On American Idol: Turn Out the Lights

For 15 years I have watched the finale of American Idol with great anticipation. Until two or three years ago, it was the highlight of sweeps month. When the Idol finale was on, I knew summer was just around the corner. It was almost as if Ryan Seacrest was there to close out the television season. Before there was Twitter and song list leaks and a very hungry news cycle, the guest stars were kept secret and the two-hour show was full of surprises. Tonight, Idol went out like it came in. Full of surprises.

The winner was the biggest surprise of all.

La’Porsha Renae slayed every single week. She had a precious little girl and an emotional backstory. Her voice was flawless and she rarely missed a step along the abbreviated path to tonight. But she didn’t win. Trent Harmon, goofy-hat mono guy from Mississippi took home the final Idol trophy to bookend Kelly Clarkson. I’m not going to say he didn’t deserve it because he did. Just not as much as La’Porsha, and I think he would agree. One last Idol twist? I don’t think so.

My take on the situation is that the voting mechanisms outgrew the audience. Idol has always skewed older, drawing what I will call the soccer mom and older crowd. Then there are the teens. The voting used to be easy and simple. Call from your phone and vote as many times as you can handle. Then we had to learn how to text. We adapted. Then, a couple of years ago there was an App. Ok, I can buy that. This year we had calling and texting and an app and a Google vote and who knows what else. I personally gave up and I’m the key demo. Once MacKenzie left, Dalton got his votes. Once Dalton left, Trent got all their votes. La’Porsha, we failed you-we moms who are too old to spend the time to figure out 15 ways to vote for you. And for that I’m sorry.

On a happier note, tonight’s show was amazing. Unfortunately for the season 15 contestants, the opening number was the only time we got to hear from them but the rest of the show was fuller than full of idol favorites.

Highest Highs:

  • The opening number was spectacular. Rows of past contestants in white singing together as one. Bravo
  • Group numbers in themes. Ok, mildly cheesy but in such a good way!
  • Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, and Latoya London together again!
  • That Kelly Clarkson montage was a lesson in how to be a Pop Icon. Pregnant or not she rang through her chart-toppers in quick succession and I don’t think she was pitchy once.
  • Joshua Ledet with a new-found, slightly risqué personality. Pia Toscano looking amazing with a personality. Bo Bice just looking hot (and sounding amazing).
  • The WGWG brigade on the David Bowie tribute was genius! Kris Allen, Phillip Phillips, David Cook, Nick Fradiani, and Lee Dewyze made us remember why the white guys with guitars were hard to beat.
  • Jessica Sanchez making us all wonder how she didn’t win.
  • Ditto JHud!
  • Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul return to the Idol stage and join Ryan in a touching moment where they presented him with a giant neon American Idol sign wheeled out by the Season 15 Top Ten kids. Ok, Ryan deserves way more than that.
  • Simon Cowell making a surprise appearance which might have actually been a surprise. I cried! And clapped!
  • William Hung and pants on the ground guy!

Ok, I could go on and on.

Lowest Lows:

  • Kicking off an amazing night of group numbers with Kara DioGuardi? No
  • Giving Jennifer Lopez a half hour of just her and a bunch of feathered people we don’t care about?
  • Not letting the finalists sing at least one song each during the finale or even giving the top 10 a few token spots in the group numbers. Kinda sad.
  • Nothing was mentioned about Michael Johns who passed away recently.
  • I like Harry but we could have also used his time to hear from some of the season 15 kids. They got ripped-off!
  • The show deserved to be longer. The Grammy’s can do it…why can’t Idol?

All in all, it was two hours of magic. I didn’t get as emotional as I expected but I’ve spent the last two hours thinking of what Idol has meant to me. I still find notebooks in my house from years ago when my daughter and I would play guess the winner from Hollywood week on. We would make our lists every year and scribble them out and rearrange when eliminations went south. My office played Idol Madness for years. At first, we had to make-up our own game until there were online game sites that allowed us to track our teams with a bunch of other crazy people. I screamed like a fool when David Cook beat David Archuleta because I was sure it was some epic soccer mom victory over the tweenage mega-dialers. When my daughter went to college I learned how to Tweet because watching Idol alone was super boring and I didn’t have anyone to talk to. This year I took up blogging, more as a way to discipline myself to get back into something I always wanted to do. Write.

So here I am, crying a little thinking that somehow Idol has made my dream come true in some weird way. I chose to write about Idol because it was something that I was familiar with and comfortable writing about and I wanted a front row to the end of an era. I don’t think we, the faithful, will realize how much we miss the music until next January when it is cold out and we look for our friend Ryan. We still have The Voice but Idol was different. This was the first, the mack-daddy of them all and I will miss it. Thanks for the journey!

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