With eleven contestants down, conspiracy theories flying, and “shocking” eliminations all done, we have finally arrived at the end of American Idol. The final two, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, performed for the title last night. Leading up to the finale, hate spewed across the Internet from Haley Reinhart fans, and Vote for the Worst has chosen the obvious front-runner as the “worst:” Scotty McCreery. One word for Vote for the Worst: copout. Situations such as these are what ruin what could be a good show. I say “could” because the Idol producers have the ability to end these situations by creating a better, more fair, and more accurate voting system. Until they do, the show will be plagued by this type of negativity. Top that off with the drama the producers love, and the show begins to more and more resemble other bad reality shows on television today.
Last night, Scotty and Lauren “battled” it out for the title. I quote “battle” because it was so slow that it wasn’t much of a battle. I had hoped it would be, and after Scotty’s opening number, I was ready to at least be entertained. Scotty started the night by reprising his version of “Gone” from week nine. Scotty does this song well, and he really engaged the audience this time around. I found myself thinking back to when Scotty held the microphone like a flute and made strange faces at the audience, and this performance showed his growth. While he slowed it down with George Strait’s “Check Yes or No,” this was still the type of playful tune with which Scotty tends to do well. He’s a classic country crooner and should do well; however, the final choice of “I Love You This Big” wasn’t very good. It’s hard to believe the writer of Tim McGraw’s hit “Live Like You Were Dying” (one of the very few country songs I’ve actually purchased) wrote this song. Personally, I think this will be a bad choice for an initial release for Scotty. Something more upbeat would better serve Scotty, but what do I know? I do know that this single likely won’t drive me to purchase his album, but hey, that’s just me. Maybe hardcore country fans will like it as a lullaby to their babies.
Lauren’s repeat song choice was Carrie Underwood’s “On the Floor.” Lauren did this song well in week nine, and she didn’t disappoint with her second performance of the song. Perhaps because Lauren chose a Carrie song, her idol Carrie chose “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis (daughter of country great Mel Tillis) for Lauren. I didn’t like this choice for Lauren as much as her own choice, and someone needs to tell her that cowboy boots don’t go with tutus. To finish off the night, Jimmy chose likely the smarmiest song I’ve ever heard in my life, “Like My Mother Does.” Sorry folks, but this one didn’t do it for me. Lauren has a great voice, but she has a lot of work to do. Her stage presence is virtually non-existent, and she has got to learn to control her nerves. If she is successful, she will be playing to much larger live audiences, and she cannot allow nerves to get in the way. Perhaps that will come with a bit more practice and performances, but I have to disagree with the judges that Lauren will win tonight. She “cracked” on the biggest note of the song, and her nerves were raw. If, however, we were watching the sideshow with the doctor, we would forgive her any flaws—at least that’s what the Powers That Be hoped.
To top off the producers’ games, the judges on Idol have become basically useless, especially Steven. His declaration that Lauren won rounds one and two “because she’s prettier than Scotty” is the epitome of uselessness. Tell me that she’s a better singer, that she better engages the audience or that her stage presence is superior, and I will listen. Telling me she’s pretty doesn’t help me. Thanks for nothing, Steven. To be true judges of a real competition, the judges must remain neutral and at least appear to be objective. Above all, they need to give constructive criticism; none of that was forthcoming last night, as neither performer was perfect, but all they got was praise. The judges had one final opportunity to help these two kids, and they blew it. These judges just don’t appear to have the ability to be objective or give helpful advice. Giving a contestant a standing ovation while others remain to perform should never happen. It’s detrimental to the other(s). Last night, Randy, Jennifer, and Steven made clear to the viewing audience where their votes should go. Good thing no one listens to them.
The show last night began with them making excuses for Lauren before she even performed. That’s the wrong message to send to a young singer just before she takes the stage in front of millions of people. No wonder she was nervous. Because Ryan couldn’t get the answer he wanted from Lauren, he called the doctor out onto the stage. Of course, the whole thing was likely staged—including Lauren declining to discuss it—and I failed to get the point of the entire scene, other than creating drama that likely went over most viewers’ heads and instead onto their nerves. Then, the judges’ subliminal messages to the voting audience that Lauren is the better of the two put the proverbial icing on the cake. If Idol wants to be a real talent competition, they have to allow the talent to shine without all the drama.
Reality shows can be quite entertaining, but when you’re trying to find “the next big thing,” you are going to have to do more than entertain potential music buyers with drama. Most detrimental to the reason for even existing, when a competition allows the viewing audience to vote uncontrollably, you’re not going to end up with an accurate reflection of what the music buying public will purchase. Dial Idol enables voters to plug in a laptop and vote for hours, and I suspect many of the show’s younger views actually have an attention span that allows them to sit and dial their phones for hours. In the end, we must ask: are those viewers going to buy multiple copies of their idol’s album? Don’t count on it. That’s why so many of Idol’s winners flop in the real world. Out of nine seasons, the show has had two successful winners: Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. Obviously, “success” can be measured by many things, but from a sales perspective, these two are it for Idol. All of the power votes that got Taylor Hicks, Ruben Studdard, and Kris Allen to the top did not reflect in their album sales. Ruben, at least, went platinum with his initial release, but what’s he doing now?
What, then, is the purpose of the show other than to entertain? My personal hope is that, if Idol returns after this season, the producers revamp the voting system, stop the game-playing, and move forward with truly trying to find a raw talent. Otherwise, we all might as well tune into Jersey Shore to see how real people can act stupid in front of a camera and become well-paid celebrities.