The Idol winner’s song is infamous throughout the whole world of television and music for being possibly the worst song known to man. They’ve always been bad, even though some – Inside Your Heaven, My Destiny, This Is My Now – are exceptionally bad.
Now, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this year’s winner’s song. Kara DioGuardi was involved, which I didn’t know if it was a good or bad sign. As it turned out, whatever her faults as a judge, they were wildly eclipsed by the giant heap of failure that was No Boundaries. There are no boundaries to how bad it was. If one didn’t know any better, you’d think Kara DioGuardi was on the ABC payroll, paid to deliberately sabotage Idol.
The rest of the night went more smoothly. Historically, reprises don’t do well on the Idol stage, but both Kris and Adam did well on their reprises – Ain’t No Sunshine and Mad World, respectively. By far, they shared the strengths – and weaknesses – of the original performances earlier in the season. Adam swapped out the silly lighting for a trenchcoat and dry ice… perhaps, as he tends to do, distract from otherwise great vocals with the theatrics. Kris is absolutely brilliant at deeply felt, emotional songs, and he was just that last night. The piano was a perfect touch as well. Well done to both of them.
Simon Fuller is, fundamentally, a talent manager – not a musician. Sure, you can’t be a talent manager of singers without knowing something about music, but that doesn’t mean your infallible either. Both of his picks were… less than impressive. Of course, for some reason or another Fuller decided to pick more “socially relevant” songs. Now, whenever you decide that something other than music drives whether you think a song suits a person or not, it’s not always a good thing.
A Change Is Gonna Come was pleasant enough to listen, but… the vocals were uneven in spots. I’m not a fan of the wailing/shouting/whatever you want to call it. One might say the song called for it, and that may well be the case. However, at times, it was less of a song and more of an exercise in range, wailing, and glory-noting. Don’t think it was a bad performance, but was it the uber-performance the judges said it was? Nowhere close.
At least it left an impact, though. Kris’s What’s Goin’ On didn’t have anything going on. It wasn’t bad to listen to. There was just no impact; it was just there. Kris’s vocals were there, but… it was the sort of performance you forget right after hearing it.
Overall, Simon Fuller’s picks were something of a wash. One flawed performance versus a forgettable one… Adam won, largely because for all its flaws, his was memorable. Kris’s wasn’t.
The best song of the night belonged to Carrie Underwood, but really, that’s not a fair comparison. My only complaint about Home Sweet Home was the accompanying video montage: did we really need to see all those moments from auditions and Hollywood week, episodes that I’d prefer to commit to the memory hole. Wouldn’t some shots from, well, the finals been better?
Put money on it?: If anyone thought the finale would make someone out to be a clear winner, it wouldn’t. Overall, Adam might be a bit ahead – his advantage over Kris in the second song was smaller than his gap in the first. True, he was better with the winner’s song, but it was sufficiently bad that it won’t matter.
So, like previous seasons, the finale won’t matter as far as who actually wins. Broadly, there are two kinds of finales: a closely-matched duel, or a complete and utter mismatch. This was definitely the first case.
In that situation, then, you look at how broad the fanbase of each contestant is. For that, Kris has to have the edge: there are just too many questions about his style. No one’s denying he’s very good at what he does. However, does what Adam do really appeal to a wide audience – wider than Kris’s? It’s hard to say. There’s at least a third of people who’ll like it, a third who’ll hate it, and everyone else will be thing, “what’s that?”
Here’s another thing to consider. Last week, Kris was basically within shouting distance of Adam, if not leading him narrowly. That was with Danny’s voters still in the picture. Does anyone think that fanbase will break anywhere near 50/50? I don’t. Those who still vote will break at least 2:1 for Kris.
It’s been clear all season long that TPTB want Adam to win. They’re not dumb, so they avoided doing (mostly) the one thing that would have ensured a loss: throwing Kris under the bus. Given the favorable treatment that Adam has received all season long, more attempts to sabotage Kris was likely to provoke a viewer revolt, just like last year. True, A Change is Gonna Come was overpraised, but it wasn’t completely ridiculous and the comments were at least defensible. Will there be a backlash against the pimping on principle? Maybe, but it won’t be as bad as it could have been.
This duel was a lot closer than Conventional Wisdom ever said. Adam wasn’t quite the frontrunner, and neither was Kris this underdog fighting against the odds. This won’t be a 12-million-vote blowout. I wouldn’t be surprised if the winning margin is less than a million. Still, the fact is that the finale didn’t change anything. This was determined largely by factors that have been in place since last week, if not much longer.
As those largely lean one way, the verdict is:
Kris Allen to win American Idol Season Eight.