Season 9 of American Idol has finally been run and won, with Lee DeWyze emerging victorious over Crystal Bowersox. It is arguably the 2nd upset in as many seasons come the final night and one now has to seriously wonder about the voting guidelines… If one had not wondered previously.
Before the final decision however, there was a surprisingly entertaining 90 minutes or so with a number of left-field guest appearances. Alice Cooper, The Bee Gees and Hall & Oates were hardly predictable guests, while Christina Aguilera and Janet Jackson also added to the festivities. Furthermore, there were a couple of performers who took to the stage with the final 3 contestants and the performances were surprisingly good. Well, maybe we can exclude Lee’s song with Chicago, but Crystal & Alanis Morissette, both finalists with Joe Cocker, and Casey James with Poison’s Bret Michaels all made for an entertaining overall package.
Back to the contest, Lee firmly placed himself in serious contention on Top 3 night when he performed best when singing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Simple Man’ and fan favorite ‘Hallelujah’. This was pleasing since it finalized the elimination of Casey in 3rd position and also put the 2 finalists under serious pressure come the final night. At the end of my Top 3 column, I wrote the following words: “…but if I had my way; this should be a contest in two between Crystal and Lee, with whoever standing up to the pressure on the concluding night to emerge victorious”.
Unfortunately, the end result did not back my assertion up, since Crystal was miles ahead with her final performances. Lee looked terribly nervous singing ‘The Boxer’ second time around, while his performance of REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ was mediocre. Worse still – and what should have been the final nail in Lee’s coffin – his winner’s single; a cover of U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ was average at best. Meanwhile, Crystal hardly put a foot wrong, hitting all the right notes and showing her under-rated range… ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ & ‘Black Velvet’ were both solid at the very least, while her winner’s single; a cover of Patty Griffin‘s ‘Up To The Mountain’ was fantastic.
The decision seemed obvious, yet the American public disagreed; voting Lee the eventual winner. This got me to thinking… If American idol does continue past this season, will a female ever win again? Ignoring the fact that there could be bias towards those contestants who come from large cities (Lee is from Chicago), the viewing demographic is likely to have significantly moved towards a more female audience over the past few seasons. If the live audience is anything to go by, then it certainly has! At the Top 24 stage, the judges (understandably) predicted that females would dominate this series. Yet, come the final 7 contestants, only 2 females remained. Come the final 5, only 1 was left. There has to be a reason as to how Teflon Tim, Aaron, Michael & Casey lasted as long as they did, and the gender of the viewing public is my answer. It was not nearly as much of an issue in seasons past since a higher proportion of families (which included males) watched Idol back then.
I have touched on it briefly in my past few columns, but what of this season’s contestants and their futures? Like most seasons, I believe some will make medium-term careers for themselves. Lee has a good enough voice, but I doubt he has the “IT” factor to be a genuine star. He’s better than Kris Allen, but that’s not saying a great deal, so I don’t have high hopes for his future releases. Crystal will do just fine; her audience is more of a niche market and she is more than talented enough to do well in that market. Elsewhere, 6th place-getter Siobhan is undoubtedly the wild card. Her strong voice could be anything in the right hands, but eventually grated on the viewing public due to a bit too much repetition. The outside chance at a solid career is Alex Lambert (who finished 14th). Still young, and with a soulful voice reminiscent of James Morrison, he could also have a nice little market cornered for himself.
The other major component of the American idol finale was the Simon Cowell farewell. Leaving the show he played a huge role developing and keeping successful, many predict that his departure will be the death knell for the franchise. With ratings already dropping, they could very well be correct. My guess is that there will be at least one more series of American Idol, but with some significant changes to spice things up. And I’m not talking about lame comedians as judges either. Whatever happens, if the next series bombs, then it will probably be done and dusted… Until something extremely similar, but with a different title comes along anyway.