Spoilers for last night’s American Idol Season 10 finale below:
I’ll just spoil it for you before the jump: this year’s American Idol is—a country singer!
Oh, which one? The choice boiled down, as in years past, to what you think the voting criteria should be: the finale performance or the season over all? Is Idol the Super Bowl, where even a wild-card should win if they have a great night? Or is it Formula One racing (please tell me I have the analogy right), where the winner is determined by cumulative performance over the season?
To my ear Lauren had (arguably) the better performance on Tuesday; Scotty was (I think plainly) the superior performer over the whole season. America voted, and…
…picked Scotty. And got it right, even if the result was less than suspenseful. (I.e., I called it weeks ago, and I am no genius at calling Idol winners.) The difference between the two performers was plain Wednesday from their pairings on their celebrity duets. Scotty, singing with Tim McGraw, looked like he belonged on that stage every bit as much as the established star. Lauren, paired with Carrie Underwood, seemed nervous, awed and grateful—nothing against her voice, and she has crossover appeal, but she doesn’t seem quite ready yet, while Scotty appears born ready.
I’ll admit that I am not a huge fan of Scotty’s genre—straight-ahead but contemporary country—and I found his singing manner affected, but I can’t deny his talent. And I found new respect for him in the way he sang what I am going to go out on a limb and call the worst Idol coronation song in the show’s history, “I Love You This Big.” (Seriously, unless the lyric is some horribly dirty double entendre, it has no business being sung by an adult.) Which is to say, Scotty barely tried to sing it, instead going into the audience and audibly hugging family and freinds in between a few half-hearted lines.
How was the rest of the show? It was two hours and seven minutes, is how it was. Per usual, the show was packed with guest performances from the artists you see doing guest performances a lot these days—Beyonce, Gaga—plus a Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark song in which, surprisingly, no one was injured. New judges Steven Tyler and J-Lo each got a turn on the stage, as did the eliminated finalists, copiously. Interestingly, though there was much talk this season about the strength of the boys—and Scotty did win, after all—the ladies actually sounded better as a group.
And that’s your season! I’ve had a lot to say about Idol this year, not a ton of it positive. The new judges brought personality but not a lot of judging, and unfortunately the voting eliminated the more interesting performers (e.g., Naima) early. But does it matter what I think? Idol’s ratings survived the loss of Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres nicely, and I suspect that Scotty—if we guess from the loyalty of his fans and the success of Carrie Underwood—may be the right singer in the right genre for Idol to have its first commercial-success winner in a while. [Compare last season's winner Lee DeWyze, who was relegated to sitting in the audience unacknowledged, like a second-tier cast member from Bones.]
Which means, Idol, if you know what’s good for you, keep doing what critics like me don’t like next year. Could you get the writer of “I Love You This Big” to pen a sequel? Because I would hate that this big.