Thursday, May 22, 2008

What I've Learned From American Idol, Season 7

It's over. The stage is empty, the confetti has stopped falling, and the mixture of tears and guyliner that's formed a sticky residue on the floor of the Nokia Theatre will soon be buffed away. Yes, Season 7 of "American Idol" has come to a close.

At this point, I'd like to share five important lessons I've learned over the course of this year's competition. It's necessary for me to do this now, while I have a bit of free time. Because even though the show's over, the next phase in any true "Idol" devotee's life cycle is only just beginning — trolling the internet nonstop for killer seats to the tour.

So before I head back to eBay, let me reflect on what I've learned. Lesson #1:

Like a bad haircut, sometimes things that have gone frighteningly awry can be salvaged.

After the depressing debacle that was Season 6, I had feared that my favorite show was lost forever, and that I'd now have to spend my midweek evenings watching HGTV, or even worse, reading. (Shudder.) But "Idol" surprised us by rising from the ashes of a disappointing season characterized by an uninspiring, and largely talentless contestant base (Melinda Doolittle excluded.) This year, the 19E powers-that-be made damn sure we would not be introduced to Sanjaya II in Season 7. And that brings me to Lesson #2:

Ringers aren't necessarily a bad thing, especially when they come in nice, tight Australian packages.

You can tell me that all those contestants with past record deals just randomly decided to show up at the "Idol" cattle call auditions this year. And then I'll tell you that Ryan Seacrest actually applies his own self-tanner. Both claims are simply not plausible. More likely, there were phone calls made, their presence was specifically requested, and they were "cast" for the show. And while the idea of an amateur performer being transformed by "Idol" and reaching the heights of superstardom is certainly an appealing concept, if the inclusion of a few pros makes for a more entertaining show, does it really matter? I mean, would you rather be listening to Carly Smithson or Haley Scarnato? And would you rather be looking at Chris Sligh or Michael Johns? (Sorry Chris. But you know what I mean.) Sure, I'm happy that a guy who'd never had a major label deal and who was working as a Midwestern bartender won in the end — it's definitely much more satisfying this way. But I certainly enjoyed having the pros along for the ride.

There were two people, however, whose presence I most decidedly did not enjoy this "Idol" season. Allow me to explain in Lesson #3:

It's time for Paula and Randy to steal Kristy Lee's old horse and ride off into the sunset.

We all know what a "gift" Paula is, even if she doubts that we do. And Randy and the dawg pound have served us well over the years. But it's time for the first two judges' chairs to be filled by music industry professionals actually capable of offering valid opinions, as opposed to meaningless, incessantly repeated catchphrases or incoherent rambling. And I think I've come up with the perfect replacements — one needs to look no further than '70s supergroup Fleetwood Mac. Think about it. Stevie Nicks could fulfill the much-needed "supportive female" role on the panel, but somehow you just know she wouldn't sugarcoat her critiques. As a bonus, whenever she'd get up to dance, she'd do her patented twirl and repeatedly hit Simon in the face with the awesome black lace cape she'd wear every week. And with Lindsey Buckingham in the other chair, challenging Simon to see who could leave more shirt buttons undone, we'd have a sullen, tortured genius who would interrupt his carefully thought-out comments to shoot alternately lustful/angry looks at the judge next to him. Seriously, Nigel, it's not a bad idea. Stevie and Lindsey's chemistry could rival Simon and Ryan's. Fun for everyone!

Of course, if my suggestions don't work out, 19E could seek guidance on other options from the subject of Lesson #4:

Forget Mike Myers and his whole guru bit. Jason Castro should start a career as a spiritual advisor.

By the time Jason's "Idol" run was over, I was convinced of one thing — the dreadlocked wonder has found the secret to happiness in life. Sure, it's probably a chemically induced contentment, but it's contentment nonetheless. I mean, how awesome must it be to go through your day openly yawning whenever you feel like it, and never, ever getting stressed out? Who does that? Dude is going to live to 101. Watching Jason's calm, happy-go-lucky reaction to everything that came his way on the show was positively inspiring. He simply must share his wisdom. A nation of prospective followers is ready to commit to the Castro mantra: "I was thinking Bob Marley!"

At the moment though, I'm not in need of Jason's services, because happiness has come my way in the form of last night's "Idol" finale. Lesson #5:

Sometimes, the best person really does win! Yay!

Before the finale last night, I was a little disappointed with David Cook after watching him on the red carpet pre-show. Because… Kimberly Caldwell… really, Cookie? I mean, I'll admit her hair looks great now, but seriously, maybe think about aiming higher. You should be dating the likes of Carrie Underwood now. At a minimum, make sure whoever you shack up with knows the difference between "there" and "their." Otherwise, it might get pretty difficult sharing those crossword puzzles of yours, Word Nerd. (Yeah. I'm jealous. Shut-up.)

Naturally, my frustration dissipated once David strapped on his guitar for a little "Sharp Dressed Man" action. And by the time he had shed his last tear of the season, and gracefully accepted the "Idol" title, I was faced with an unfamiliar feeling… contestant… I… supported… actually… won…? When does that EVER happen? At the end of most "Idol" season finales, I'm left feeling resentful and wondering how long it'll be before my contestant of choice is the celebrity host at a casino bingo night. I can't even imagine what it'll be like to have my favorite plastered in every magazine and backed by major label support.

I do hope that David Archuleta, with his pristine voice and general adorableness, will get the same type of support, and have a huge career as well. And, if I'm lucky, he might just end up as part of my family someday. Because my sister-in-law, a huge Archuleta fan, has expressed an interest in freezing David in time, so that one day, he can marry her 4-month-old daughter. (I'll keep you posted on how that works out.)

Regardless of my genuine fondness for little Elmo, there's no doubt that America really did make the right choice last night. Because in seven seasons of competition, there has never been a winner who has the type of potential that David Cook does: The potential to not only be a great singer and performer, but to be a truly important artist who makes music that really matters.

So dream big, Cookie, dream big. You've earned it.

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