Speaking purely of the contestants, it was a good year. I'd rank it up with seasons Four and Six as my all-time favorites. I was talking to Roommate Mark about why I tend to gravitate to those ones. Part of it is the contestants who are left. Not in S4's case, of course; Carrie and A-Fed made the final four, true, but faves like Nadia Turner got left by the wayside far too early. But I've always said that S6 was my favorite because they managed to whittle down to the actual best half-dozen contestants (Melinda, Jordin, Blake, Chris Richardson, LaKisha, and ... okay, Phil). Season 8 might have trumped that, even, with a Top 5 (Adam, Kris, Danny, Allison, Matt) that, give or take a Jesse Langseth or an Alexis Grace in Danny's place, is pretty much all the ones I loved best.
A less heralded reason might also be that I gravitate to the seasons where the off-stage vibes are fun to watch. S4 had the Carrie/A-Fed fake romance that led up to this. S6 had the awesome Blake-Melinda-Jordin-Gina-Chris cool-kids clique that so captivated me. This season, you could clearly catch the good vibes shooting between Adam and Allison and Kris, who all ascended from that second semifinal group and stayed tight through the end. That's what made the otherwise unremarkable Adam/Allison "Slow Ride" duet so amazing.
And despite how lackluster last night's performances were, on both sides, Kris/Adam as a final two ended up being FAR more compelling than I ever expected it to be.
Other remarkable things about this season:
-- Despite how much we may have been annoyed at Kara for the way she seemed to invoke the word haphazardly, "artistry" really did rule the day (albeit the kind of relatively-low-ceiling artistry you can manage on American Idol). The Kris/Allison/Adam triumvirate succeeded not just by belting familiar tunes but by crafting/choosing compositions that fit their styles -- styles that were pretty far removed from the days when singing country passed for "outside the Idol box." By that same token, Lil was bounced for failing to do that very thing.
-- This was also the year when we finally shed the last vestiges of relevance for longtime Idol boogeymen (boogey-sites?) Dial Idol and Vote for the Worst. The former pretty much had Kris Allen getting eliminated for five weeks straight at mid-season, while I don't remember hearing anything about the latter at all. Remember when they had everyone convinced they were powerful enough to get Sanjaya into the winner's circle?
-- This was the year when almost every change made on a production level was a disaster. Starting with their comical inability to get the show in on time -- to the point where last night Ryan made the pre-emptive strike of saying "Look, we both know tomorrow's show is running over by at least seven minutes, so DVR accordingly." I think we can also safely assume Kara won't be returning, at least not as the fourth judge. She's already been behaving, for the past few weeks, like she's on borrowed time (stop YELLING at me, lady!). I think we'll probably see the Judges' Save again, mostly because it gave us something of a "moment" with Matt Giraud there, but I don't think anyone could argue that it was worth all the fuss they built up around it.
-- Best performances this season? Start with Allison's "Give In To Me" on Michael Jackson week; Matt's "So Small"; Adam's "Mad World" (esp. last night's rendition); Kris's "Falling Slowly"; Allison's "Someone to Watch Over Me"; Jesse Langseth's "Bette Davis Eyes"; Alex Wagner-Trugman's "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" (YES!); Lil's "Be Without You"; and Kris's "Heartless."
[Which reminds me that here's where I once again talk about the TERRIBLE NO GOOD AWFUL things the Idol machine does to these performances before releasing them as iTunes singles. They've been doing this for years, sanding the edges off of anything cool and making everything sound like it's been dropped out of a vending machine. Previously, I'd thought the worst offenders where Melinda Doolittle's "Have a Nice Day" and David Cook's "Always Be My Baby," two of my favorite Idol performances of EVER that were turned to soup in production. Add Kris's "Heartless" to the list. And just when I had started to think they had turned it around (both Allison's "Give in to Me" and Matt's "You Found Me" made great transfers).]
-- Beyond that, I'll remember totally calling the Gokey thing from minute one, totally NOT calling the Adam thing at all, and picking Kris Allen out in the middle of the Hollywood crowd and yelling "THAT guy is totally
By the time this gets posted, the show will have already started on the East coast. Hopefully something crazy happens in the hour and 55 minutes before Ryan reads the winner's name. Then hopefully those little Archuleta girls from last season will have a reason to freak out once again when either Kris or Adam wins or loses. Sure, I'll be back next season. I'm not proud.
In the meantime SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE TOMORROW! Yeeeeeah!!