stage to really be a credible, compelling performer.  He exhibits the occasional flash of showmanship, but just as often he’s content to simply move the microphone to the side, sneer, and stare at his cowboy boots.  I’m sympathetic to the notion that it’s probably got a lot to do with nerves, but I’m also doubtful of its utility as a performance style once the novelty of his being a teenage kid with a deep voice wears off.  I wish them both well, simply because it would be downright cold not to, provided I don’t really have to hear either of them again.

But honestly, two horns enthusiastically up for James Durbin: not only did you get to sing with Priest, but you made an entire country that was tuned in to watch the hick-off have to watch it as well.  Well played, good sir: while I can’t offer you a cash prize, I will refrain forevermore from making fun of your tail.  You’ve earned it.

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