We’re almost done with the latest season of American Idol, and, honestly, I can’t even say I understand what I just saw. The show they are about to wrap up on Thursday of this week looks nothing like the one that Kelly Clarkson ran away with back in season one, or that culminated in a Ruben vs. Clay showdown in season two. This season started out more as a freak show (thanks, Nicki!) and ended up with a top five that consisted solely of female contestants. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, in and of itself. And the final two, Kree and Candice, are probably the “correct” final two… at least of the top ten we were presented.
And that’s where I have to take issue with this season of Idol. Frankly, during the early audition rounds some of the people the judges were sending through were quite questionable. It seemed as if sometimes the judges were more focused on backstory, or even shock value, more than they were musical talent. And, let’s not forget: Although it seems on its face to be “just a singing competition,” American Idol has always been part “popularity contest.” We like our singers to be able to “sing,” of course, but we were always searching for a “triple threat.” Contestants who’ve shown true musical ability have always risen to the top on Idol. They didn’t always win (Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry) but they found success. They were artists who just needed a platform, and American Idol gave it to them. There has always been (prior to this season) one contestant who was always a bit quirky, but talented. Think Clay Aiken, Casey Abrams, Taylor Hicks, even Adam Lambert. These were talented people who did the unexpected. Maybe they didn’t sing what you expected, and you certainly didn’t expect it to sound like that when they did… But you couldn’t wait to tune in and see what they were singing this week. Tell me: Who is that artist in season 12?
Instead, we were inundated early on with Zoanette Johnson, JDA, Charlie Askew, and…. Lazaro Arbos, who was, apparently, the most talented male in this year’s competition! Are you kidding me? Now… just to clarify a bit, I actually liked Lazaro and Charlie early on, and found their stories quite interesting, and their voices pleasant… But for a singing competition? Their existence late in the final rounds of Idol just shows that this season was about the backstory, not the voice. I like to see contestants like Lazaro, JDA, Charlie, and Zoanette early on in the competition, and maybe make it to Hollywood, but to advance as far as they did… I’m afraid some truly talented people went home early at the expense of story telling, and that’s where I think Idol season 12 failed.
I will still be watching the finale tomorrow night. Both Kree and Candice are very talented singers. I think I would have to pick Candice as the front runner heading into the last performance, but there may be one last surprise in this dysfunctional season of Idol. I wouldn’t be surprised.